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Hazardous waste: are you informed?

All the products consumers use on a daily basis need to be disposed of correctly to prevent it from ending up on a municipal landfill area. So says Dr Suzan Oelofse, president of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA).

Household hazardous waste is one such waste stream which should not end up on a landfill site as it is potentially extremely harmful to the environment and citizens’ health.

With dwindling landfill airspace and higher environmental consciousness, the correct disposal of waste items has become more important than ever in South Africa. With the growing supply of buy-back centres and kerbside collection facilities, South Africa is moving towards separation at source to ultimately reduce pressure on landfill sites and to promote better waste disposal practices.

Household hazardous waste is one waste stream that can potentially have a very negative effect on the environment, not to mention human health. These items include electronic waste, batteries, CFL light bulbs, health care waste which includes syringes and old medicines, paint, pesticides and oil.

There is unfortunately no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to hazardous waste, however, a number of retailers already provide drop-off facilities for batteries, e-waste and light bulbs. Pick n Pay, Spar, Woolworths, Makro, Builders Warehouse and Incredible Connection stores are just some of these retailers. Some municipalities also provide drop-off facilities at garden sites for this purpose, but not all hazardous waste streams are necessarily accepted.

Consumers should also be informed about The Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008), which is geared towards protecting consumers. The Act recognises that some consumer goods that have reached the end of its lifecycle may be prohibited from being disposed of in common waste collection systems. This act places a responsibility on suppliers and producers of consumer goods to implement take-back schemes at no charge to the consumer.

There are various recyclers that collect certain hazardous waste streams, so that it can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Consumers should start to separate their waste at source to contribute to a cleaner environment.

To find out where your nearest waste recycler is, visit www.mywaste.co.za.

For more information, visit the IWMSA website.

Alternatively, visit their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Source: Media Update


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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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Net Zero Waste in Construction

By Gordon Brown

According to the World Green Building Council the construction sector accounts for up to 40% of waste in landfill sites worldwide, and while this figure may be lower in South Africa construction remains a significant contributor to landfill content. The National Waste Information Baseline Report (DEA2012) indicates that the construction sector is responsible for 8% of all waste generated, although it is unclear whether this number includes the waste from product suppliers during production, which is significant. Importantly this statistic also excludes the ongoing operational waste generated in all occupied buildings, and so is understated.

Construction waste is made up of aggregates (concrete, stones, bricks) and soils, wood, metals, glass, biodegradable waste, plastic, insulation and gypsum based materials, paper and cardboard, a very high percentage of which are reusable or recyclable if separated at source. Currently 16% of construction waste is recycled in South Africa (NWIBR).

Trends and forces for change

The green building movement is being spearheaded by the CSIR and the Green Building Council of South Africa, the latter having set up rating tools that award points for, amongst other green building aspects, resource efficiency for designs which reduce waste.

Best Practice

Construction waste emanates due in some part to inconsiderate design, construction, maintenance, renovation and demolition, as well as supplier considerations such as packaging. Intelligent design and best practices during each phase can significantly reduce waste.

Design

Architects and engineers have a very significant opportunity to affect the waste generated through the life cycle of a building by determining the method of construction and the materials specified. From simple strategies like utilising building rubble onsite as fill for instance, or reusing items from demolished buildings such as wooden window frames, by specifying materials with recycled content, and adopting strategies and building methods geared to dismantling and designed for deconstruction – design affects everything, and with careful planning and consideration given to waste and reusing materials at concept stage, much waste to landfill can be avoided. An example of this is modular construction.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 2.12.54 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 2.13.29 PM

It is also very important at design stage to consider how the building is going to manage operational waste while the building is occupied – sufficient space will be required for recycling storage and sorting, as well as the access to various floors and of course for collection.

Construction

At a waste management level, there are a number of best practices to ensure maximum recyclability of materials on site:

  • Make this consideration a key performance criterion when appointing contractors
  • Set targets for % of waste not to go to landfill (refer to Green Star SA for achievable best practice)
  • Have a waste management plan drawn up according to best practice prior to beginning the project(ie. Part of the tender/brief document)
  • Have correctly marked skips for certain waste streams
  • Ensure that the correct paper work is filed for all items removed from site
  • Safe disposal tickets for hazardous waste must be kept

Keep a monthly and overall project reports of all waste and at the conclusion of the project –confirm whether targets are being achieved

There are many great examples of achieving excellent standards in construction waste management, one of these was the first Green Star SA certified project in South Africa, the Nedbank Phase II building in Sandton – in 2008 the contractor was initially concerned about the high standards set within Green Star SA for waste diverted from landfill (30, 50, or 70% of construction waste). By the end of the project, with the good waste management programme they employed, they were surprised at the incredible success – they were able to divert over 90% of their construction waste from landfill. This is a significant achievement, and is replicable across all construction projects by implementing good waste management programmes.

