Delegates from the BRICS countries have unanimously adopted the ‘zero waste’ approach to water and sanitation management.
This was the outcome of the three-day third BRICS Urbanisation Forum that concluded here on Friday.
Delivering the valedictory address, Union Minister of State for Urban Development Rao Inderjit Singh said that Andhra Pradesh was right in coming forward to host the three-day summit. “It is a Sunrise State with a number of challenges, and it appears quite a few ideas have come to the fore at the summit,” he said.
Mr. Inderjit Singh pointed out that BRICS was a unique group and the countries should extend their cooperation in the development of other countries in the group.
“Building smart cities is not just about infrastructure creation. It has many ingredients such as a pro-active society, environment, healthy habitation and lifestyle, and inclusiveness,” he observed. In his address, P. Narayana, Minister for Urban Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh, said that urbanisation should be viewed positively. “Urbanisation creates jobs and infrastructure. And we are already lagging behind. For rapid urbanisation, we need to do urban planning and urban governing. The Brazilian model is good and we are already thinking of implementing it,” he said.
Experts from China showcased the city of Shenzen, where only 6 per cent of municipal solid waste was being dumped in the open.
Xu Hayun, Chief Engineer, China Construction Group, said that 2,10,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste was being recycled daily to generate 4,300 MW of power.
He said that waste-to-energy conversion had been substantially enhanced since 1988 when only 150 tonnes of waste was converted into power. He further said that 94 per cent of solid waste being generated in Chinese cities was being recycled.
B. Chandra Mohan, Revenue Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, said that Chennai was a leading example of resilience in water management, being the first city in the country to set up a desalination plant enabling use of 200 million litres of sea water per day. Noting that only one per cent of readily usable water was available for humanity as 97 per cent of water being in the seas and another two per cent locked up in deep aquifers, N. A. Buthelegi of South Africa called for adoption of appropriate technologies and response mechanisms to meet the water needs of people.
She said that in South Africa, 15,000 water ambassadors were pressed into service to educate people about proper water use. South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Settlements Zou-Kota Fredericks, while expressing concern over the growing slums and informal settlements in urban areas, called for ensuring liveable and sustainable human settlements in urban areas. While Joint Secretary from the Ministry of Urban Development B. Anand summed up the three-day meet, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Ministry of Urban Development, Jagan Shah, said that urban renaissance in India was based on the five pillars of empowering urban local bodies, citizen participation, capacity building of stakeholders, effective urban planning, and augmenting financial resources of cities and towns.
Last year, Apple announced it would invest $850 million in a solar power plant through a partnership with First Solar, one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers and a provider of utility-scale PV plants. Through a 25-year purchasing agreement, Apple will get 130MW (megawatts, or million watts) from the new California Flats Solar Project.
The First Solar deal rocketed Apple past Walmart as the largest corporate user of solar power.
On the same day Apple joined RE100, Bank of Americaalso announced it was committing to RE100.
America’s top tech companies have been going green in a big way, so much so that the availability of clean energy resources is a key consideration in where they locate corporate offices and data centers. The move is designed to save them millions of dollars in long-term energy costs.
“We believe energy is the future of our business,” Josh Henretig, director of environmental sustainability at Microsoft, said in an earlier interview withComputerworld.
Last year, Google announced it would purchase 842 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, nearly double the clean energy it had already purchased — taking the company to 2 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy.
Put in context, 1 megawatt (MW) can power roughly 200 homes, so Google’s purchase could power about 168,000 homes. Google has pledged to triple its renewable energy purchases by 2025.
Last year, Apple also joined with 12 of the largest companies in the U.S. to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a White House initiative to have corporations commit to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.
Despite only being a few months old, the RE100 collaborative already boasts corporate signups from companies in India, China, Europe and the U.S.
“Research shows that in the U.S. alone, doubling energy productivity by 2030 could save $327 billion annually in energy costs and add 1.3 million jobs to the economy, while carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by approximately 33%,” RE100 stated on its website.
