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Making gas out of Africa’s waste

What we may see as waste, others see as a resource.

Clean Energy Africa is one such company producing gas and fuels out of trash.
One of its plants in Cape Town, worth $30 million, aims to consume 560 tons of solid waste per day. This is about seven percent of the total waste the six million residents of Cape Town produce daily.
“We are trying to be a landfill alternative which means we take waste from various sources, bring the waste in, clean it up, produce gas, produce fuels,” Egmont Ottermann, Clean Energy Africa’s CEO, told CNN.
Companies such as waste removal company Wastemart already pays to deliver its waste to the plant.
“We see the plant in Cape Town as a springboard for developing more plants in the future,” added Ottermann.
“It’s where we have to get things right, it’s our blueprint, it’s the first one where we get the formula for building and operating it right.”

How it works

The waste used for fuel has to be organic matter. It is piped into huge vats, where bacteria converts it to natural gas. The biogas generated is then cleaned and piped to the market, either as methane rich gas or liquid CO2 rich gas.
“The Cape Town market is looking for alternatives to its current energy sources, so alternatives to heavy fuels, coal, LPG, diesel; and it fits beautifully in that,” said Silvia Schollenberger from AFROX, one of the main gas suppliers in Cape Town and a Clean Energy Africa shareholder.
There are plans for similar projects in at least three other cities in South Africa, and eventually across Africa.
Source: edition.cnn

Will your green home upgrades pay off?

Some pricey features, like replacing windows or buying a solar system, can take many years to pay for themselves.

Investing in making your home more energy efficient can help the environment, lower your utility bills and possibly help you fetch a higher sale price.

But homeowners considering a green remodel should also weigh how long it will take for the improvements to reap savings. Some pricey features, like replacing windows or buying a solar power system, could take many years to ultimately pay for themselves.

“You have to make a decision: ‘How environmentally friendly do I want to get if it takes me 16 years to break even on my investment?’” said Sid Davis, a home renovator and author of “Your Eco-Friendly Home: Buying, Building or Remodeling Green.”

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Here are some things to consider as you map out your home’s conversion to a more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly pad:

GET AN ENERGY AUDIT

You want to lower your electric or gas bill. You may even be ready to buy or lease solar panels to generate electricity. But what if you can accomplish big savings by simply re-sealing your windows and doors to prevent air inside your home from venting, driving up your heating and cooling costs? Where do you begin?

During an energy audit an expert sizes up the efficiency of your appliances, air and heating systems, and gauges how much air your home is leaking.

Up to 25 percent of heating and cooling costs result from heat loss, as air moves in and out of a house through holes, improperly sealed windows and insufficient insulation.

Check with your electric or gas company to see whether they offer to conduct home energy inspections. Often, such audits may be free.

MAKE EASY CHANGES FIRST

Tackling less expensive changes first can add up to big savings.

Replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs, using a programmable thermostat to control when air conditioning or heat turns on can whittle away at your utility bills. Then there’s insulation, the decidedly low-tech but key feature of every energy efficient home.

The cost of home insulation can vary, depending on how much you need and which type you use.

Try this online tool from home-improvement website Homewyse.com: www.homewyse.com/services/cost_to_insulate_your_home.html.

“Adding attic insulation is a good energy saver that does not break the bank,” notes John Ritterpusch, assistant vice president of sustainability and green building at the National Association of Home Builders. “Air sealing older homes with a caulk gun and a steady hand can do much to keep the winter winds at bay.”

Adding high-efficiency toilets can also translate into savings, especially when you factor in potential rebates from water utilities that range from $25 to $200, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That could shorten the time it takes to recover the cost of such toilets, which are typically more expensive than less-efficient ones, to a few years, the EPA says.

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LOOK INTO REBATES

From solar power systems and appliances to single-pane windows, certain energy and water-efficient improvements can qualify homeowners for rebates from utilities or government tax credits.

For example, the IRS offers a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines. If the credit exceeds how much you owe in taxes, the IRS allows you to carry over the unused portion into the next year’s tax return.

To search which energy efficient appliances and other home features qualify homeowners for federal tax credits, check this out: www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits.

Here’s a search portal for rebates on Energy Star-rated appliances: www.energystar.gov/rebate-finder.