Product and Material Suppliers suppliers have huge potential to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Many suppliers could provide their materials to site in a way that requires less or no ‘packaging’, or packaging that is recyclable, and also ensure that their contract with the construction contractors is such that their packaging is returned to them directly for recycling or reuse. ‘Packaging’ is a significant waste source. (Packaging refers to anything that is not the actual material that will be used and left installed on site.) Besides the ‘packaging’ referred to, the product suppliers are also responsible for a significant amount of waste at their own factory or storage houses – the contractors and design team can have a significant influence on the downstream waste impacts by contracting only with suppliers that minimise their waste production and maximise recycling and reuse of waste.

The building in operation

During the course of a buildings life it will require multiple new light bulbs, new carpets and flooring, painting, filling, stripping, windows due to breakages etc. Good building managers and operators can make the necessary effort to separate materials.

The Green Star SA rating tools will reward designers for making provision for separation operations within the utilities area of the building, and building maintenance would utilise these facilities for its waste streams. It is important to have both the space designed to store and sort the waste for collection, but also to have waste management policies in place for the ongoing operation while the building is occupied.

Market forces

As the market places a greater value on sustainability, products with recyclable content become more sought after. Masonry bricks made from crushed aggregates, tiles made from recycled plastics, are just two examples of products gaining traction.

On the waste disposal side, costs are rising but it remains relatively cheap to dispose of construction waste to landfill, cheaper in fact than general waste disposal which costs R272.00 per ton.

As costs increase so too does illegal dumping, which poses an environmental problem, and municipalities need to consider increasing the penalties imposed on transgressors and to find ways of policing illegal dumping more effectively. Perhaps funds from increased charges for legal dumping can be directed in part to policing illegal dumping.

The construction sector has a massive impact and a commensurate opportunity to effect positive and meaningful change. Through a combination of product design and innovation, building design and methods, and through best practice waste management on site the sector can radically reduce the amount of waste created and significantly improve on the rate of recycling.

Source: Green Building Handbook Volume 6


 

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South African Waste industry faces many challenges

The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) reminds individuals and corporates dealing with waste on a daily basis, to be at the forefront of waste management issues and regulation by joining a recognised industry body committed to protecting the environment and its people.
© kanvag – za.fotolia.com
© kanvag – za.fotolia.com

2015 brings many challenges in the waste industry with ongoing legislative and policy shifts that organisations may not be aware of. It is imperative for all corporates dealing with waste to be educated on these regulations so that more sustainable waste management practices can be implemented.

The most recent National Waste Information Baseline Report indicates that South Africa generated approximately 108 million tons of waste in 2011. Municipal waste amounted to 18.5% of all waste ending up at landfill sites. The private and public sector have a major role to play in advancing southern Africa’s waste landscape, especially with dwindling landfill space.

Waste is a resource

President of the IWMSA, Dr Suzan Oelofse, says that all organisations should know what legislation expects of them when it comes to dealing with waste. “The South African waste sector has many challenges, but corporates and individuals should view waste as a resource. Being associated with an industry body, such as the IWMSA, means that you value the environment and make a concerted effort in advancing and aligning yourself to sustainable waste management practices,” says Oelofse.

The IWMSA has a 39 year track record and is the go-to body for all waste-related issues, technology and best practice. The industry body provides their members with access to the latest waste management technology and skills development courses in order to stay up to speed with the ever-changing industry.

“Having been affiliated with the IWMSA since 1998 when I first became a member, I have always been impressed by the members’ willingness to share information, which I think is the only real way to promote the art and science of waste management in the country,” says Jonathan Shamrock, member of the IWMSA. “The IWMSA presents regular networking opportunities where this information sharing happens on many levels, keeping me informed about developments in the industry while at the same time keeping me up to date with continual education requirements.”

Municipalities, national and provincial government, environmental consultants and service providers, contractors, academics and corporates make up the bulk of the IWMSA’s members. “It is vital that members view this commitment as a long-term investment so that we can delve into the challenges and opportunities the waste sector face on a daily basis,” adds Oelofse.

