Waste Management Key to Cleaning up Oceans

Discarded plastic, industrial waste and unwanted fishing nets are still a growing problem for the world’s oceans, despite decades of efforts to reduce such marine debris. However, a new set of commitments - set out during the recent Fifth international Marine Debris Conference - hope to encourage the sharing of technical, legal and market-based solutions to reduce marine debris.

Discarded plastic, industrial waste and unwanted fishing nets are still a growing problem for the world’s oceans, despite decades of efforts to reduce such marine debris. However, a new set of commitments - set out during the recent Fifth international Marine Debris Conference - hope to encourage the sharing of technical, legal and market-based solutions to reduce marine debris.

One of the key findings of the conference was the need to improve waste management practices globally. It was said that improvements to national waste management programmes not only help reduce the volume of waste in the world’s seas and oceans, but can also bring real economic benefits.

The impacts of marine debris are far-reaching, with serious consequences for marine habitats, biodiversity, human health and the global economy. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at least 267 marine species worldwide are affected by entanglement in, or ingestion of marine debris, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species.

There is also growing concern over the potential impact on human health of toxic substances released by plastic waste in the ocean. Scientists are studying whether contaminants linked to cancer and other health risks, which may accumulate on ‘microplastics’ can enter the food chain when ingested by marine animals. These microplastics comprise disintegrated plastic broken down by the sea into small particles, as well as plastic pellets used by industry.

Co-organised by UNEP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and held in Honolulu, Hawaii, the conference saw major industries and leading marine researchers come together to make a new set of commitments to tackle the widespead problem.

According to UNEP, the commitment, dubbed the Honolulu Commitment, sees a new cross-sectoral approach to helping reduce the occurrence of marine debris. This would also reduce the extensive damage it causes to marine habitats, the global economy, biodiversity and the risks posed to human health.

It also marked the first step in the development of a comprehensive global platform for the prevention, reduction and management of marine debris, to be known as the Honolulu Strategy.

Waste management is one of ten economic sectors highlighted in UNEP’s recently published Green Economy Report. The report highlighted enormous opportunities for turning land based waste - the major contributor to marine debris - into a more valuable resource.

The Honolulu Strategy will outline several approaches for the reduction of marine debris, including prevention both on land and from sea-based sources, as well the need to see waste as a resource to be managed.

UNEP said it will also call for public awareness campaigns on the negative impacts of improper waste disposal on seas and oceans. This will target street litter, illegal dumping of rubbish and poorly-managed waste dumps.

United Nations under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner, said: “The impact of marine debris today on flora and fauna in the oceans is one that we must now address with greater speed.”

Steiner added: “However, one community or one country acting in isolation will not be the answer. We need to address marine debris collectively across national boundaries and with the private sector, which has a critical role to play both in reducing the kinds of wastes that can end up in the world’s oceans, and through research into new materials.

“It is by bringing all these players together that we can truly make a difference.”

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in brief  The Pepsi Challenge 

U.S. based soft drinks giant, PepsiCo claims to have developed the world’s first 100% recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources.

The company said that the bottle is made from bio-based raw materials, including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks, and will significantly reduced carbon footprint of its bottle manufacturing operations. 

MGB Plastics wins Bin Contract 

MGB Plastics, a UK based manufacturer of wheeled bins has won a contract to supply 25,000 of its new-shaped 240L bins to Cheltenham Borough Council as part of a new waste collection scheme.

The company said that its new product will be the central tool in the new kerbside wheeled bin scheme introduced by the council to replace its green bag garden waste service. It hopes the new collection scheme will help it to meet recycling targets of 50% by 2015 and 60% by 2020. 

EU Waste Survey Highlights Lack of Awareness 

In stark contrast to EU statistics that show that the average European throws away over half a tonne of rubbish each year, a recent survey has found that almost 60% EU citizens do not think that their household produces too much waste.

Conducted on behalf of the European Commission, the primary objective of the Flash Eurobarometer survey, Attitudes of Europeans towards Resource Efficiency, carried out by the Gallup Organisation - was to gauge EU citizens’ perceptions, attitudes and practices concerning resource efficiency, and waste management and recycling.

Only In Cyprus (57%), Spain (52%) and Austria (51%) did more than half of respondents think that they were producing too much household waste. 

Food for thought 

According to the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, EU citizens generate an average of 513 kg of municipal waste each a year, and the findings of the survey show 87% of EU citizens thought that Europe could be more efficient in its use of natural resources. However, only 42% of respondents felt that their own household was producing too much waste.

The survey also revealed a lack of awareness of the amount of food waste generated in the EU. While a 2009 WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) study in the UK found that 25% of food bought by households is thrown away, 11% of respondents claimed not to waste any of the food they purchased, and 71% said that they threw away 15% or less of the food they bought.

