Rural Council Reports:
Energy From Waste:
Landfill waste diversion
at its best!
Trash as Treasure – The Future
waste, (MSW), includes two main sources of waste, household waste and
commercial waste (IC&I waste), which includes medical waste,
construction waste, restaurant waste, etc., (anything that doesn’t come
Other wastes, such
as piped sewage waste (and septic tank septage), result in a sludge processing
end product known as sewage bio-solids. These are mentioned, even
though they are produced at the sewage treatment plant, because their
de-watered residues, the bio-solids, often end up in landfill sites.
By perverse irony,
highly toxic landfill leachate is conversely ending up in Ottawa's
ill-equipped sewage treatment facility (ROPEC), where its untreated
toxic liquid fraction is merely "diluted" by the Ottawa River and its
toxic solid portion is also diluted by mixing it in with the sewage
biosolids, that are then, either disposed of by spreading them onto farmland or re-deposited back
into the landfills. (See more on this under the "Biological Waste"
One can clearly
see why, up until recently,
we have looked at MSW as a problem to be dealt with, or “managed”,
hence, the term “waste management”.
However, the mindset of waste as a
"problem" must be drastically altered if unfeigned constructive
change is to occur. Public programs regarding the three Rs, (of Reduce,
Recycle and Reuse), have created little more than a public consciousness
of the need for change. But such programs have delivered very poorly as
a strategy to divert the waste stream from landfills, in any real
cost-benefit sense. Especially when the reality is that much of the Blue
Box plastic and Green Bin "compost" ends up in the landfills, anyway,
only to become merely another costly green-washing exercise in the new
growth industry of "Feel-Good Enviro-pseudonomics".
are currently stuck in the 11% to 35% range. The lower the public
subsidization of the three-Rs, the lower the numbers. The higher the
subsidies, the more costly and problematic the program "solutions" become.
assistant administrator for America’s Environmental Protection Agency,
(EPA), J. Winston Porter, stated that diversion of 35% of waste into
recycling is about as high as any city can justify. He believes that any
higher than that can be wasteful, if not harmful.
Methodologies that can
divert all of our MSW away from landfills through real value
propositions that are sustainable, and do not require subsidization,
will be realized only through use of
the new state-of-the-art, (SOTA), clean, green waste-to-energy
technologies that are emerging.
That is the only way
in which MSW will
be properly used, as the valuable resource that it is.
Below, is a brief
overview regarding the status of some of our current methodologies.
The most common
waste management methodology has traditionally been “landfills”, which
of course, is the euphemism for the primitive practice of merely
throwing our waste into “garbage dumps”.
hugely problematic, in that they pollute our air with
methane, H2S, volatile organic compounds, and a host of other noxious
and offensive substances, as well as pollute our ground water and soils
with a plethora of disease-causing toxins, the migration of which
ultimately becomes uncontrollable.
Ministries rule that dumps are not permitted to pollute neighbouring
properties. However, the abatement process can easily be circumvented
and deferred for many years simply by
dump owners acquiring the land in the path of the polluted groundwater
dumps, by any name, are an abomination, and the intelligent goal should
eventually divert all waste away from landfills, by recycling, reusing
and converting the remainder into energy and inert reusable residues.
The utopian goal would be to “mine” all landfills, (as we would do any
mining of resources), for their energy and inert construction materials,
eradicating garbage dumps from the face of the earth.
The time when we
can begin to do that is now here.
The second most
common waste management methodology in North America is incineration.
“Incineration” is a dirty word, because of its past history of having
high pollution-belching smoke stacks that poisoned the down-wind
cleaner incineration has never stopped and Sweden now boasts of having some
of the cleanest incineration plants in the world, even though they still
produce ash that is a highly-toxic water-quenched slurry that has to be
disposed of as a hazardous material.
To achieve the
cleaner exhaust releases demanded today, at the 1,1000F to
1,6000F temperature ranges that most operate, requires that
often more than half of the equipment and costs associated with these
installations is for exhaust scrubbing equipment. That is why large
incineration installations these days, look like oil refineries and are
Gasification, (PG), is a process whereby an external source of energy is
used to generate heat from “plasma arcs” subjecting batches of MSW to
temperatures between 7500F and 13000F, in the
absence (or reduction) of oxygen. This produces a synthetic gas, or “syngas”, which is
then scrubbed of enough toxins to be burned as a fuel to produce steam
generated electrical power.