Source: Bizcommunity

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City to convert landfill gasses into energy

The City recently successfully registered its programme of activities for a series of landfill gas to energy conversion projects with the United Nations. This will assist in offsetting the City’s carbon footprint and meeting international emissions targets.

The City of Cape Town is proud to announce that our programme of activities (PoA) for projects aiming to capture and harness the energy being produced by our landfill sites has been confirmed as meeting the requirements of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC.)

This programme of activities will serve as the umbrella instrument for registering landfill gas projects in Cape Town, but other municipalities and private landfill owners in South Africa could register future projects via this PoA should they so choose.

This means that all future projects in South Africa that comply with the technical and legal specifications outlined in the City’s PoA will be eligible to earn carbon credits once registered with the UNFCCC, and will thus make a significant contribution towards keeping our carbon emissions level below the target level set by the Kyoto Protocol.

The projects that fall within this PoA will dramatically reduce the amount of harmful gas that is released into the atmosphere. Landfill gas, comprised predominantly of methane and carbon dioxide, has a global warming potential approximately 25 times greater than carbon dioxide.

“The process to have a PoA approved is complex, and requires substantial documentary evidence to be generated and provided in terms of the UNFCCC rules. We are therefore proud to have been able to do our part in facilitating sustainable development throughout South Africa,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg.

“In terms of the process for converting the energy, a network of pipes installed within the waste will convey the gas from a series of wells for combustion, in order to destroy the harmful gases. The gas will be combusted on-site to produce electricity which will either be exported to the South African grid supply network (offsetting the consumption of power which would otherwise have been generated by fossil fuel sources) or carried by further pipework to an adjacent industrial location for combustion to generate heat.”

The City is currently in talks with an industrial client who is interested in making use of landfill gas in their factory. Further developments will be announced as they arise.

“Projects of this nature are crucial to ensuring that South Africa moves forward in a sustainable manner. By earning carbon credits, these projects create environmental capacity for future development – thus creating jobs and opportunities. This kind of responsible thinking, coupled with the remarkable expertise of our officials, shows that the City truly is doing its part to make progress possible,’ said Councillor Sonnenberg.

Source: Cape Business News


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Mapping and Influencing Global Perceptions of Waste to Energy

Although more than 800 Waste to Energy (WtE) plants operate in over 40 countries worldwide, this still only represents about 10% of global municipal solid waste processing, meaning now is the perfect time to make the most of the opportunities to expand the global use of WtE.

This is not just because of available capacity, but more because of the current combination of three factors: The move away from landfill; the need for more renewable energy; and the need for greater energy security.

On the global map these attitudes to WtE, illustrated simply by a traffic light system of red, yellow or green to highlight the level of positive or negative perceptions, show that many prospects exist, especially in the U.S. where over half of all states still rely on landfill alone.

However, given the right communications and messaging, there are real opportunities in WtE and us making the most of this hugely beneficial technology. Key to this communication is learning from previous experiences when it comes to conveying the advantages of waste to energy technology and knowing where, and why, others have failed.

Quite simply, without knowing the historical context of waste to energy, it’s likely the mistakes of others will continue to be repeated very quickly.

Attitude Problem

WtE that conforms with the European Waste Incineration Directive (WID) emissions standards is clean and provides a win-win with the disposal of waste and the generation of energy. If plants effectively use the waste heat generated in an efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system, then the environmental advantages are even more significant.

So what’s the problem and why aren’t countries rushing to adopt WtE? In a nutshell, globalisation over the last 10 years has transformed international trade and, to be more accurate, international finance, into a very small market indeed, with a handful of major corporations enjoying world dominance.

This, coupled with the rise of the Internet and more recently, global social media, has resulted in information from one part of the world being quickly transported to another. We live in a truly ‘Global Village’ and, whilst this brings many advantages, one disadvantage is that the misunderstandings and outdated views about WtE – many of which come from the time of poor performing incineration plants from the 1970s – continue to circulate.

As a result, countries new to WtE may find a surprising amount of opposition from communities near to proposed plants, even when they have no experience of the technology previously. Interestingly, in some countries where pre-WID technology was used some years ago with no issues at the time, opposition is now growing to new plants that are far cleaner and much more efficient than their predecessors.

