Over the last 18 months, since I was first introduced to the concept of a totally green waste to energy solution, I have been looking for the ” that could at a stroke:-
Green waste disposal is available in the larger townships and where land size does not encourage residents to compost their green waste on their own properties.
* Solve massive pollution and health issue from an ever-growing amount of waste
* Recycle as much rare raw materials from our waste as possible
* Create as much energy from our waste as possible, reducing our reliance on ever-decreasing fossil fuels
* Remove the need for waste landfill sites, with their inherent potential health hazards.
* Reduce the amount of air pollution from incineration of waste
* Reduce the amount of pollution entering our rivers and oceans
* Turn massive stocks of oily sludge into clean energy
* Manage to clean up and decontaminate toxic landfills with asbestos and heavy metals (especially those found in batteries and other household electrical products)
* Reduce the number of illness and deaths in young children in third-world countries, who either play or scavenge on old toxic waste dumps (usually illegally tipped there by the more ‘advanced’ nations).
* Create renewable energy in the form of electricity, hydrogen, or heat (Steam). This should also take advantage of the various carbon credit systems that are in operation in different parts of the world.
Unfortunately, I have travelled down a number of dead end roads in my search for this particular Holy Grail, as all solutions that I looked at, although full of hype and promise, did not contain a fully working, operational and proven site.
During my researches, I became very particular in the definition of the parameters of the solutions that I was looking for.
Too many times, I was told that the technology to be used was more important than the outcome – how absurd. Whether it is Pyrolysis, gasification, plasma, or even incineration, the cost and the levels of green energy and lack of toxic waste have to be the prime factors.
The over-riding need was for sorted and/or unsorted waste to be fed into a system that would genuinely produce no toxic waste, no toxic stack output, and be as efficient as possible in the production of energy.
Also, the system would need to be scalable, and if possible have the option of a portable facility, as well as being able to handle say up to 25 tons of unsorted waste a day. It also should be capable of being delivered and commissioned in less than a year wherever possible.
On top of this, the system should be able to bring employment, electricity, and sustainable funding to many third-world countries, adding yet another dimension to the world environment, and a massive contribution to world peace and stability.
OK, look at the list here that incineration plants mostly can not handle, and then think about what is really important that this rubbish IS processed properly:
– Residue from composting plant
– Sewage sludge
– Toxic ash from incinerators
– Liquid industrial waste
– Asbestos and Catalytic converters
– Dangerous hospital waste
– Veterinary waste
– Catering waste
– Hairdressing waste
– Other toxic waste
– Metallic residues
– Chicken slurry
– Waste oils
– Coal dust from spoil heaps
– Reclaim from landfill
So Who Still Wants Incineration?
Another limitation that I saw with earlier systems I examined, was the preponderance of massive systems, with a throughput in the region of 100,000 tons of waste per annum. The problem as I saw it with this concept, is that these waste management systems should really take travel logistics into account. There is no point in saving with the waste products but spending a fortune on a major logistical problem. Far better to have a larger number of smaller regional plants, where the electricity produced, or the heat produced, can be used in that same locality.
On top of that, a lot of waste will be created at many locations, especially potentially toxic waste, created by hospitals, veterinary surgeries and abattoirs, and even commercial food and catering waste, from restaurants and even supermarkets etc. Rather than transport such toxic waste through populated areas to a central waste management point, a local preparation of this waste in to inert, sterile material, would be a boon. I have seen such a solution that could actually turn this sort of waste into an actual asset of that business.
Due to all of the dead-ends that I travelled down, I was not particularly interested in unproven systems that wanted to charge an arm and a leg in terms of a waste analysis process. You know, a quarter million pound bill here, or in some cases, well over a million, just to get an analysis of such rubbish, without proof that the proposed systems could handle my rubbish anyway. And what happened if the composition of the waste changed? Would you find yourself to blame then if the system purchased never functioned properly? Many of the supposed guaranteed performance contracts from some suppliers were not worth the paper that they were written on. I came across a few such agreements, where the parent company set up a local subsidiary then pulled the plug when things got too hot.
So – is there an actual solution to this massive waste issue, or is everybody still looking at futures that are still unproven and untested?
I can tell you from experience, that to go down the route of being the first intrepid user will be a nerve-wracking experience at the least, and at the most may soon suck every penny from your coffers.
Unfortunately there is only one solution for most people, and that is to wait until a technology is proven, and there is a working site to crawl all over. Pity about the mountain of toxic, rotting and festering waste getting taller and smellier, or the landfills filling up, or the toxic smoke-belching smokestacks continuing to puther all sorts of nasty, food-chain modifying poisons over our countryside.
So, before you make any decision on your waste management, make sure there is a fully operational and tested plant – anywhere in the world – that is fully functional and proven, and all the relevant operating licences have already been granted and are fully in place.
Without that – Caveat Emptor is the name of the game…
Geoff Morris has been examining the issues of waste management solutions for some considerable time now, both for sustainable humanitarian projects, as well as full on commercial enterprises. If you would like to know what is really available and proven out there, just get in touch with us.
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