Collection of all our full recordings, video excerpts and articles based on our panels
“Plastic pollution isn’t just about plastic in the oceans but the entire life-cycle of plastics, from when it’s first made, through all the pathways until it becomes plastic pollution” ~Nicholas Mallos
This panel addressed the role of waste-to-energy (if any) in the waste management hierarchy of North America and Europe, provided international experience on the degree of compatibility between recycling and waste-to-energy, analyses the arguments for the juxtaposition of waste-to-energy and recycling, and discusses the policies adopted in some communities to build successful sustainable waste management systems, with the general aim of moving away from landfills.
During discussions and debates, environmentally competent people showed that the facts are for waste-to-energy through a thorough analysis. But, the public acceptance was still at stake, so the Mayor asked Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a famous Austrian artist if he could do something about the appearance of the Spittelau plant. Friedensreich Hundertwasser then took an year to discuss and check his spirit and conscience about the request and finally accepted to do it. He then wrote a long letter explaining why he decided to do so. A qualified public opinion poll conducted later showed that almost 50% were in favor of the Spittelau waste-to-energy plant. About 47% or so, had no opinion and only 3% were actually opposing it.
The major reason why you see higher recycling rates in areas with waste-to-energy compared to those that don’t is basically the state and local policy environment. To just make the decision to move to waste-to-energy facility there has to be a lot of studies of feasibility, including understanding the waste stream, thinking through what the different streams of waste you have. How can you best maximize those streams? The kind of planning that goes into this type of a facility really engages the whole gamut of the waste management stream. So, those localities, and solid waste districts that have sited or are looking at moving to waste-to-energy as one part of their waste disposal strategy are also engaged in an integrated waste policy initiative.
“After doing the material and energy balances for waste-to-energy in the city of Vienna, we found that by providing both district heating and electricity, waste-to-energy in Vienna reduces the equivalent of 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to landfilling with recovery of some landfill gas for electricity generation. So, 1.4 tonnes of CO2 can be saved by 1 tonne of municipal residual waste going into the waste-to-energy facility in Vienna.”
“Some U.S. liberal groups like the Center for American Progress are beginning to realize that times have changed, the science has changed, and that we’re contributing to climate change by landfilling so much of our waste, and that waste-to-energy is actually a way of reducing climate change. So, if more environmental groups that provide information and messaging to liberals take a closer look at the science, I think that we can begin to move the conversation in a little more productive way.”
A lot of it has to do with U.S. history around science and the birth of environmental science in the 1970’s with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring and the revelation that chemicals in the environment maybe poisoning us without our knowledge. That caused a political split in our conversation between environmentalists on the political left and the chemical and petroleum industries which moved to the political right. And, we see that alignment existing even to this day.
In the last 15 years, waste-to-energy as the percentage of waste generated has come down. Starting from 19% in 1995 down to about 12% of the waste now. So, we’ve actually gone backwards in terms of waste-to-energy. Recycling has gone up, from about 25% to about 34% from 1995. But that’s not a huge increase either in 15 years! If you add these two rates, the waste that’s converted to energy and waste that’s recovered by recycling hasn’t changed in the last 15 years. We’re still landfilling about 54-55% of waste.
Waste-to-Energy is a strategy that many cities with dense population, have issues with landfilling, and want to decrease waste transportation distances are using and continue to look at. Waste-to-energy is also a technology that has been evolving over the years and there are many new developments in this technology, moving in mainly one direction – to be able to applied to smaller size waste streams. Not only is it a strategy that has real importance for the current public policy, it is a strategy that will definitely present itself to additional areas.
“When designing solutions for inteftrating informal waste recycling, we need an adequate understanding of how the overall system is currently working including both formal and informal elements”. – Jane Olley
This panel explored how solid waste management is different in the Global South, and in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean, and considers the benefits of integrating the informal sector into municipal waste management strategies.
There are “composters”, bio guys, landfillers, waste to energy guys, anti-waste to energy guys, recyclers/zero-wasters, social mitigators, etc. As solid waste is one of the most complex and heterogeneous entities known to man, it stands to reason that a “one size fits all” solution is likely not practical. However, in some instances, we can see attitudes bordering on animosity when suggesting those with differing technology agendas consider working together. This is why our panelists will discuss various questions which help us understand how the we can work together to solve the global waste management challenge.
A recent World Bank report on waste management and climate change co-authored by our moderator Perinaz Bhada-Tata estimates that current waste management methods, specifically emissions from landfill, account for almost five per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions and …
Are we becoming a plastic society?
Plastic seems all pervasive and unavoidable. Since the 1960s our use of plastic has increased dramatically, and subsequently, the portion of our garbage that is made up of plastic has also increased from …
Priti Ambani (Managing Editor of Ecopreneurist) talked to the Founder of TerraCycle (Tom Szaky) and Co-Founder of Wecyclers (Bilikiss Adebiyi) about Entrepreneurship in solid waste management. Watch the video for tips for start-ups in waste management.
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Recycling and/or Waste-to-Energy is probably one of the most controversial topics in …
The panel addressed recycling in North American cities, and how to improve the collection and processing of recyclables at the municipal level. Additionally, it will provide insights into the opportunities and trends for recycling within waste management in the North …