Opposition groups around the world learn from each other very quickly, and although some organisations are good at forming new arguments to focus their opposition in new directions, most community-based groups tend to use material that is being circulated by other groups. This distribution of outdated information leads to the assimilation of arguments which match a person’s negative perceptions rather than allowing for the genuine reviews of all literature available.

This mindset means that excellent websites, such as that of CEWEP – which present all the counter-arguments in increasingly engaging ways – are being ignored with the key audience e.g. those who live near proposed plants, not considering their information as objective and dismissing it, while collecting anti-information.

What Not To Do: Hong Kong

Although Europe has been the main focus for WtE development and growth over the last 20 years, the next 20 years is likely to see global growth will move to Asia. With a classic mistake of failing to learn from the past, many Asian governments, like Hong Kong, which is trying to develop alternatives to landfill, are running into the same old arguments about WtE.

Hong Kong has huge cash reserves and, as such, can afford any technology to address its significant waste problem. It has limited land availability, with landfill sites reaching capacity and neighbours objecting to extensions, coupled with a rapidly growing population significantly increasing waste volumes.

With increasing interest in environmental issues among Hong Kong residents, and a need for more renewable energy, WtE would seem an obvious solution. However, the government’s early attempts to suggest this have resulted in significant opposition and the moving of a large proposed plant (900,000 tonnes pa) away from the centres of population bringing with it a dramatic increase in costs.

Most of the opposition in Hong Kong has focused on the impact of emissions, and the legitimate argument that, although the electricity at the high-cost island development could be utilised, the heat cannot.

The result has been significant protests against the plant and delays in both the funding allocation. In the meanwhile, the volume of waste is ever increasing and landfills are getting closer to capacity and closure.

Early attempts by Hong Kong’s government to introduce waste to energy resulted in a 900,000 tpa plant attracting significant opposition and being relocated away from populous areas

Hong Kong‘s main mistake made was the failure to deliver the immaculate three-stage communications model to generate public acceptance for change:

  • Step 1: There is a problem
  • Step 2: Generate a desire for a solution
  • Step 3: Propose the solution

This model ensures that the population not only becomes aware there is a problem waiting to be solved, but that they understand the context for that change and, with encouragement, are happy to be involved in the delivery of the solution. This buy in is essential to an effective integrated waste management plan that is likely to involve substantial changes in behaviour.

Hong Kong isn’t alone, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh have all run into similar problems with significant public opposition, mostly centring on perceived health hazards due to toxic emissions. Even in China, there is increasing public protests to WtE. Between 2007 and 2012, there were at least a dozen protests by local residents. This year in Hangzhou, more than 10,000 tea farmers took direct action against a proposed plant in the Zhongtai suburb, upwind of the tea plantations.

The protest achieved its objective. Shanghai Daily reported that work on the construction has stopped. City officials said: “We will invite the local people to participate, fully listen to and seek every one’s opinions…” Clearly, public consultation before the decision to construct the plant could have been more helpful.

Positive Prospects

Every country has a different cultural and historical context for WtE and the UK is no exception. in the past, even though plants have existed since Victorian times when horse-drawn carts brought wastes ‘Destructors’, WtE plants were not actually needed.

However, countries like Denmark, Sweden and, to a degree, Germany have always had the need to maximise resources due to a lack of cheap landfill and the serious need for heat and energy, particularly in the winter. This was especially so in Denmark where a lack of fossil fuels meant that WtE constituted a necessity rather than a simply one option.

Two Asian countries with positive reception are Japan and Singapore. Recycling is taken very seriously in Japan, yet it still burns more waste in cities than any other developed country.

Tokyo has 21 WtE plants, all sited within the city and many with facilities for the community to use, such as leisure centres with swimming pools heated by the plants themselves. This community benefit and substantial community education programme has helped generate a more objective response from communities near to sites earmarked for new plants.

In Singapore, they took the decision to focus on WtE back in the 1970s as a solution to the country’s growing population, limited land space and the fact that energy recovery was needed due to a lack of natural resources. To manage increasing waste production, the City state published its Green Plan in 2012, with a significant shift to material recovery through recycling while looking to build new WtE. There is some limited opposition from groups such as Toxics Watch, but the majority of people are happy to accept the new plants.

So, how did Singapore and Japan get it right? There are undoubtedly some parallels with the positive situation in Denmark – the two problems of the need for energy and lack of landfill – but also the constructive ongoing public dialogue which has led to a good understanding of the two issues and therefore, the need for change.