“We’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” Jackson said during remarks at Climate Week in New York City on Monday. “We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we’ve been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”
Apple is also a member of The Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a trade association representing the renewable energy industry.
“We’re thrilled that Advanced Energy Economy member Apple has committed to run on 100% renewable energy and also sees the need to improve policy,” AEE CEO Graham Richard said in a statement Tuesday. “They are upping the ante as they manage their energy needs, a trend we are seeing among our corporate energy buyer members.”
Last month, Apple glass supplier Lens Technology in Beijing announced it would run its Apple operations entirely on renewable energy. The clean energy commitment by Lens was combined with a zero waste compliance agreement for all of its final assembly sites.
Solvay Specialty Polymers, which supplies Apple with antenna bands for the iPhone, also pledged to use 100% renewable energy for all of its Apple production. The commitment will cover 14 manufacturing facilities across eight countries by the end of 2018.
Catcher Technology, one of Apple’s largest aluminum enclosure suppliers, also is targeting 100% renewable power for its production of Apple goods by the end of 2018.
Altogether, Apple suppliers’ commitments to date will represent more than 1.5 billion kilowatt hours per year of clean energy used in the manufacturing of Apple products by the end of 2018, equal to the amount of electricity consumed by more than 1 million Chinese homes.
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More companies are shifting priorities by using business intelligence to not only save on costs but to also become environmentally aware. Business intelligence’s ability to keep track of performance, as well as alert decision makers on behavioural changes, make it a complementary approach as demonstrated by the desire by many companies to become more eco-friendly. Even then, there is need for a clear roadmap that will tie in business intelligence with green initiatives.
Why Going Green is Important
The continued depletion of natural resources has led corporations that have large energy requirements to become more environmentally aware than ever. This is because not only do green initiatives save on costs, reuse resources and meet compliance requirements, but they also help to create brand recognition among customers.
Companies that are seen as being environmentally sensitive tend to create a vision of care. This provides the benefit of perceptions and practicality with the broader effects going beyond the organisation. However, the ability to save money by lowering the use of energy and power is more important. Besides lowering the consumption of energy, the technology adoption organisations also invest in R&D efforts and support social action initiatives that are geared towards environmentally friendly products as well as internal processes. This has broader effects on the environment at large.
List of Companies that Have Great Environmental Initiatives
1. Ford Motor Company
Automotive companies are known to be among the heaviest polluters. However, Ford Motor Company is changing this narrative through their ten-part environmental policy that they have implemented for years. The company uses sustainable fabrics in its vehicles while 80% of both its Focus and Escape vehicles are recyclable. The company also focuses on fuel efficiency, particularly on the six-speed transmission, offering a clean diesel heavy duty pickup truck. Furthermore, the paint fumes in the company’s plant in Michigan are recycled as fuel.
Ford’s factories also use Geothermal cooling systems while the Crown Victoria Interceptor that is distributed to the police has a fuel capacity that is flexible, making it able to run on either ethanol or gas. Additionally, Ford owns the world’s largest green roof and is the only company to have won the EPA Energy Star Award twice in a row.
Disney is determined to please companies that have made it a giant by using zero net direct greenhouse gas emission policies within all its facilities. In addition, it is working at reducing the indirect greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of electrical consumption. Disney also has a zero waste policy meaning that there is nothing that would end up in landfills. The entertainment giant also uses technology that saves water and is working on lowering the footprint of its product manufacturing and distribution. This is tied up to the company’s policy of having a net positive environmental impact that has made Disney a leader in environmental responsibility.
3. Fisher Investments
The company has initiated the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative that is aimed at contributing towards the preservation of California’s native Redwoods through cutting down on emissions and gasses that threaten their existence. More specifically, the company employs a plethora of ways in helping the environment through materials, as well as adjustable thermostats. Ultimately, the company’s commitment to reducing their footprint is unwavering.