The process is
very complex and costly to build as well as to operate. The plasma arc guns
burn out quickly and are expensive to replace. Additionally, in order to
operate the PG process the requirement for input of energy is so high that
it is often not clear how much, (if any), NET energy would be available to
profitably sell to the grid.
a process whereby extreme temperatures, ranging between 1,9950F
to 2,2000F, are applied to both solid and liquid waste
streams in a computer-controlled environment, in the presence of oxygen
The process disintegrates all organic waste into energy and its inert
elements, leaving non-toxic residues. After-burner Dwell Times, (DT), of 4.2
seconds, (compared to conventional 1-second DT), at the above
temperatures, effectively prevents the release of harmful emissions. Heavy
metals and other non-destructible toxic components, representing less than 1% of
the waste, are either altered to be non-toxic or are safely sequestered.
The other 99% of
the input waste material is either broken down into energy that can be sold to
the power grid, or into 17% (by volume) inert ash residues that can be used
in cement production, road construction or utilized in other clean
efficient. Whereas the incineration process extracts only 4,520 British
Thermal Units (BTUs), of heat per tonne of municipal solid waste (MSW),
the disintegration process extracts 7,446 BTUs of heat energy per tonne
of MSW, without requiring any quenching process and without leaving any
toxic residues in the ash.
Rotting landfill sites
emit up to sixty times more green house gasses (GHG), than that
emitted, on a tonne-for-tonne basis, by the thermal disintegration
process. If we are to seriously strive to reduce our country's GHG
emissions, mining of our nation's landfill sites, using the thermal
disintegration waste-to-energy process, appears to be one of the most
environmentally beneficial and commercially profitable ways to achieve
disintegration process is "auto-thermic", meaning that it uses the
waste itself as fuel to power the system, (using approximately 15% of
the feedstock energy). That means that there is approximately 85% NET
energy available to direct towards electrical power generation.
The greatest two advantages of the disintegration
process are its environmental cleanliness and its high net energy output.
Its Capital and
Operating Costs rank among the most favourable in the industry, as well.
is hard to imagine any higher or better “landfill diversion” for our
toxic wastes than an application that permanently “amputates” pernicious
toxic environmental hazards from becoming generational polluters of our
soil, air and water …and produces instant, valuable clean energy in the
Realistic discussion on ways to
achieve up to 99% waste diversion without pollution.
fundamentals of any process applied to optimizing waste diversion from
landfills must be centered upon: 1.) honest evaluation of all available
waste management options, 2.) start to finish environmental impact
considerations, and 3.) thorough sustainability and cost-benefit
CONSIDERATION OF ALL ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM, IN ORDER TO FIND THE BEST
solution must be determined through realistic, complete, and verifiable,
relative cost-benefit analysis on each of the options.
potential ramifications of each option, relative to the others.
-The public has
an important role to play, here. Often, misguided or
unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and consulting engineers
have been known to collude, to advance solutions or technologies that are personal-agenda-focused, rather than having a solution-based agenda with the public
interest as the focus. The higher the potential project cost, the more
public vigilance that is required. (See Environmental Ethics Paper:
Is there an obligation
to tell the whole truth?.)
By examining the facts and educating
oneself on matters before Council, and by several interested citizens
communicating regularly with city officials, asking the right
questions, the public has a better chance of compelling city
representatives to conduct proper due diligence and give honest
consideration of what is truly in the public interest.
Recent examples of city
actions that should have had closer public --and/or official-- scrutiny,
relate to the handling of composting issues in both Toronto and Ottawa.
(See more, below, under heading,
and links at bottom of page.)
OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF EACH ACTION:
mid-term and long-term environmental consequences (impacts) of each
potential action must be scientifically evaluated and compared.
environmental safety evaluations must be conducted on each waste
treatment option being considered: from starting point of the waste
stream, to its stable end point.
-Plausible Worst Case
Scenario Evaluation must be conducted for each treatment option: Eg.:
What is the potential worst-case environmental outcome of each option
choice, relative to each possible waste diversion action?
OF ECONOMIC VALUE OF EACH ACTION:
highest and best use of each waste diversion action for each material
group in the waste stream.
- Ascertain the
Cost-Benefit (ROI) of each action, both in environmental and in economic
terms. (For example: Is it economically sustainable to warehouse those
plastics which have no commercial recycle value, simply to keep them out
of landfills, when there is a much better ROI by turning the high energy
value of the plastic into electrical power for the grid, as well as
concurrently avoiding needless warehouse storage costs?)
DISCUSSION OF SPECIFIC WASTE STREAM MATERIALS
Avoid sending waste to landfills.
Avoid waste processing options that have negative environmental
possible component of the waste stream as a resource for future
re-application, or alternative benefit.
components of current low commercial value must be utilized in ways to
yield their present highest and best use, without posing an
materials that are currently unusable in their present form must be
detoxified, rendered inert or safely sequestered, to avoid environmental
for secondary uses or benefits from detoxified, altered, or denatured
breakdown elements of previously toxic waste components.