When asked what would help them to waste less food 62% said better estimates of portion sizes, 61% mentioned better information on food product labels, 58% would like smaller portion sizes to be available. 

A separate matter 

While 89% said that they separated at least some form of their waste for recycling or composting, when asked which initiatives would convince them to separate more, 76% selected more and better drop-off points for recyclable and compostable waste. Improved separate waste collection at home was mentioned by 67% and 65% wanted more information on how and where to separate waste.

For countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden where waste management systems are more advanced, and source separated collection rates are already high, the respondents were less likely to agree that the proposals suggested in the survey would convince them to separate more. Most citizens agreed that better waste collection services were needed and eight in ten said environmental aspects of a product, such as whether it was reusable or recyclable, were important factors in purchasing decisions. 

A taxing issue 

Interestingly the survey showed some support for controversial ‘pay as you throw’ proposals, with 75% saying they would prefer to pay an amount related to the quantity of waste generated by their household rather than pay through their taxes. While backing for the ‘pay as you throw’ option outstripped the taxation option in all countries, the level of support varied across the continent from 47% in Portugal to 88% in Luxembourg. Support for the taxation model ranged from 6% in Hungary to 31% in Bulgaria and Lithuania.

Roughly 60% of those surveyed would prefer to include the cost of waste management in product prices rather than via taxes, and 65% wanted to see stronger law enforcement on waste management.

In Ireland over three-quarters of those questioned (77%) said that making producers pay for the collection and recycling of waste would improve waste management in their communities. Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland were of a similar opinion, with 76% giving a positive response. In Malta, however, only 35% thought that way. 

Buying habits 

An overwhelming majority (86%) of EU citizens said they would buy products made of recycled materials. Willingness to buy such products ranged from 51% in Lithuania to 96% in Sweden and Denmark.

However, of those willing to buy recycled products just 26% cited the products environmental impact as the most important factor in their decision to buy the product.

Roughly a third of interviewees said that a lack of clear consumer information on the recycled content stopped them from buying products made of recycled materials. One in six mentioned a less appealing look of the product and 5% said they were afraid of what others might think.

Respondents were also asked questions about “reuse”, which sits near the top of the waste hierarchy. Overall, almost seven in ten respondents said they were willing to buy certain products - such as furniture, electronic equipment or textiles - second-hand. Perhaps counter intuitively, the proportion of those willing to buy second-hand products ranged from 40% in Slovakia to more than 80% in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. 

Conclusions 

Environment commissioner Janez Potonik said: “This survey shows that most of us do not realise how much we are really throwing away. Where waste cannot be prevented we must use it as a valuable resource. Much of our waste can be re-used or recycled – from food and garden waste to old mobile phones. And being resource-efficient can even save us money – reducing food waste, for example, could save EU households around €500 a year.”

While it’s true that Europe has made great strides in recovering both materials and energy from its waste in recent years, it is also true that it has been somewhat less successful in reducing the actual volume of waste that it produces. For that to change it is for the most part going to have to start in the homes of EU citizens.

When it comes to the battle for hearts and minds, practices that are perceived as ‘green’ such as recycling have certainly gained a substantial foothold, but perhaps the real battle lies further up the waste hierarchy, and encouraging people to simply produce less waste. 

in brief  Romanian Waste to Energy Pilot Project 

U.S. based investment firm, TransGlobal Assets, Inc. - formerly known as TimeShare Holdings, Inc. - has provided $500,000 funding to its Indian Joint Venture (JV) partner, Helios Inc. in order to commence construction of the biomass waste pilot project to be conducted for the Romanian municipality of Acatari. 

Integrated Waste Treatment Facility in Qatar 

An integrated solid waste treatment facility in the Qatar, said to be the first of its type in the Middle East, is expected to be operational by mid 2011. The Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre will be capable of treating 2300 tonnes of domestic solid waste per day, as well as 5000 tonnes of C&D waste.

Covering an area of 3km2, the facility will treat waste for the whole of Qatar, and comprise waste sorting and recycling facilities, a composting plant, landfill and a 50 MW waste to energy incinerator. 

Solid Waste Powered Fuel Cell Demonstration 

Canadian fuel specialist, Ballard Power Systems, has partnered with GS Platech, a subsidiary of GS Caltex - one of South Korea’s largest petroleum refiners - to produce hydrogen from municipal solid waste to power zero-emission fuel cells. The pilot plant in Cheongsong is capable of treating five tons of organic solid waste per day using plasma gasification technology to power a 50 kW fuel cell. 

Barack Biofuel Backing Meets Mixed Reception 

In a recent speech, Barack Obama announced a goal of breaking ground on four commercial cellulosic bio-refineries over the next two years.