Hewlett-Packard is one of the first companies to have reported its greenhouse gas emissions, after which they have initiated plans that are aimed at reducing emissions and cutting back on toxic substances used in manufacturing its products like cartridges. The company also has an aggressive recycling program that ensures most of the manufacturing waste does not end up in landfills. Furthermore, it has taken the lead in spreading word on the importance of environmental responsibility in its ads that promote green initiatives.
5. Johnson and Johnson
For more than 20 years now, this company has taken the lead in manufacturing personal care products that are environmentally responsible. It also has initiatives that reduce waste in the course of manufacturing and distribution through use of sustainable products and packaging methods where possible. The company also owns a fleet of hybrid vehicles that it also operates.
Nike is keen to highlight the value of green initiatives through its advertising in addition to putting the great ideas into practice. Its line of sustainable products is made using environmentally preferred materials like recycled polyester. The company also uses renewable energy sources in manufacturing. Moreover, Nike has pressed 650 of its suppliers in 52 countries to develop and implement written environmental policies.
7. eBay Eco-Initiatives
This company has its focus on environmental sustainability. This company has made it possible for people to exchange or reuse goods instead of throwing them away; thus not only increasing the lifespan of these products but also keeping them off landfills. The company also has a classified section where users are able to sell or buy used furniture, household appliances as well as other items that are hard to ship within the local community. The company has also partnered with United Stated Postal Service (USPS) to ensure green supply when it comes to shipping. Together, these two entities are co branded in environmentally friendly Priority Mail packaging that has earned them Cradle-to-Cradle certification.
8. Starbucks Stores Go Green
This company embraces principles of environmental sustainability across the board. The company not only purchases Fair Trade Certified and Certified organic coffee but also focuses on achieving LED certifications for its new outlets. By creating ‘green’ stores, the company is able to reduce operating costs as well as minimize the impact of business practices on the environment. In addition, the company has a green building strategy that includes adjusting temperatures for its air-conditioned stores from the standard that is 72o to 75o F and purchasing cabinetry that is made using 90% post industrial materials while incorporating low-flow water valves.
9. Google Environmental Innovations
This business innovator is another leader in embracing a greener future with its green supply chain management practices and environmental sustainability. The company demonstrates its commitment to going green through initiatives like powering its facilities with renewable energy sources, hosting farmers’ markets as well as sustainable cooking seminars and bringing goats to trim grass. Google also has in place an environmentally aware corporate culture, solidifying its reputation of being one of the world’s most forward thinking companies.
Overall, regardless of the initiatives that a company may embrace, businesses will do well to monitor these initiatives and identify ways of becoming more efficient over time.
Consumers care more than ever before about the environmental impact of the products they buy, and companies are incorporating green business trends in order to capitalize on this growing demand. As of 2014, “55% of consumers across 60 countries [were] willing to pay higher prices for goods from environmentally conscious companies… 71% of Americans at least consider the environment as a factor when shopping,” according to a green industry report.
In addition to the revenue-boosting effect from ‘going green’, businesses can also appreciate some significant savings from reduced energy costs by incorporating sustainability and energy efficiency into their products, practices and operations.
Innovative & Renewable Energy
Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, have been impacting commercial industries for several years, creating more sustainable practices across the board. Renewable energy and innovative methods of sourcing energy is now more mainstream in business-to-consumer markets as well. As in residential scenarios, businesses can offset their usage and costs by implementing renewable methods like solar paneling. Businesses are also finding more unique ways to generate energy — one company is even turning food waste and sewage into usable energy!
Waste is the antithesis to green behavior, whether it happens with energy, products and supplies, or food. Feeding America® reports an estimated 70 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the United States alone. This food waste generates more greenhouse gases that carry a greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Many urban restaurants, grocery stores, and food producers are cutting back on waste by donating their leftover food to homeless shelters and food banks. Meanwhile, grocery retailers are increasingly redesigning their business models to reduce food waste, going so far as developing zero-waste stores and recipe-based food delivery services.
