Waste disposal

Waste disposal

When the garbage bin is full a truck comes along and takes it away. All the smelly contents of the kitchen bin disappears out of sight and out of mind.

So long as all the mess is away somewhere else all is well.

Typically the simplest solution to waste disposal is to put it in a big hole in the ground. This is a relatively straightforward exercise in transportation and dumping – a few complications from odour and seepage notwithstanding.

At least this is the Australian solution.

In Sweden most household waste is burnt with recovery of three megawatt-hours of energy for every tonne of waste. In 2015, Sweden imported 2.3 million tonnes of waste from Norway, the UK, Ireland and elsewhere to fuel its incinerators. This incineration ability means that the average Swedish household sends around three kilograms of waste to landfill.

Sweden has only very small holes in the ground.

The average Australian sends more than one tonne of garbage to landfill each year.

OMG, what a difference. How can we be so profligate and wasteful? Because it is cheaper to throw stuff away than it is to repurpose it, as fuel in the case of the Swedes.

This reality is pervasive. How many times do people drop their empty crisp packet on the pavement rather than walk to the nearest bin or even fold the bag up and put it in their pocket until a bin appears? Too many.

Collectively we are prone to finding the easiest solution and have to work quite hard to overcome this tendency. Waste disposal is just one of the resource issues where this attitude applies.

Positive future…

Sydney sends much of its garbage south by rail and dumps it into an old gold mine at Woodlawn in the countryside to the north-east of Canberra.

The methane from this waste is captured and fuels a turbine or two to generate energy but there is planning permission for a resource recovery centre in the site.

In the future the rubbish will be sifted, the green material burnt in an anaerobic oven to create biochar that is spread on paddocks as a fertilizer and carbon store.

All the metals will be sifted and sorted for reuse.

The building waste will be crushed and repurposed as road base.

Only the nasty materials will end up in the ground.

These facilities will have a shortened lifespan as consumers slow down their waste production except for the biochar facility that will be converted to process silage and treated sewage into biochar.

It can be done.

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