One approach to
addressing the above points is to individually review several specific
materials that commonly appear in waste streams (that are, or may
become, harmful by-products of the waste stream and/or its decomposition
As noted in the
October 2009 Minister’s Report on the Waste Diversion Act 2002 Review,
metals, glass and wood are generally recognized as
having good economic recyclable value, and should be diverted from
landfills as part of the collection and pre-disposal steps.
are another material that is finding more creative re-applications from
doormats to road construction. However, supply of unwanted tires may
from time-to-time outstrip the demand for its alternative uses. Past
incidents of stockpiled waste tires that have been ignited have resulted
in cases of serious environmental pollution and health risk.
In such cases
where storage becomes too costly or presents an environmental hazard,
then the highest and best use for tires could temporarily be seen to be
in the clean Thermal Energy From Waste, (TEFW), area, until other demand
for used tires again catches up with supply.
While certain grades of plastic are listed for recycling in municipal
Blue Box programs, the current problem that exists with many plastics is
that it is cheaply made and there is very little market for recycled
In Ottawa, for
example, as storage space bursts with currently unmarketable plastic,
often 100% of the conscientiously home-sorted plastic
that is put into Blue Boxes, now goes straight into landfills. This
below-the-radar practice is neither honest nor environmentally sound.
plastic waste applications can be found, it is logical that clean TEFW
could be considered one of the best interim uses for plastics that might
otherwise sit in a landfill for 1000-plus years, breaking into smaller
coloured shards that get mistaken by birds and animals as food, only to
poison, entangle or suffocate wildlife, or pollute waterways and oceans
and are thus consumed by fish and sea mammals in the same manner.
By turning the
high thermal energy (enthalpy) of these same plastics into clean local
sources of power, as a beneficial by-product of clean waste disposal
within the very same communities, provides immense benefits for both the
environment and the economy.
from farms, are produced and discarded into landfills in ever-increasing
amounts. While some enterprising uses, (such as deck and fence-building
products), can be made from this material, demand has not kept up with
supply and much of it continues to end up in landfills.
Clean TEFW may
well be the on-and-off process to balance commercially non-viable
oversupplies and deal with unsalvageable dirt-contaminated poly-bale
covers, thus diverting them from landfills.
Roof shingles: One-and-a-quarter
million tonnes of asphalt roofing
is discarded annually in Canada; (Source: Paul Stastny, Alberta
Construction Magazine, July, 2007).
Roof shingles are one of those
high-volume discard products that have high enthalpy and are thus a
valuable feedstock for clean TEFW processes. This may well be the
highest and best use for old asphalt shingles, by diverting them from
Biological Waste: Compostables and Non-Compostables. Because vegetable
parings and other kitchen wastes have been used for centuries on family
farms and rural properties, as hog feed or turned into rich soil
composts, the thought of making valuable compost out of such materials
from city kitchens has wide emotional appeal as a landfill diversion
idealistic similarity is quickly lost when one looks at the reality of
what goes into the city’s organic waste stream. Rotting meat waste,
disposable diapers and sanitary products would never be considered
healthy components of a home compost bin, and do not appear to have
market appeal or suitability as marketable compost ingredients.
acceptance of this product for farmland application is the entire
premise upon which the urban ‘Green Bin’ program’s business case is
founded. Without a market for this uncertain and potentially toxic
product, the final output material will, itself, become merely another
very expensively prepared waste stream.
A classic example
of such a program gone wrong is Toronto’s ‘Green Bin’ compost product,
which was found to have excessively high E-coli counts and
concentrations of salts so elevated, that plants could not grow in the
material. An enterprising Toronto Star reporter recently revealed
that trucks were found transporting this unwanted “Green Waste” compost
product to a Michigan landfill site, while some others were caught
dumping what they could into an abandoned gravel pit, en-route to the
(See References at bottom of page.)
In Ottawa, a
private foreign firm has been given a 20-year contract to follow a
somewhat similar Green Bin program. Local farmers, (who are the intended
users of composted material), are beginning to express concerns that the
product has too many input variables and unknowns, thus, is excessively
prone to contain unknown contamination hazards. They feel that use of
the material could put their farming livelihoods at undue risk, which
they refuse to allow.
It is not surprising
to hear that increasing numbers of European farms, which have had
surprise audits of their soils that have found hazardous levels of
contaminants, now find that their farmland is quarantined and their
livelihoods are lost.
Ottawa already has
a serious problem disposing of its large volumes of
sewage sludge biosolids.
To make matters worse, Ottawa's highly toxic
is also added to the city's sewage treatment system.
leachate is so toxic that it
exceeds the limits of Ottawa’s own “Sewer Use Bylaw” (resulting in
on-going fines paid by the City to MOE …which MOE then pays back to the
City), is being piped into Ottawa’s sole sewage treatment plant (ROPEC).