Energy Efficient Housewares
Green business trends toward energy efficiency are affecting the residential marketplace, particularly with home renovations and the choices homeowners make for a home remodel. Construction companies and providers of home services are offering eco-friendly options that homeowners prefer. Common examples of these popular eco-friendly products include new appliances with high Energy Star ratings, tankless water heaters, solar paneling, and insulated windows or window film. Many construction firms are also incorporating green business trends in their building and sourcing methods, such as using reclaimed or recycled materials for a variety of home renovation applications, instead of brand-new materials and fixtures.
Tech companies and corporate businesses can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond simply adding a recycling bin and encouraging employees and customers to go paperless. Computers and other electronic devices use up a lot of energy, especially when they are left on after-hours and when moving screen-savers are running. Office-based businesses can easily implement a ‘greener’ approach with a policy of turning off the default screen-saver triggers, and asking employees to turn their computers and electronics off at the end of each day. For companies with the budget to replace older machines, energy-efficient electronics with high Energy Star ratings or EPEAT marks are available. Another popular employment benefit for technology and media industries in particular, is to allow or encourage telecommuting. This is also a green business trend, since commuting carries a significant carbon footprint for the employee, and employers spend more in energy and financial costs with larger office spaces.
Marketing and advertising is a cornerstone of virtually any business. Eco-friendly advertising trends and methods are becoming more popular. For example, some companies are choosing to advertise on new billboards that showcase the business while providing an ecological benefit, such as purifying the air or hosting an urban garden. Businesses are also reducing their use of paper products, while saving lots of money in printing costs by focusing more on digital marketing and online advertising avenues.
Moving forward, green business trends are expected to continue to develop with a focus on carbon recycling, green infrastructure, microgrids, the circular economy, and the B-to-B sharing economy, according to a 2016 report from GreenBiz. Progressively, these elements of eco-friendly business practices are becoming more of an opportunity for reducing risks and increasing revenue — opening the door for mainstream investors to finance sustainable business growth.
JOHANNESBURG’s residents and businesses can no longer continue putting all their rubbish in one bin and expect Pikitup to collect it, take it to a landfill and dump it.
At present, the city generates 1.8-million tonnes of rubbish a year, which is sent to four landfill sites: Marie Louise, Ennerdale, Robinson Deep and Goudkoppies. But at current trends and with 90% of mixed waste going to landfill sites, the city will run out of space in seven years.
Pikitup MD Amanda Nair says it would cost more than R1bn to build a new landfill site, taking into account engineering, lining, drainage and road networks.
It costs the city R600m a year to clean the streets and deal with illegal dumping.
Pikitup, which last week was hit by a violent strike, serves an area of 1,625km² and is responsible for cleaning and sweeping 9,000km of streets in the City of Johannesburg’s seven regions.
An independent refuse removal company has been hired to move the 30,000 tonnes of rubbish that has piled up on the city’s streets because of the industrial action, while management and South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) leaders have agreed to meet on Monday.
Pikitup spokesman Jacky Mashapu said the strike cost R1.25m a day.
In some countries, there is zero waste to landfill because residents separate their rubbish into different streams for recycling or incineration. Even though there is some recycling in SA by informal reclaimers, the country is a long way from the levels of resource reuse in China, says Ms Nair.
For the past few years, Johannesburg has run a separation-at-source pilot project in a few suburbs. From next year, this has to be rolled out across the city, involving co-operation from all stakeholders including Pikitup employees, residents and the informal sector, Ms Nair says.
Waste is a resource around which small businesses can be built and jobs created.
About 18 months ago, Pikitup approved a waste-minimisation plan. It is drafting a resource, recovery and logistics plan, which includes looking at how Pikitup’s infrastructure needs to be adjusted for a different way of handling waste in future. For example, the old garden refuse sites are being adapted to become service centres taking streams of recyclables.