Also crucial to their success is the fact that all three countries consider providing some form of community benefit as fundamental to their projects. Most WtE plants in Denmark are connected to district heating so near-neighbours get cheaper heating and hot water.

The Toshima Incineration Park in Japan has 180,000 visitors per year with most using the leisure facilities. In simple terms, these countries satisfy one of the fundamental principles of human behaviour when it comes to considering whether to protest – what’s in it for me?

Understanding Objection

It can be argued that there are three core principles about human motivational behaviour when it comes to development and change:

  1. The perceived impacts of the development, especially financial impacts
  2. What’s in it for me
  3. People don’t like change.

So, if the starting point for those people nearest to a proposed WtE plant is perceived emissions impacts, fear of a reduction in the value of their home and seeing nothing of any value in the development for them, then it’s hardly surprising that most people are opposed.

The fact that people don’t like change is almost irrelevant, but not quite. The point about this principal of reactionary behaviour is that it’s almost an instinctive human reaction to believe they don’t like change. People don’t mind change if principals one and two are positive for the individual, or perhaps more importantly, they have control over the change.

People change things all the time – they grow up, get an education, move/improve their homes and live in communities that change all the time. However, in most of these situations, changes are slow and/or people perceive some form of control over them i.e. it’s their choice (often when it’s not). Where the change is rapid and where they believe they have limited or no control, the reaction is generally negative.

This has implications for those people who are communicating messages about change. Far too often it’s the developer who drives any consultation process, often with local government looking on nervously. Our experience in the UK shows that the best combination for the successful delivery of WtE is where the developer and local government are committed to the proposed development with aligned interests.

Three Steps To Deliver

There are three essential steps to deliver this new paradigm, where WtE is seen as a positive development that communities will not only accept but, on occasion, may proactively seek to take place on their own doorstep.

Step 1: National Positioning
This provides the ground work to explain that there is a problem and something needs to be done about it. It takes the focus away from a proposed location and onto the problems. In the case of Hong Kong, this should have been a campaign that outlined the scale of the evolving problem of increasing population, the increase in waste, lack of landfill and the necessity for a more environmental solution.

This debate, supported by independent third parties, could have been held publically through the media before leading into the development of a strategic plan which included reference to feedback from public consultation.

Specifically in the case of Hong Kong, they could have specified that the need for change was urgent, and highlighted the crucial issue of all landfill sites closing within five years.

Step 2: A need for a solution
With greater awareness of the issues and the appreciation of urgency which can be achieved by step 1, it would be possible for any government to argue the need for a truly integrated waste management solution – explaining how wastes would be moved up the waste hierarchy with an enhanced recovery and recycling process.

This is an important step as it demonstrates that any residual waste solution will be considered from this context i.e. not simply sending all landfill to WtE without attempting to recover materials first. It also demonstrates of the need for public participation.

All the available and developing technologies would need to be discussed, along with likely time frames for delivery and relative costs. Research in the UK has shown that when all the facts are presented to communities about the issues, solutions and relative costs, they tend to review the issues in a far more objective light and therefore have the potential to accept change far more readily than before.

As part of this process, all renewable energy could be repositioned as desirable, but WtE also has the benefit of disposing of residual waste – it’s a genuine win-win solution.

Step 3 – Local delivery of WtE
After step 2, there should be regional debate about delivery before any planning applications or sites are mentioned. This will generate greater awareness of the issues and potential solutions before personal vested interest, and the three principals of personal behaviour can begin. This will result in an informed debate at a local level. It will be inevitable that some people who end up close to proposed facilities will still react in the same way as before, but they will now be doing so against the more widely understood and accepted need for the facilities from the wider community.

Conclusion

WtE should be one of the number one technologies for the 21st century, particularly in those parts of the world where population is growing fast and there is a real need for alternative energy sources – which is virtually everywhere.

To make the most of the huge potential global demand for this energy source, we must learn from past mistakes. By acknowledging the wealth of internet myths and outdated information still readily available surrounding WtE, and providing compelling information we can address these obsolete arguments and communicate effectively with communities.