CONSIDER RESALE IMPACT

Certain green upgrades may add value to your home, depending on whether you live in a part of the country where those upgrades are seen as more of a selling point.

For example, in the Southwest, homebuyers may be more likely to view water-sparing landscaping, “smart” sprinklers or a solar power system as valuable features of a home than in other parts of the country where water and energy costs are less expensive.

A recent study tracked single-family homes with solar power systems in six states that were sold mostly between 2010 and 2013. The study, conducted by real estate appraisers and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that the homes sold, on average, for more than other homes without solar power systems. It also found that the sales price gain was higher the bigger the solar system in the home.

The appraisers, on average, found a premium of around $14,000 for solar homes with typical-sized systems of about 3.85 kilowatts.

The green premium isn’t a given. Some home appraisers may not have the training to evaluate the value of green home features. Or there may not be enough comparable homes in the area with such features, said Sandra Adomatis, a certified general appraiser and instructor with the Appraisal Institute. She also co-led the solar power study.

One way to boost the likelihood that green remodeling features are factored into your home’s value by appraisers and would-be buyers is to prioritize improvements that make a visible dent in your utility bills.

“If you can prove dollars and cents (buyers) are more willing to pay a premium,” Adomatis said.

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Source: djc


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Fair Share: Toward an Equitable Resource Revenue System

Myanmar’s government currently collects much of the trillions of kyat generated by oil, gas, gemstones and other minerals each year, primarily through its state-owned economic enterprises (SEEs). In the face of such centralized control over revenue, many ethnic groups have long asserted their right to make decisions over resource management in their states. In fact, combatants in areas of active conflict and leaders from several ethnic minority parties—particularly those associated with Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states—have openly called for greater resource revenue sharing.

These appeals are only expected to get louder as the NLD forms a new government. In its election manifesto, the party promised to “work to ensure a fair distribution across the country of the profits from natural resource extraction, in accordance with the principles of a federal union.” This statement implies at least two things: First, that the party intends to transform Myanmar into a federation, where states and regions have true sovereignty over some government responsibilities; and second, that it intends to enact a natural resource revenue sharing system.

A resource revenue sharing system will undoubtedly be on the table during evolving discussions on federalism. However, as we have seen in other countries, these systems come with considerable risks. In the most extreme cases, such as Peru, they can actually exacerbate conflict, encouraging local leaders to use violence to compel greater transfers from the central government or gain control over mine sites. While these experiences are atypical, natural resource revenue sharing often leads to financial waste, local inflation, boom-bust cycles and poor public investment decisions.

Myanmar is particularly susceptible to these risks as overall resource revenues officially recorded in the budget remain small—due to smuggling, underreporting, weak tax collection, and revenue retention by SEEs, among other causes. This means that there are limits to how much revenue sharing can help affected communities without the government first putting effort into capturing a bigger share of profits for the state.

How much money is at stake today? According to conservative estimates from Myanmar’s first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report, the government collected nearly 2.6 trillion kyat in oil and gas tax and non-tax revenue and another 442 billion kyat in mining revenues in fiscal year 2013/14. Together, oil, gas and mineral revenues made up 47.5 percent of government revenues (excluding the significant sums that SEEs retain for themselves) in the same year.

However, official revenue figures vastly underestimate the true size of the non-renewable resource sector. EITI figures only cover a portion of jade sales. And illegal mining and smuggling of minerals, especially jade, has been well documented. Some independent estimates put the true size of the mineral sector at more than 10 times official figures.

Currently, the 42 percent of resource revenues that are not retained by SEEs in their own so-called “Other Accounts” are pooled with other fiscal revenues in the Union budget. Some are then distributed directly to state and regional governments, which are responsible for financing local infrastructure, agriculture and some cultural institutions.

As part of the government’s effort to decentralize fiscal responsibilities, the amount of the overall budget allocated to all states and regions has increased in recent years, from 3.4 percent in 2013/14 to 7.6 percent in 2014/15 to 8.7 percent in 2015/16. The government now says that it is using population, poverty and regional GDP indicators to determine how much it gives each state or region from this pool of money.