Other collection vehicles and incinerators will be needed.
“Our primary goal is not raising revenue but reducing the amount of waste to landfill,” Ms Nair says. “Our plans will allow other partners to extract economic value from waste.”
But the streets around Pikitup’s Braamfontein head office last week showed signs of a hasty clean-up by Pikitup executives and Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau. Within two hours, their efforts were obliterated as aggrieved Samwu members re-energised their protest by overturning more dustbins.
Ms Nair, who helped sweep the streets, says strikers had not tabled any formal demands.
An interdict was obtained to halt the strike and an ultimatum issued to workers to return to work or risk dismissal.
Efforts to get comment from the union at the weekend failed.
Last year, Ms Nair was suspended over allegations of impropriety in the award of a tender. In February, she was cleared of charges and reinstated as MD.
The utility has announced a R600m turnaround, from a deficit of R432m in 2013 to a surplus of R181m this year. The improved performance stems from a five-year plan to focus on better revenue collection, reduced overtime and improved fleet performance.
Chief financial officer Suren Maharaj says 90% of Pikitup’s revenue was earned from domestic clients and 10% from commercial clients. There is limited room to improve domestic revenue, collected on Pikitup’s behalf by the City of Johannesburg. But by ensuring better service to commercial customers, Pikitup has reduced bad debts and improved collections.
Across the US, and around the globe, we have echoed a decades-old mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle.
For years, this meant making the effort to compost the food, recycle the bottle, or reuse the plastic bag. But through the evolution of the recycling industry, the bar has been raised to attain a higher goal: zero waste.
It is a philosophy that contends every ounce of salvageable trash — that which can still serve a purpose — can be turned into valued commodities. In embracing this philosophy, its proponents say, we can capitalize on resources while taking some of the load off our landfills.
Holly Elmore, Atlanta GA-based Elemental Impact founder and CEO, works with the industry on creating sustainable best practices. Among her work to reach zero waste, she developed Zero Waste Zones, which was acquired by the National Restaurant Association.
While the idea has its merits, one may wonder: is zero waste really achievable? If so, how do you convince a “throw-away” society of this lifestyle? And what are ways to get zero waste to make sense from a logistics and economic perspective?
Waste Dive caught up with Elmore to address these questions and more.
WASTE DIVE: Is Zero Waste attainable? And if so, how do we get there?
HOLLY ELMORE: I do think zero waste is attainable. To get to zero waste, you must recognize which materials have value. Set up a system to recycle it. And reduce … If you are a corporation, begin for instance by asking yourself, are you printing more than you have to? Then you replace. An example: with shipments, tell companies you purchase from you want recyclable packaging. There is power in consumer demand. Once you have reduced and replaced, separate valuable material and find a local recycling option.
What is key to getting the public to buy into zero waste?
ELMORE: You need to cultivate a culture. That culture has to come from the top management down in the case of large organizations. In the community it has to start with the mayor and city council …There should be green team leaders or sustainability leaders who have zero waste responsibilities written in their job descriptions. It should be tied to their compensation and evaluations … There should be good signage and recycling bins. Their use and why we use them should be in newspaper articles. And community leaders should be talking about this … The Georgia World Congress Center is the world’s largest LEED certified conference center. They were one of the nation’s pioneers in the commercial collection of food waste for composting in 2009. You can’t tell me most people are busier than them. But they make the time because this is in their culture.
Can you speak to the role of education in changing a culture?
ELMORE: Education is crucial. Charlotte, NC has an MRF that had low contamination rates, but the community spent mega time educating and rewarding residents on clean recycling. The MRF got great material. When they started accepting from other communities, who had not been educated and did not have comprehensive programs with government support, contamination increased.
What are the biggest roadblocks to obtaining zero waste?
