The 2013 Global Dialogue on Waste
Updates, content and results from The 2013 Global Dialogue on Waste.
“Waste is not waste,” spouts Dr. Mike Biddle, Founder of MBA Polymers, “and the first problem is to stop calling it waste; these are resources.”
A “one-fits-all” approach to waste management is not practical. This panel looks at different approaches and how they work around the world.
There is no such thing as an infinitely durable product. The world’s current consumption, in the form of various goods, must end up in the waste stream and the onus is upon us, either to innovate in the field of …
Amplifying Voices to Bridge the Waste Solutions Expertise Gap – Results from our 2013 Global Dialogues on WasteJanuary 3, 2014 | be Waste Wise 1
Through our 2013 global dialogues on waste, we amplified 20 hours of time from the best in waste into 500 hours of education. Twenty seven experts from…
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.
The Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling is a four year program which aims to increase the access of informal waste recyclers to recycling markets in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). It was founded by the Multilateral Investment Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank’s Water and Sanitation Division, Avina Foundation, and The Coca-Cola Company.
The Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of Columbia University works on advancing the goals of sustainable waste management in the U.S. and globally. The mission of EEC is to identify and help develop the most suitable means for the recovery of materials and energy from solid and liquid wastes and the preservation of land and water resources. It aims to do so by disseminating this information by means of publications, the web, and technical meetings.
Franz Neubacher is the Managing Director of the Austrian company UV&P Environmental Management and Engineering (UV&P), a leading provider of consulting and technical engineering services for waste management/ treatment projects in Austria. He was a part of and studied extensively …