Research from the Natural Resource Governance Institute’s (NRGI) new report “Sharing the Wealth: A Roadmap for Distributing Myanmar’s Natural Resource Revenues,” generally corroborates this claim, but with qualifications. Our research indicates that, in practice, the Union sends more money per capita to regions and states that have greater development needs, are conflict-affected, and whose politicians are more assertive. This year, for instance, Chin, Kayah, Tanintharyi and Kachin received the highest per capita allocations, while Ayeyarwady, Bago, Mandalay, and Yangon received the lowest.

But just because more money is going to states and regions does not mean that there is more accountability or that social services and infrastructure are improved relative to other parts of the country. Nor does this fiscal decentralization address local demands for greater autonomy over natural resource revenues.

Most state and regional officials still report to Union authorities in Naypyitaw. Furthermore, state and regional governments still have low capacity to develop and implement budgets effectively. This means that state and regional spending is not necessarily efficient or linked to a coherent economic development plan.

While true federalism—partial sovereignty for states and regions—would require constitutional reform, there are three steps the new government can take now to “ensure a fair distribution across the country of the profits from natural resource extraction.”

First, the government can start building national consensus on a natural resource revenue sharing formula. This way, all parties would have clarity on the issues and feel a sense of ownership over natural resource governance. This is the principle means through which resource revenue sharing can help stop violent conflicts. Indonesia spent nearly two years negotiating a resource revenue sharing deal with conflict-affected Aceh before coming to an agreement. The ongoing Union Peace Dialogue could be one forum for discussion of how a revenue sharing system could be administered. This discussion would not be a substitute for formal parliamentary and public discussions, but could support government efforts to build peace.

Second, the government could further decentralize by making state and regional politicians and officials accountable to local residents. It could also delegate resource management and expenditure responsibilities to these officials slowly, so they have time to learn how to perform these new roles. This can be done even without constitutional change. The Colombian and South African experiences offer some lessons for how decentralization can be achieved in unitary states (though neither case is an unmitigated success).

Third, the government could improve the transparency and oversight of natural resource revenues by cracking down on smuggling and illegal mining and publishing project-level information on all extractive projects. Without this information, state and regional governments cannot verify the value of minerals being extracted on their land and therefore cannot trust that they would receive their due under any revenue sharing formula. Myanmar could look to Bolivia and Mongolia, which lead the way when it comes to extractive sector transparency. For instance, the Bolivian government publishes, in a clear and understandable format, online data on transfers to and between subnational authorities and on hydrocarbon production by province, field and company.

Natural resource revenue sharing can be a key component of peace-building and decentralization in Myanmar. Mineral-rich Kachin, Mandalay, Sagaing and Shan, and onshore oil-rich Magway and Bago would undoubtedly benefit. Governments in other states and regions with pipelines that transport offshore gas may also profit. But unless done properly, resource revenue sharing can help perpetuate conflicts that have gone on for far too long.

Source: irrawaddy


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Minister outlines SA’s energy mix plans

Davos – Nuclear power is just one part of a much larger, integrated South African strategy focused on a mix of energy sources that seeks to improve local, regional and pan-African stability and economic growth.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said her short- to medium-term focus would be on renewable energy, reducing South Africa’s emissions and dependency on fossil fuels.

Currently coal accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s energy output.

Joemat-Pettersson told Independent Media that gas featured strongly in the short term and that it was definitely a “game changer”.

“In the next 18 months we must bring gas on board, with shale gas being a long-term intervention. Negotiations with Mozambique to increase the gas supply to South Africa are at an advanced stage,” she said during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday.

“If we don’t bring gas on board, we will be overtaken by our neighbours.”

Pushing gas

Part of the gas plan is to build power hubs under Operation Phakisa, which is a results-driven initiative setting out clear plans and targets driven by the Presidency.

This approach, among other aspects of the energy plan, has been favourably received by financial institutions and potential investors.

“We discussed the energy mix with our banks so they could see that we are not obsessed with nuclear power,” she said, keeping coy about which financial institutions and companies she had held talks with.

Independent Media understands that she held meetings with Ericsson, Siemens and Standard Bank.

She will also be going to the US shortly to meet with large gas players to assess their levels of interest.