ELMORE: It is that mentality that waste is trash. As long as we view it as trash it will end up in the landfill. We must recognize it as valuable material … determining what is trash and separating it once you have reduced and replaced is where challenges happen … Single-stream recycling is a big problem leading to contamination. According to the Container Recycling Institute, about 25% of material sent to MRFs ends up in landfills due to contamination. And one person or corporation can contaminate an entire single-stream load, with two main contaminants being food and glass.
How do you address this road block?
ELMORE: First know that according to US Zero Waste Business Council, you can only claim 100% zero waste if the entire value chain is zero waste, which includes suppliers, manufacturers and consumers … It’s important to get manufacturers to understand their responsibility for packaging. Packaging should be reusable or recyclable, and labeled as recyclable with clear instructions. Those instructions should include if items need to be separated … If caps are a different plastic than bottles; well, tell us …Consumers can avoid contamination by removing food, and if packer trucks are crushing materials, remove glass.
What is the MRF’s role in working toward zero waste?
ELMORE: First, they should not be there to clean, but to separate. The MRF is simply the destination. Haulers, citizens, and government should take responsibility for clean material. So for MRFs to be affective, consumers [and organizations] must put only clean material into the stream … I think MRFs should fine haulers. Or reject dirty loads. The hauler would have to go to landfills and pay tipping fees.
Can you speak of “benefit of scale” to justify investments made to reach for zero waste?
ELMORE: You need scale for zero waste efforts to make economic sense. It’s expensive to put trucks out there, so you need route density. Cluster pickup places where there are generators of material in a zone. Haulers have to fill that truck to justify overall cost of their routes. Bales of waste to be sold to end markets must be large enough to fill tractor trailers of materials sold by weight … If you travel outside your community, especially, you have to have volume.
How do you get corporations and other business entities to support zero waste goals?
ELMORE: Look at what material is generated in the community, corporations, universities, government and other organizations. If a significant amount of material is generated in the community, for instance, but you don’t have an end market, look at who would use the “commodities.” And attract businesses that could capitalize on it … keep dollars in your community to build a vital local economy, create jobs and new products … and remember, it’s a team effort between businesses, government, citizens … As far as trash collectors, they have to tell municipalities, your citizens are sending contaminated stuff … Let’s work together: the government, businesses, citizens, haulers and MRFs.
Have you seen the documentary “Racing To Zero” yet? It spotlights San Francisco’s efforts to achieve an aggressive zero waste goal of diverting 90 percent of its municipal waste from landfill by 2020. San Francisco leads the country in this endeavor, and in that regard has much to teach the rest of us.
However, the film’s too sunny presentation of the City by the Bay’s recycling efforts to the near exclusion of reducing and reusing risks sending a message to consumers that could perversely result in more waste generation—and wasteful consumption, not less.
Recyclables can be a valuable source of materials that can be turned into new products for often less cost and environmental impact than mining and processing virgin materials. It creates jobs and protects resources.
That said, not all materials can be physically recycled (due to difficulties separating for instance), or benefit from profitable markets that would warrant their collection.
Achieving zero waste is about more than collecting recyclables and turning them into new products. It’s about an integrated approach to solid waste management that reduces the amount and toxicity of wastes in the first place. It’s about making sure that waste materials are directed to their highest and best use; this may include refilling some packages, for example, rather than simply sending them for recycling.
Finally, according to the definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance, and espoused by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and others, zero waste is about more than landfill diversion. It is about preventing waste from occurring in the first place by changing consumption culture with a prominent role for Reduce and Reuse, the two R’s that rank above Recycling in EPA’s Waste Management Hierarchy.
“Racing to Zero” has close to zero (couldn’t resist the pun) discussion of San Francisco’s efforts to promote these other 2 R’s by highlighting campaigns (which I presume exist) to encourage consumers to use refillable water bottles and coffee cups, bring their own bags to the supermarket, or shop in thrift stores, swap instead of buy new, or obtain used products via online platforms such as eBay and Craig’s List.
These other 2 R’s are just as important if not moreso within an integrated solid waste management plan (and documentary) educating folks about the best way to get to zero waste.