Paul Davison is managing director of Proteus Environmental Communications

  1. New Zealand generates about 2.5m tonnes per annum (tpa) of MSW with around 25% going to WtE. Regulations would make further plants costly and time consuming to achieve.
  2. Each Australian state has its own WtE policy. About six plants exist with cogeneration and supporting manufacturers. Opposition includes the National Toxics Network of Australia. The Alliance for Clean Environment produced a report in 2008 suggesting a link with cancer.
  3. Singapore is densely populated with limited resources and so has always been pro WtE. In 2012, 2.45m tonnes of waste went through the existing four WtE plants with recycling at approximately 60%. New plants are being proposed to update the technology.
  4. Landfill dominates waste disposal in Thailand and Malaysia, but MSW is on the rise. There are three small WtE plants and around 96 landfills. Opposition in both countries has been strong.
  5. Urban India generates approximately 70m tpa of MSW which increases by 50% per decade. Much is handled by informal recyclers, but about 80% goes to landfill and, often, to dump sites. About six WtE plants are under construction or being commissioned with limited public opposition from informal recyclers who fear losing income.
  6. China overtook the U.S. as the world largest waste producer in 2012 and sees WtE as a significant opportunity. Three state owned energy companies have been established to manage the introduction of the technology. However green NGOs are increasing and groups, such as Green Beagles, report several public opposition protests to WtE.
  7. Hong Kong has a population in excess of eight million and is growing rapidly with limited land availability and four old landfills. A larger 900,000 tpa WtE being built on an island faces significant opposition arguing a lack of recycling, atmospheric pollution and impact on human health, as well as cost and alternative technologies.
  8. Densely-populated Japan has always had a need for more energy and, in a similar way to Scandinavia, was an early WtE technology adopter with good levels of public understanding. Home waste sorting is a national hobby, with some authorities succeeding with over 30 different bins. South Korea also has a positive attitude towards WtE.
  9. Landfill is still favoured in Russia, although a lot of wastes go to illegal dumps. Moscow and St Petersburg have looked at WtE and there are about 10 existing plants. New plants receive considerable opposition over pollution, human health, cost and the lack of significant recycling.
  10. Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, France and the Benelux all have significant numbers of WtE plants with little opposition and, in Denmark and Sweden, considerable support due to district heating. Recently there has been some opposition in France – mainly focused on dioxin emissions. Over capacity in Germany and Netherlands has resulted in significant imports of RDF from the UK.
  11. The UK and Ireland have the potential for more plants, but significant opposition has occurred and will continue for any proposed new plants, particularly for commercial plants not tied to a Local Authority.
  12. Waste disposal has featured heavily on Italy’s media agenda over the last 15 years. WtE’s biggest opposition relates to in Tuscany, specifically the Lucca provincial WtE. The plant, built despite massive opposition, failed dioxin limits in 2003 and was closed, reopening in 2007 before failing again in 2008. and again in 2009. It was ‘seized’ by officials in 2010 another failure and the plant’s manager sent to trial. Italy is focused on Zero waste and new WtE plants face opposition.
  13. The U.S. has significant numbers of WtE plants but most are quite old and will need updating in coming years. Obama’s recent focus on GHGs from energy generation provides a significant opportunity, but opposition focused on emissions, specifically dioxins, will be high
  14. Urban Brazil generates around 250,000 tonnes of MSW per day (2008) with 98% being landfilled and about 0.03% incinerated with no energy recovery. WtE is as a significant opportunity, although it will face difficulties with low landfill gate fees. Awareness of WtE is limited, however, energy is expensive.
  15. The Argentinian government brought in a zero-waste law in 2005, banning incineration. However, increasing volumes of waste in Buenos Aires and strict landfill avoidance regulations are forcing the city to look again and consider AD and mass burn WtE. Plants will face massive opposition with most of the arguments simply focusing on the fact it’s against the law!
  16. Most of Africa can’t finance WtE, lacks the supporting infrastructure or is prejudiced against it Also, MSW is roughly 70% ‘wet’ organics making some WtE technologies a challenge. In South Africa clinical waste incineration is the norm, but emissions checks are limited. A new law was adopted in 2009, but again, the country lacks the infrastructure to effectively monitor emissions. A new WtE in Tanzania was built with foreign assistance. If successful, it could encourage further trials.

Source: Waste Management World

Bracken Nature Reserve: Dump Site Transformed Into Cape Nature Reserve

A 36-hectare area in Cape Town that was once used largely as a landfill has been transformed into one of the city’s most important nature reserves, home to more than 300 plant species, 10 of which are endemic to Cape Town and threatened with extinction.

After a decade of hard work – and a R2-million investment – the once deteriorated and deserted Bracken Nature Reserve has been rehabilitated and restored into a environmental space that can be enjoyed by all the city’s residents, the City of Cape Town said in a statement last week.