So key is gas to the energy mix that it is also expected that President Jacob Zuma could well use the State of the Nation Address to provide more details on the plans.

Joemat-Pettersson said nuclear was cheaper and had the country accepted and implemented a nuclear energy plan earlier, much of the electricity crisis could have been averted.

Gas, she said, was more expensive than nuclear.

Joemat-Pettersson said nuclear energy was projected to generate 9 000 megawatts.

But nuclear was still “a couple of years away”.

She said the main reason for looking at nuclear energy was due to South Africa being a “dry country” and going ahead with the plan would increase the country’s water stability.

She cited the high volumes of clean water used at the Medupi power plant in Limpopo and the current drought as clear examples of how nuclear energy would be a more sustainable proposition in terms of energy generation.

“We are getting water from Lesotho and we are providing them with electricity. Regional stability is vital to the energy plan.”

Regional capacity

Joemat-Pettersson said the plan included looking at helping to build energy capacity in neighbouring countries and further across Africa.

In this regard, South Africa will be pursuing interconnection with the Southern African Developmental Community countries including Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For South Africa, her focus for the short-term would be looking at unlocking the potential of an energy mix that includes coal, nuclear, gas, hydro and other renewable energies such as solar and wind.

“By 2020 we will be decommissioning 12 coal-fired plants and for that we must have something in place.”

The minister said South Africa was committed to honouring the decisions that were made at COP15.

These include that the emission profile of South Africa’s energy mix peaks around 2020 and falls around 2030; and that. energy efficiency improvements in electricity end-usage play a big role in reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

The renewable energy programme was getting an overwhelming response from foreign investors, she said.

“Renewable energy costs are high and the initial investment (around infrastructure) is high, but will greatly assist the economy. We will have to build towns around these plants and would, for example, need cement and steel.”

In terms of the processes involved, particularly with regards to the nuclear plan, the minister said the plan had been agreed on in 2010 as part of the Integrated Resource Plan and approved was by cabinet.

She is also part of a cabinet energy sub-committee which includes Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, State Security Minister David Mahlobo, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Nuclear plan

She said the nuclear plan had been subjected to intergovernmental processes in which other ministries were involved, and for which she was not solely responsible.

The nuclear plan, therefore was underpinned by transparent processes and affordability, Joemat-Pettersson said.

“The first step is intergovernmental agreements. The second is requesting information and the third is request for proposals,” she said.

These proposals are then sent to the Independent Power Purchase office which “has credibility and a requisite range of skills” and which has to “test the proposals”.

These experts are from the Treasury, the Department of Energy and the Development Bank of South Africa.

“Because there is no interference, business interest is oversubscribed. There is nothing shrouded in secrecy. I am not starting the process, I’m implementing what’s already there,” she stressed.

Joemat-Pettersson said the energy plan was crucial for the next 100 years. “If we get this wrong, the country will suffer a legacy of compromise.”

Source: iol


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Scientists create innovative hydrogen fuel “nano-reactor” that could make hydrogen cars much cheaper

Hydrogen fuel cells may have just taken a giant leap forward. Indiana University scientists just announced they’ve managed to create a highly efficient biomaterial that takes in protons and “spits out” hydrogen gas. Called “P22-Hyd,” this modified enzyme can be grown using a simple room temperature fermentation process — making it much more eco-friendly and considerably cheaper than the materials currently used in fuel cells, like platinum.

In a press release, lead author of the study Trevor Douglas noted, “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable. You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”

The way the enzyme is created is interesting in its own right. Researchers use two genes from E. coli bacteria inserted into the capsid, or viral protein shell, of a second virus. These genes then produce hydrogenase, the enzyme used to set off the hydrogen reaction.

Related: Australian Scientists Develop Catalyst to Turn Seawater Into Hydrogen Fuel

This may sound a little complicated — and it is. Douglas admits that in the past, it’s been hard to harness hydrogenase for biofuel production due to its sensitivity to environmental conditions like warm temperatures. This new method creates enzymes that are much more stable, allowing it to be used more efficiently. Hopefully this discover will help drive down the cost of hydrogen cars — currently the vehicles retail for between $50,000 and $100,000.