Key industry players welcomed his remarks. Yet some were sceptical that the goal could be achieved without more government support.

“We’re obviously extremely encouraged. But there is still a lot of bureaucracy... a lot of hurdles,” said Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer for Coskata, Inc. 

Coca-Cola Bottle Recycling Investment in UK 

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has entered into a joint venture with UK based bottle recycler, ECO Plastics, to develop a purpose built recycling facility in Lincolnshire.

CCE has signed a ten-year joint venture deal with ECO Plastics (formerly AWS Eco Plastics) that guarantees an annual supply of rPET. CCE is making a £5 million equity investment to support construction of the new facility, with ECO Plastics raising an additional £10 million to complete funding for the project.

CCE said that the deal is a first for the British drinks manufacturing industry. The new recycling facility will be built on ECO Plastics’ current site in Lincolnshire, and will be operational next year.

The firm claimed that its existing facility is already the largest in Europe, capable of processing more than 100,000 tonnes of waste plastic, or two billion bottles a year. Around 35,000 tonnes of PET bottles were reprocessed in the UK last year. The new facility will increase this total to more than 75,000 tonnes when it is fully operational - more than doubling the amount of high-quality rPET currently produced in the country.

Currently, CCE sources food-grade rPET from continental Europe, while around two-thirds of used GB plastics packaging is exported for reprocessing. 

 

 

Namibian Recycler Receives Development Bank Loan to Increase Sustainability 

Namibian recycling company, Wilco Recycling, which compacts material for export to South Africa, has received a business loan from the Development Bank of Namibia.

According to the company the loan will be used to purchase its own vehicles, enabling it to cut operational costs, increase profits by almost 50% and make the business more sustainable and profitable. Previously, the company had been hiring vehicles and equipment to run the business, which it said is a very expensive exercise.

Wilco said that the business has become a source of income for impoverished communities, employing eight permanent and 50 casual workers, who are mainly women. The casual workers fill bags with crushed bottles and cans and they are paid N$60 ($8.8) for every bag filled. The bags are loaded on trucks to South Africa, where the bottles and cans are recycled.

“Apart from our responsibility towards job creation and employment, we also have a duty towards the protection and preservation of the environment,” said David Nuyoma, the chief executive officer of the Development Bank of Namibia. 

Privatisation Claims on Waste Services Spark Fierce Debate in U.S. 

Privatised waste services in the United States generate significant cost savings and lower financial risks for municipalities than public sector counterparts, according to a recent study by the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSMWA).

San Francisco’s privatised waste management has some of the highest recycling rates in the U.S.

The study - which makes a number of controversial claims - said that privatised services offer greater innovation and efficiencies, which save money and reduce environmental impacts, as well as offering a better safety record for employees.

“During a time when municipalities are facing declining revenues and severe budget shortfalls, waste collection, recycling and disposal are among the services most ideal for privatization,” said NSWMA president and CEO Bruce J. Parker.

According to the libertarian public policy think tank, the Reason Foundation, competitive delivery of solid waste services typically generates cost savings in the order of 20% to 40%. NSWMA claimed that in addition, they benefit from greater economies of scale and are not hindered by governmental bureaucracies.

Furthermore, the NSWMA points to the fact that the U.S. cities with the highest recycling rates – including San Francisco and Seattle – have fully privatised recycling.

Unsurprisingly the claims have sparked a response from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) which accused the NSWMA of “glaring deficiency” in its “complete lack of recognition or respect for local government’s essential responsibility for solid waste management”.

“Solid waste management decisions must reflect community values and are therefore an essential prerogative of local government,” said John H. Skinner, SWANA’s executive director and CEO.

“SWANA certainly supports privatisation efforts that are supportive of local government’s public service authorities but in the absence of that support, privatization will not be successful,” he added. 

in brief  Abu Dhabi Waste Contract 

Waste management service provider, Lavajet has won a 307 million Dirham ($85 million) contract to deliver solid waste collection, and street sweeping services in the City of Abu Dhabi.

The contract was signed in the Presence of H.E. Majid Al Mansouri, managing director of the Center of Waste Management who indicated that the contract’s scope should not prevent innovative and new technologies to better serve the city. 

Turning Fly Ash into Metal Foams 

Experiments into recycling toxic ‘fly ash’ as an additive to create lightweight composite metal foams for use in the automotive industry have been taking place at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Researchers at the university claim to have demonstrated the potential to keep millions of tons of toxic waste out of landfills, while improving the performance and lowering the cost of some of expensive raw materials such as aluminium and magnesium. 

Landfill Mining in Taiwan 

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in Taiwan has said that the nation is to excavate over 400 landfills for material and energy recovery, as well as add bio-energy capacity to its incineration facilities. The EPA said that it plans to sort through the buried waste for renewable energy sources, adding that it will implement stringent pollution control measures. 