Bracken Nature Reserve was named as the reserve of 2014 by the city’s Environmental Resource Management Department.

The rehabilitation project started with the planting of 60 indigenous trees including, karee, real yellowwood, wild peach, Cape ash, wild camphor and milkwood, which are still growing well.

Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, singled out Tshepo Mamabalo for her will and vision in transforming the space.

Mamabolo’s involvement began when she was doing a city internship at the reserve. “With the support of the reserve team, she dedicated her passion and energy to transforming the site into what it is today,” Van der Merwe said.

Mamabolo is now the area co-ordinator.

Conservation

The 36-hectare reserve is home to Swartland granite renosterveld and Cape sand fynbos, both of which “suffer a dearth of conservation consideration”, the city said.

“More than 300 plant species have been identified here, of which 10 are endemic to Cape Town and threatened with extinction,” the city said.

Important species include cowslip (Lachenalia aloides) and the canary yellow vygie (Lampranthus glaucus).

The reserve also supports a great diversity of wildlife. Regularly sighted birds are the red-capped lark, black-shouldered kite, peregrine falcon and southern double-collared sunbird. Other mammal species found in the reserve include the small grey mongoose and a myriad of rodents and reptiles.

Critically endangered

“Currently there is only one known plant of the critically endangered Kraaifontein spiderhead (Serruria furcellata) remaining naturally in the wild in Northpine,” Van der Merwe said.

“The reserve has been surveyed and found to have great potential as a receptor site for this critically endangered species. Cuttings from the original plant were planted and, to date, 20 healthy plants are conserved at the reserve.”

The City manages 16 nature reserves across Cape Town. During the 2013/2014 financial year, visitor numbers to City reserves increased by 32% to 351 594 visitors (2012/2013: 266 195 visitors).

“The tremendous turnaround of the Bracken Nature Reserve is a good example of how, when the city sows the seeds of collaborative partnerships, the community and the surrounding environment will reap the benefits,” Van Der Merwe said.

“It is of paramount importance that we place a higher financial and environmental value on our nature reserves so that, together, we can make progress possible in building a sustainable future,” he said.

Source: Allafrica.com

Joburg to power the city with waste

The City of Joburg and Pikitup are rolling out a project to produce energy from landfill waste to alleviate pressure on the national grid.

The idea is to extract gas from waste generated from your trash, to produce electricity as an alternate source of energy to ease strain on the overburdened national grid.

The city anticipates that by 2016, around 19 megawatts of electricity will be produced – enough electricity to power 16 500 medium-sized houses, The Star reports. The project will become the biggest landfill gas-to-energy project in the country once completed.

A similar project being piloted at the Robinson Deep landfill in the south of Joburg has already shown good results, Pikitup GM for disposals David Harris said.

“We will install connectors to our infrastructure and within the next year or two we want to start generating power from this gas. Five operational landfill sites [Robinson Deep, Marie Louise, Linbro Park, Ennerdale, Goudkoppies and Witkoppies] will produce electricity for the city from converting gas,” he said.

The gas is currently being extracted and the toxic gasses burnt through a flare to minimise exposure to methane.

While methane gas is a handy alternative to conventional energy, energy analyst Roger Lilley says it hasn’t always been a popular choice given the significant costs involved in storing and distributing it.

“The gas in question is methane, which is commonly obtained from landfill sites when vegetables or any biodegradable waste degrade and it produces methane. But it must be stored properly and distributed, and there are considerable costs involved,” he told Business Day.

Further than a tool to help alleviate the power crisis, retrieving the methane gas from waste means harmful biogases aren’t being emitted into the environment – an initiative that could earn the city carbon credits on international markets.

Harris said there was enough gas in reserve to run the project for the next 15-20 years, but that gas production rates could vary depending on influencing factors including age and composition of waste, the temperature and moisture content of each site.

Source: The Star, Business Day

Spotlight On The Hotel That Claims To Be Africa’s Greenest: Hotel Verde

There are not a lot of hotels near Cape Town International Airport. Most business and leisure travellers are in a hurry to get to Cape Town, or reluctant to leave, and understandably so, given the city’s many attractions.

That’s why the 145-room Hotel Verde, located about a three-minute drive to Cape Town International Airport, feels like such a game changer. I stayed there my last night of a recent trip to Cape Town and it felt like a glimpse into the future of the hotel industry.