Source: inhabitat


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South Africa hopes to restore energy ties with Iran

South Africa hopes to restore energy ties with Iran, its energy minister said on Sunday, according to Iran’s Shana news agency, three years after international sanctions halted oil trade between the two countries.

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“South Africa is aiming for a framework of cooperation with Iran regarding crude oil, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, gas and petrochemicals,” Tina Joemat-Pettersson was quoted as saying by Shana during a visit to Tehran. Print Send to Friend 0 “South Africa’s private sector can invest in various parts of Iran’s oil industry,” she added. Mohsen Ghamsari, director of international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said on Saturday that South Africa was hoping to import crude oil and other energy products from Iran, state news agency IRNA reported. South Africa bought around 68,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Iran in May 2012.

Last September, Africa’s second-largest crude consumer expressed interest in resuming imports. Iran’s exports of crude have fallen to around 1.1-million barrels a day, from a high of 2.5-million barrels a day in 2012, as Western sanctions have made it difficult to find buyers. Iran is negotiating with world powers to lift sanctions in exchange for more stringent controls on its disputed nuclear programme.

Source: Engineering News


 

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The fields of ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY are converging fast through onsite energy solutions and new clean energy grid offerings. The REIPPP project is underway with billions being invested, transforming SA into a renewable energy leader, but ‘wheeling’ – the process of adding electricity to the grid in one place and taking it out at another, could open the flood gates! As producers gain direct access to end users by wheeling their clean energy through the Eskom grid, the market begins to open up, allowing market forces to push efficiencies up and prices down.
energyThe fields of ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY are converging fast through onsite energy solutions and new clean energy grid offerings. The REIPPP project is underway with billions being invested, transforming SA into a renewable energy leader, but ‘wheeling’ – the process of adding electricity to the grid in one place and taking it out at another, could open the flood gates! As producers gain direct access to end users by wheeling their clean energy through the Eskom grid, the market begins to open up, allowing market forces to push efficiencies up and prices down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Innovations in Waste

As waste management climbs the political and environmental agenda, bright sparks in the industry respond with innovation. These are some of the ideas that have changed our industry over the past few years, and given us potential answers to global problems.

Anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digestion came about as the result of a long process of people searching for the best way to deal with biowaste. Even before awareness of climate change made us realize landfill was not the right home for our organic waste, we had problems with leachate and gas. So, early technologies found ways to convert organic waste into compost and fertilizer instead. This process was completed on open air windrows until odour became a problem and ‘in-vessel’ composting plants were developed.

Anaerobic digestion is the latest and greatest process of in-vessel treatment of waste, and is generally considered to be one of the most innovative and useful technologies developed by our industry in recent years. Not only does it give us a large-scale solution to our organic waste but it allows us to turns the resulting gases into energy.

The process, put simply, is the degradation of waste by microorganisms in an environment starved of oxygen. It can be used to treat organic solid waste and wastewater of almost any kind. The process works quickly and the remainder can be used as fertilizer while the biogas produced is converted into energy.

As people will always produce biowaste, whether it be food or sewage, anaerobic digestion is seen not only as a waste management process but also as a source of renewable energy.

Waste to energy

Waste to energy Waste to energy (WTE), sometimes known as energy from waste (EfW) has seen some of the most interesting developments in the industry, as it has the advantage of being able to completely remove waste, rather than reuse or process it.

Traditionally, WTE plants have operated by incinerating waste and converting the resulting heat into energy – and most plants still use this technology today. But public opposition to incinerators, which are often seen as dangerous and noisy has meant new types of WTE – such as gasification, pyrolysis, thermal depolymerization and plasma arc gasification – have been developed and are leading the way forward in this area.

Gasification and plasma arc gasification are used to convert organic materials into a synthetic gas (syngas) made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The gas is then burnt to produce electricity and steam. A plasma gasification plant uses plasma torches which operate at approximately the same temperature as the surface of the sun (yes really!) to create an environment in which solid or liquid waste is turned into syngas. The process breaks down the molecular bonds of the waste and leaves it in elemental components. This syngas is then converted to energy, and the waste completely disappears.

Zero waste

‘Zero Waste’ is a philosophy, rather than a process or technology, but it certainly can be considered an innovation. The Zero Waste International Alliance define it as this: ‘Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

‘Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.’

