Global Innovations in Waste Management

Sometimes it is easy to become discouraged when we see so much bad news about the environment. We see world leaders making poor decisions in regards to solutions for sustainable energy, we see corporations producing products with no regard whatsoever to their impact on communities and the landfills in which they will ultimately end up, and we see communities in developing nations that are overrun with waste, much of it shipped there from wealthy, developed nations. It feels like it’s a never ending problem and no one’s bothering to think of a solution for all the garbage, right?

Wrong! All over the world brilliant methods for minimizing the impact of waste on our precious planet are being developed! Here are just a few examples:

1. Zero Waste.

The philosophy of Zero Waste is to produce goods that have no hazardous, unusable byproducts. Zero Waste is precycling on a global scale. Although this system is still not practiced on a global scale, some areas are adopting the Zero Waste philosophy. Scotland announced plans to work towards Zero Waste in 2008, with the target to achieve the goal set for 2025.

2. Anaerobic Digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is the degradation of waste by microorganisms in an environment with no oxygen. Organic solid waste and waste water of almost any kind can be broken down using this process, and the byproduct is fertilizer and biogas which can be converted into energy. Anaerobic digestion is therefore a renewable source of energy.

3. Waste to Energy.

Waste to energy uses a method called plasma arc gasification. Plasma torches are used to incinerate liquid or solid waste, and these torches operate at the same temperatures as the sun’s surface! The waste is converted into a synthetic gas (syngas), which is then converted into energy, and there is no remaining byproduct.

4. Waste to Fuel.

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Biofuel is the most common form of waste to fuel. It encompasses a range of different fuels derived from organic matter which can be used to fuel vehicles of all kinds. Biogas, a product of Anaerobic digestion, and syngas, a product of Waste to energy, are types of biofuel.

So there are just a handful of innovative solutions in waste management. When creative minds with long term vision come together, there is no ceiling on what can be accomplished in this field. Anyone can have an idea that, if pursued, can have significant positive impact on the future of our planet and how we manage our resources. The only limitation to innovation in waste management is lack of imagination!