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In Switzerland all combustible waste that is not recycled must be incinerated in appropriate plants. The large majority of these materials end up in one of the country's 28 municipal solid waste (MSW) incinerators.
Since the introduction of the landfilling ban on 1 January 2000, all non-recycled combustible waste in Switzerland must be incinerated in appropriate plants. Since the Thun MSWI came on stream in 2004, a total incineration capacity of 3.29 million tonnes has been available in Switzerland. This is sufficient to allow the landfilling of combustible waste to be dispensed with altogether from now on.
Large sums have been invested in recent years on improving the MSW incinerators, and especially on equipment to clean flue gases. All plants are fitted with electrostatic filters that trap fly ash and dust. Gaseous pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and hydrochloric acid are for the most part removed by means of gas scrubbers. Denitrification (DeNOx) equipment has also been in operation at all facilities since 2002. Consequently, the percentage of total nitrogen oxide emissions (part of the cocktail of pollutants that produce "summer smog") emanating from MSW incinerators fell from 3.1% in 1995 to 0.9% in 2000. A welcome corollary has been the reduction in emissions of highly toxic dioxins and furans throughout Switzerland to just a few grammes per year - i.e. less than one twentieth of levels prior to the installation of the DeNOx equipment.
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