The idea of reusing every bit of waste possible and turning the remainder into energy is a commendable and sustainable system of waste management, which could solve many of the world’s environmental problems. When one considers the way waste is managed worldwide currently, however, it starts to sound like an unrealistic fantasy. It is hard to know where to begin when implementing this kind of system. Yet there are towns, regions and countries which have given us all an example of how things should be done.

Scotland is one such place. Authorities announced plans to work towards Zero Waste in 2008, and the target to achieve the goal is 2025. Zero Waste can also be implemented by individual companies and organizations; the Zero Waste Alliance list Xerox Corp (Rochester, New York), Hewlett Packard (Roseland, California), Fetzer Vineyards (Hopland, California), Epson Portland Inc (Hillsboro, Oregon), Collins & Aikman (Dalton, Georgia) as companies that have committed to this path.

Ron Wainberg, the national president of the Waste Management Association of Australia, said in recent interview with Waste Management World. ‘The ISWA meeting during the last Annual Congress debating the ‘Zero Waste Concept’ showed [a] change in attitude. Most people will accept there will always be waste in society and the concept of zero waste is more about not wasting the value of the waste.’ This shows that Zero Waste is a question of changing attitudes, and taking responsibility for the waste that we produce by making sure it is reused, recycled, resold or turned into energy. We can’t stop producing it altogether but we can make sure we deal with it in the best ways possible.

The best thing about Zero Waste is that by working to it people stretch the boundaries of their imaginations. By aiming high they create an environment in which innovation abounds.

Extended producer responsibility (WEEE)

The WEEE issue is one of the greatest challenges facing the waste industry today. We know that when it comes to expensive, electrical equipment, repair is better than disposal. The toxicity and complexity of these types of product make them notoriously difficult to recycle, and sadly the rate of production is far greater than our ability or willingness to recycle them. The result? A violation of human rights, with the developed world sending piles of WEEE to developing countries to be dumped.

Clearly, this is a practice which must be controlled and stopped, but with many of these shipments being sent illegally it is very difficult to monitor the numbers involved.

One solution which seems to be providing part of the answer to this problem is Extended Producer Responsibility, sometimes known as ‘Product Stewardship’. Governments and authorities have begun introducing policies which hold the manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for managing their ‘end of life’ products when people have finished using them. And sometimes companies are opting to do this voluntarily. While this does not give us a way to deal with the mountains of WEEE piling up in Asian and African countries, it does look at the problem from a prevention angle which will surely be beneficial in the longer term.

Extended producer responsibility takes the onus for finding effective ways to reuse and recycle the components of electrical and electronic goods off waste management companies and puts it back on the producers themselves. This is an infinitely more sensible solution as manufacturers are able to recycle separate parts and use them to build new products of the same type, or more easily create a system to achieve this.

Companies participating in these schemes use methods such as reuse, buy-back or recycling programmes. They also sometimes pay separate organizations to deal with their waste.

Waste fighting climate change

Emissions from landfills can contribute directly to climate change when organic waste is left to biodegrade in a landfill. The solution is to either prevent organic waste being sent to landfill by separating at source or pre-processing the waste or, as a secondary measure, to capture the methane being emitted from the landfill and turn it into energy.

The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) established a task force in November 2007 to look at the interaction between waste management and the production of greenhouse gases. This group examined and made recommendations on the issues surrounding the subject. They produced a white paper which was released in the run up to the COP15 global climate change conference, and was discussed at a separate conference on ‘Waste and climate change’. Here are some of the findings of the ISWA white paper:

  1. The waste industry occupies a unique position as a potential reducer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As industries and countries worldwide struggle to address their carbon footprint, waste sector activities represent an opportunity for carbon reduction.
  2. The waste sector offers a portfolio of proven, practical and cost effective technologies which can contribute to GHG mitigation. When adapted and deployed according to local traditions and needs, they can help secure significant global GHG emission savings.
  3. Waste prevention, minimization, reuse and recycling are on the increase across the globe, representing a growing potential for reducing GHG emissions by conserving raw materials and fossil fuels.
  4. Through aerobic and anaerobic biological treatment technologies, organic wastes can be recovered and transformed into soil conditioners and fertilizers. These processes reduce GHG emissions by sequestering biogenic carbon in soils, improving soil physical properties, and adding soil nutrients.
  5. Waste offers a significant source of renewable energy. Incineration and other thermal processes for waste to energy, landfill gas recovery and utilization, and use of anaerobic digester biogas can play important roles in reducing fossil fuel consumption and GHG emission.

