Waste solutions, a circular economy and creative ways to end the waste crisis
With the billions of people currently living in the world (around 7.7 billion at last count), there is bound to be a little food waste… actually make that A LOT of food waste that results from close to 8 billion people needing to eat. Whether it’s fruit, vegetables, dinner scraps or something else completely, the amount of food scraps is only increasing and they need to be kept somewhere. But where?
Enter waste-to-energy – otherwise known as WtE or energy-from-waste (EfW) – the process of creating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste or the processing of waste into a fuel source. There are a few WtE plants around Australia (we are a little behind compared to other countries), with around 20 in Victoria alone. In particular, a plant in north Melbourne run by Yarra Valley Water processes up 33,000 tonnes of food scraps every year, which produces enough energy to power an estimated 2,000.00. Plants such as this accept food waste from local suppliers, airlines and even local markets (for example, the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market) and send the scraps through specialised machinery that ‘squish’ the waste into smaller pieces, to be sent into giant tanks. The machinery works like a giant stomach in a way, converting food waste to renewable energy using the gas that’s produced when the waste is starved of oxygen.
The gas that is created is burnt off to power various turbines, which generates electricity to power buildings and other machinery. In the case of the Yarra Valley Water-run WtE plant, the gas that is produced runs 2 turbines that power the neighbouring water treatment plant, with around 70% of the energy generated being fed back into the grid. Additionally, only around 1/20 of the methane that would be created in landfill is emitted, which is a huge bonus.
It is worth noting however that waste-to-energy solutions should not be encouraging people to use more waste – the exact opposite actually. The primary goal all over the globe should be to decrease the amount of waste that is produced each year, followed by goals associated with turning what inevitable waste that is created into productive forms. Currently, Victoria alone produces around 2 million tonnes of food waste every year, so there is a lot of waste to work with but also a long way to go.
The use of a circular economy is another component to waste-to-energy solutions, with the Victorian Government due to finalise a circular economy policy by 2020. This will include actions to reduce how much waste goes into landfill, in addition to encouraging recycling and recycling-based manufacturing. But a circular economy is more than just sorting your recycling – it is about consuming recyclable products, being aware of what you are consuming and actually using recyclables in our Australian-made products. A lot of things to consider!
Discussions like these should get you thinking as to what your waste contributions are, both from a personal and business perspective, and what you are doing to make a positive contribution. Inoplex also offer waste-to-energy solutions for a variety of industries, so take a look at our website if you would like to know a little more.
ABC News (Energy from waste and a circular economy: innovative ideas to solve the waste crisis):https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-18/could-waste-to-energy-help-solve-victorias-recycling-crisis/1090974
Wikipedia (Waste-to-Energy): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste-to-energy