Hotel Verde claims to be Africa’s greenest hotel, built from the ground up according to eco-friendly principles. Staying there, you are practicing conscious, sustainable tourism. It’s the first hotel in Africa to offer a carbon-neutral stay, meaning you know exactly how much or how little your stay impacted the environment, and that makes it an amazingly feel-good experience.

Being accountable for its footprint is the guiding principle behind this hotel, which opened in August, 2013. South Africa’s green building certification wasn’t sophisticated enough for Hotel Verde, said General Manager Samantha Annandale, so they applied for — and got – LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Annandale reckons the hotel got about 30 million rand (2.57 million USD) in free publicity just for being green.

Pulling up to the hotel, I knew it was going to be unlike anything I’d ever experienced when I saw the massive wind turbines spinning in the parking lot. But as big as they appear to be, they aren’t big enough, Annandale said. Though these are the most visible signs of green technology at the hotel, the wind turbines turned out to be probably its least productive investment.

“Return on investment (of wind turbines) is 20 years,” Annandale said. “We’d need to build (the wind turbines) bigger to make it worth it. We’ve learned from our mistakes. But they make a huge statement.”

Eco Pool

Annandale spent a lot more time talking to me about the hotel’s eco pool, which uses plants and natural soil filtration to balance bacteria without chlorine. Water is clean and clear, but nothing like the hotel swimming pool international guests are used to, and some find it a bit weird, Annandale said.

Getting used to it requires a new mindset. “We cannot build hotels the way we used to build them,” she said.

Hotel Verde owners Mario and Annemarie Delicio have a 10-year lease on the wetland adjacent to the hotel where they built the eco pool. They took what amounted to a rat-infested swamp and turned it into an outdoor gym, with plants that attract birds and bees, owl houses and beehives that the hotel harvests. Kids staying at the hotel can go on a treasure hunt there.

Born in Italy and raised in Germany, Mario is a longtime South African resident and the shareholder in another hotel in Ethiopia.

One of Mario’s goals at Hotel Verde was to have zero waste to landfill. “We wanted to revolutionize that,” Annandale said. So far, the hotel manages to divert an 91-to-94 percent of waste from the landfill and they do that by recycling. The hotel has a composting room. Packaging is returned to suppliers. “One thing you can never control is what guests bring in,” Annandale said.

About 30 percent of the hotel staff’s time is spent educating school children, guests, tours and site inspectors.

Hotel Verde construction cost about 240 million rand ($20.5 million) and building it green cost about 20 million rand ($1.7 million) more than an ordinary hotel would have cost, Annandale estimates. It will take three to five years to see a return on the investment, she said.

Annandale is particularly proud of the room where gray water from guest showers is recycled. It’s fed into tanks, filtered by ultraviolet light, and then piped back up into the building to flush guest toilets.

The hotel also has a 40,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank for car washing, irrigation and cleaning.

To save energy on water heating, a geothermal loop system 90 feet beneath the surface of the hotel taps into the natural water in the earth, acting as a heat sink for the hotel water.

Engineers from the University of Cape Town visit the hotel, which serves as a model for the Stellenbosch municipality.

Art designed by local school children and South African artists is used to decorate the hotel. School children in the nearby townships don’t get art education, according to Annandale. Mario agreed to fund an art education project on condition the children learn about sustainability. In return, they created the designs for stunning tapestries that decorate the common areas on the floor I my room was on.

Using Recycled Products

One wall in the lobby was textured with recycled glass. The hotel’s carpet runners are made of recycled plastic. On the outside of the hotel, a five-story mosaic art installation was designed by Svenja, Mario’s youngest daughter.

There is free unlimited Wi-Fi and sensor lighting throughout Hotel Verde, and my room was paperless, in that all hotel information was on the TV.

One of my favorite places in the hotel was in the basement garage, where graffiti artists had been invited to come in and paint. This turned out to be a moneymaker for the hotel. Guests loved the basement art and some have paid to have banquets there, Annandale said.

But you probably want to hear about the rooms. I loved that the butter cookies I found on the coffee tray in my room were made by a local woman in Mitchell’s Plain, one of South Africa’s largest townships.

“We helped her become compliant in food preparation and now she employs two people,” Annandale said.

When you check out of Hotel Verde, you have the option to offset your carbon footprint and you can track where and how it was offset. Just knowing that made me feel good.

Source: AFK Insider