Composting does play a key role in “Racing to Zero” (and is the ‘star’ of the film’s trailer), as it is considered to be a form of recycling, and its benefits are well displayed, although its treatment too could benefit from a more balanced discussion of alternative, environmentally preferable ways of disposing of food waste such as nourishment for humans and animals.
Understanding why “Racing to Zero” is so unbalanced is not germane to this column (although the film’s producer is listed as an artist in residence at Recology, the city’s outsourced recycling organization, and Recology is listed as a partner on the official website.) And I don’t mean to shoot the messenger. This film has much to teach about the potential value of recycling to shift perceptions of trash from garbage to a resource. Given its single-minded focus on recycling, perhaps it would have been better titled along those lines rather than as a portrayal of San Francisco’s zero waste efforts with its multi-pronged approach.
My main point is this: Without a more concerted focus on Reduce and Reuse, together with a more balanced discussion of the effectiveness of recycling with the context of achieving zero waste, “Racing to Zero” and any related communication by any other group to follow will lose an important opportunity to credibly educate the public at large and those of us in cities like my own (New York) about the role that recycling can play as an effective solid waste strategy. At worst, it risks sending a message to consumers that recycling is the new ‘away,’ and that our throwaway culture can continue unabated.
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Small efforts to recycle boxes and paper in 1997 has transformed Bisant Matsi’s life. He has gone from waste collector to a prominent and successful recycling business owner in Burgersfort, Mpumalanga, inspiring his local community by showing them the value that exists in waste.
Nineteen years ago, Matsi, now successful owner of Burgersfort Waste Management in Burgersfort, started his recycling operation with only seven employees. Two years later, he started collecting cans and working closely with Collect-a-Can, southern African recovery and recycling organisation.
Collect-a-Can works within various communities, encouraging citizens from all walks of life to assist in their can-collecting efforts. “We teach informal collectors that they can make a living or even start their own ventures by recycling cans,” says Zimasa Velaphi, public relations and marketing manager of Collect-a-Can.
Burgersfort Waste Management grew into a recycling operation that collects all sorts of recycling material, including paper, glass, steel, plastic and aluminium. The company currently provides employment for 36 people.
The sky is the limit for Matsi with his high aspirational dreams for Burgersfort Waste Management. “In the next five years, I would like to support an employment team of 100 people with my recycling operation, while also encouraging organisations to set up their own recycling stations where we will collect their waste to be recycled,” he shares. The local municipality and mining companies in the area already supports Matsi’s recycling operation.
Since aluminium cans were introduced into the South African market last year, Matsi experienced significant changes in the Burgersfort community. “People are now realising that aluminium is currently the highest paid recycling commodity. There are no more cans lying around in the area as all the children and women in the town collects aluminium cans to be recycled,” adds Matsi.
Burgersfort Waste Management is an agent for Collect-a-Can in the Burgersfort region to make the weighing-and-paying process easier for both Collect-a-Can and the local community. “The residents in the nearby villages and the schools that are participating in the Collect-a-Can National Schools Competition bring their cans to us for recycling where we pay them according to the weight of cans collected,” he says. The annual National Schools Competition rewards schools with prize money if they collect the most cans.
Matsi’s recycling operation makes a significant difference in the Burgersfort community. “It is amazing to see how clean the environment is since we have started with the recycling operation. The people are realising the importance of a clean and beautiful environment and that recycling waste can serve as an income stream for them,” says Matsi.
Matsi would like to challenge all South Africans, especially the unemployed, to start recycling their waste. “People should open their eyes and see that recyclable waste can be a valuable income resource, while recycling also protects our beautiful environment,” concludes Matsi. “A good recycler is the friend of all living things,” adds Barry Warren, Pretoria regional branch manager of Collect-a-Can.
For more information about Collect-a-Can www.collectacan.co.za
Source: SA – The Good News
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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 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’ 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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