 

Using waste management as a way to combat GHG and climate change is one of the most innovative and common-sense concepts in waste today. The role that the waste industry can play in helping to avert climate change must not be underestimated. Given the correct legislation to work to the technologies which are already making great leaps in this area will show how much good they can really do. Although the costs of implementing these processes is often seen as prohibitive, the cost to the planet and the resulting financial cost of dealing with this, make all of these moves more than worthwhile.

Waste to fuel

Given the oil crisis and the ever-increasing price of fossil fuel, turning waste into fuel is a fantastic solution. Biofuel is the most common form, and the term encompasses a range of different fuels derived from organic matter, including biowaste. Biofuel can be solid, liquid or gas and be used to power vehicles or used to enhance other types of fuel. Biogas – a product of anaerobic digestion – and syngas – which is produced during gasification – are both types of biofuel.

Landfill gas also has an up-and-coming role in this field. Most landfill-gas-to-energy projects involve turning otherwise harmful emissions into electricity to power homes. But it is also being increasingly used as a vehicle fuel or as a substitute for mains household gas supply.

Source separation of waste

The waste hierarchy as laid out in European law states the ideal chain of events when it comes to waste is reduce, reuse, recycle, energy recovery, and dispose, and it is interesting to look at the wide variation of systems in Europe today for citizens disposing of their household waste. Where some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have had efficient methods in place for years, other countries still have the majority of residents throwing all their household waste into one bin and leaving it for the local authority to separate it. It seems that more stringent measures need to come into play to ensure that the waste hierarchy is followed wherever possible.

While streams of mixed MSW can be collected and then separated into the various components, i.e. recyclable items and organic waste, it is much better to separate the waste stream at the source. This has several benefits:

  • maintains a higher quality of material for recycling, meaning there is more value to be recovered,
  • decreases the occupational risks for waste workers, and
  • means that waste can most often be sent straight to the correct place for processing, instead of one facility to be separated and then another to be processed.

There are many separation schemes in effect across the world and it depends on each municipality as to what will work best. The collection of food scraps into a separate bin is one of the most common and has an important role to play in making sure organic waste does not end up in landfill. It also means that biowaste can be turned into compost or biodegraded in a safe manner without emitting harmful gases. Systems for separating glass bottles, aluminium cans and plastics also mean that recycling becomes easier, safer and more efficient.

Sorting technology

People will always, either through ignorance or carelessness, throw their waste in the wrong bin every now and then. So, however good our separate collection schemes may be – and let us remember that it is not always practical to have them in place; we need a way to take a mixed waste stream and divide into reusable, separate waste streams. Enter one of the greatest innovations in waste technology – the sorter.

Sorting technology comes in many guises, from water-based technologies such as ArrowBio which separates the organic fraction from recyclables, to the whirring, whizzing, sorting machines we see at trade shows every year.

When mixed waste is fed into a single stream recycling facility the process will include some or all of these processes:

  • removal of larger items by hand
  • separation of items by weight, which means metals, plastics, paper, glass etc. are sorted from each other
  • use of screens to separate items by size
  • Magnetic separation of metals, such as eddy current separators for aluminium
  • ultraviolet optical scanners (Near Infra-red and Medium Infra-red) combined with targeted air jets that send items of certain types in separate collection bins e.g. PET and non PET plastics

Many companies have done brilliant work in this field over the past few years, leading the way in the development and manufacture of these types of technologies. One example is France-based Pellenc ST which has recently launched a new MIR (Medium Infra-red) sorter which sorts paper according to its quality, and has improved its NIR (Near Infra-red) system to sort wood into category A and category B.

Pellenc ST is working on a research project in partnership with OSEO dedicated to the development of new machines and sorting technologies worth over 18 million euro (US $24.5 million). So we can expect to see even greater things in future.

Source: Waste Management World


 

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