Waste to Energy Incinerator Site to be Reconsidered in Delhi, India 

The Delhi government in India is to consider relocating a controversial waste to energy facility intended to burn RDF pellets derived from mixed, unsorted waste - including e-wastes and chlorinated plastics. The 16 MW facility is located in a crowded south Delhi suburb.

The plant - due to be operational in July- has sparked controversy with residents and environmentalists, leading environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, to write a letter expressing his concern. 

European Medical Waste to Move Away from Incineration? 

Incineration continues to be the dominant method of disposal for medial waste across many parts of Europe. However, concerns over emissions resulting from incineration are leading European countries to search for alternative processes by which to dispose of this hazardous material.

EU market for specialist medical waste disposal set to grow

In a recent overview of the European medical waste management market, Frost & Sullivan (F&S) found that scientists have developed a way to pre-treat waste with disinfectants. This process doesn’t eliminate all of the germs, but it is a step in the right direction towards finding alternative methods of dealing with medical waste, said F&S.

“While incineration remains a dominant waste treatment method due to the infectious nature of waste streams, there is a growing demand for biological and innovative solutions which have in-turn prompted the presence of a growing number of specialists in the market,” said Suchitra Padmanabhan, Frost & Sullivan research manager.

In addition, analysts claimed that with regional markets such as Germany approaching maturity, there is a definite shift in focus towards South Europe. At the same time, key challenges of the medical waste management industry make it difficult for several hundred other smaller waste management companies to compete.

“The demands of technological development and alternative treatment processes can essentially be best managed by large companies since there is a heavy requirement for financial and R&D investment which makes this viable,” continued Padmanabhan. “There is also a defined market space for specialists in the sector who can offer a technological or service provision edge.”

Companies need to be able to offer non-incineration methods and in doing so successfully possess the ability to manage and disinfect hazardous medical waste.

Although it is unlikely that incineration will end accross the rest of Europe right away, it is more likely that changes will be made to incineration techniques to make them more effective. Research will continue with the aim of finding non-incineration methods to manage medical waste that may soon replace incineration completely. 

Australia puts pressure on e-waste producers 

The Australian government has introduced the Product Stewardship Bill into Federal Parliament with the aim of helping to manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of electronic waste such as televisions and computers.

The proposed scheme will require importers and manufacturers of TVs, and computers to fund and implement national collection and recycling of these products. Collection services will be progressively rolled out Australia-wide over five years by the television and computer industry, which supports the scheme.

Parliamentary Secretary for sustainability and urban water, senator Don Farrell, said the new framework legislation will provide industry, communities and government with a consistent national approach to managing certain products. It aims to reduce hazardous substances, avoid and reduce waste, and increase recycling and resource recovery.

Televisions and computers will be the first products to be covered under the legislation. The planned National Television and Computer Product Stewardship Scheme aims to increase the recycling rate for TVs and computers to 80% by 2020/21. 

Calls for Industry to Support Metal Recyclers 

There is concern among European metal recyclers over the current lack of buying interest being shown in recycled metals by large European consumers. The sentiment was expressed by the representatives of the national member associations during the recent general assembly of the European metal trade and recycling federation Eurometrec, in Brussels.

The attitude of the metal consuming industry is in sharp contrast to their ongoing messages about the need to improve access to raw materials in Europe and to eventually develop new policies at EU and national levels to facilitate their supply.

According to the association, some European recycling companies report significant difficulties in selling copper to big European smelters. If sales are possible, payment conditions, delivery schedules and discounts imposed on the suppliers are considerable. Such a situation reportedly exists for copper/ precious metals mixes as well as rare earth metals. For aluminium, the situation is said to be slightly less serious, albeit quite difficult for some lower grades.

In light of the recent EU Commission communication regarding the challenges to commodity markets and on raw materials, Eurometrec stated that the European recycling industry is ready and prepared to fulfil its role as the most significant raw material supplier, and called upon the metals consuming industry to review their current procurement policy in support of regular and ongoing suppliers. 

in brief  Lincolnshire’s WtE Facility Under Construction 

UK based civil engineering contractor, Clugston Construction, is to start work on a major WtE plant in Lincolnshire. The facility, which is part of a £145 million investment plan, will treat up to 150,000 tonnes of household waste per year.

Once completed Waste Recycling Group will operate the facility, which it claimed will dramatically reduce the amount of waste Lincolnshire sends to landfill. 

Pennsylvania Tyre Clean up 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has initiated two projects to clean up an estimated 400,000 abandoned tyres. The department’s Waste Tyre Program developed a priority list of 17 abandoned tyre sites in need of remediation, based on a number of environmental and hazardous criteria. Topping the list was the McFadden pile containing 350,000 tyres.

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