Since the ROPEC treatment plant uses a microbial digestion process, all
of the highly toxic chemicals piped in from the Carp Landfill site and
the Trail Road Landfill site remain untreated. The toxic aqueous
components of the leachate pass directly through the plant into the
Ottawa River, untreated, while the remaining toxic insoluble
particulates reside in the sewage biosolid-sludge, untreated, presumably
to be spread onto farm fields (that produce feed for dairy herds, etc.).
Sewage sludge biosolids are not fit materials for composting, (but are
high in enthalpy and thus ideal for thermal waste to energy systems).
Medical Officers of
Health and environmental regulators are also currently ignoring the potential
prions in sewage
entering the food chain through biosolid deposition on farmlands.
prions as disease-causing agents that "have been
held responsible for a number of degenerative brain diseases, including
scrapie (a fatal disease of sheep and goats), mad cow disease,
Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, fatal familial insomnia,
kuru, an unusual form of hereditary
dementia known as Gertsmann-Straeussler-Scheinker disease, and
possibly some cases of
Alzheimer's disease". This is one of many reasons why disposible
diapers and sewage biosolids should not be allowed as materials for
Prions are not destroyed by the sewage
treatment process or by composting. They can be thermally destroyed when
temperatures exceed 5000C.
on sewage sludge, ("Links of Interest" on left side of page):
One wonders how soon
it will be before the operators of Ottawa's Green Bin Composting scheme will receive
provincial permission to exacerbate the spread of contaminants
throughout our food supply chain by adding the purulent sewage biosolid
sludge, the landfill leachate brew, and now the unwholesome mix of contaminated and disease-ridden sanitary products to
its Green Bin Compost concoction?
as well as human health and safety perspectives, combining the three
toxic waste streams into one would be a clear case of triple jeopardy.
are no longer accepting sewage biosolids because such biosolids are already laden with landfill-leachate toxins.
Why would they want to accept even greater risk and uncertainty?
All of this points
to the environmental and health hazards, and economically wasteful
problems, that can arise when superficially seemingly-clever, “green”
ideas such as the Green Bin Program are not thought through to their logical conclusions, considering
all of the environmental and economic consequences of each in order to
produce correct decisions. (See
references at bottom of page.)
The highest and
best use for toxic biological/biosolid waste is to extract their high
enthalpy, through TEFW, producing clean energy without toxic residues.
Thermal Energy From Waste disintegration technology, (TEFW), now exists,
that operates (auto-thermically, at 2,200 0F. to 3,000 0F.),
at much higher temperatures than the standard process known as
“incineration” (which operates at approximately 1,100 0F).
The TEFW disintegration process has distinct advantages, in that it is
able to use much higher dwell times and temperatures to destroy,
denature, or sequester virtually all known toxins and their combustion
byproducts, thus preventing any of the typical, (even scrubbed),
releases of modern incinerator smoke exhausts, from re-entering the
environment as pollutants.
This would also
mean that a clean TEFW plant could handle all of the problematic
biological waste materials such as diapers, sanitary products,
sewage biosolids, medical waste, farm deadstock and
other contaminated substances, in ways that permanently
protect the environment and produce valuable clean energy from
these waste streams, as well.
other problematic materials such as paints, solvents, antifreeze,
used oil filters, automobile upholstery ‘fluff’, batteries and
e-waste can all be handled in the same, contained, environmentally
safe, extractive way with the new TEFW disintegration technology.
Landfills have changed drastically
from a century ago when they were much smaller in scale and more-or-less
composted on their own in a world without plastics.
Today, landfills are far larger,
highly plasticized, toxic chemical/industrial waste depositories that
increasingly pollute our air, ground and water with VOCs, heavy metals,
and a plethora of other pernicious cyto-toxic compounds that are
hormone-mimickers, prions, mutagens and carcinogens.
Various uses for many specific
waste stream materials are expanding as we collectively attempt to reuse
and recycle metals, glass, wood and other useful materials, thus
preventing them from going into our overloaded landfills.
But, will we be
able to divert 100% of our waste?
Unfortunately, the honest answer is: not through recycling and reusing,
Given the complex
toxic makeup our post-industrial modern waste streams of today it is not
likely that we will ever be able to recycle our way through 100% of waste
in its original states.
Even though some
materials presently defy reclamation, and cannot be given second
cost-effective end uses in their original states, such materials, for
example, may, still, very well be able to deliver valuable clean energy
when submitted to the new super-clean, highly efficient, TEFW process.
For example, much of the unusable plastic that currently wraps and
entangles our household garbage, as it sits rotting in brimful dumps,
has very high locked-in enthalpy, (heat producing value), that can be
used to power our homes and industries.
It is hard to imagine any higher or better
“landfill diversion” for our toxic wastes than an application that
permanently “amputates” pernicious toxic environmental hazards from
becoming generational polluters of our soil, air and water …and produces
instant, valuable clean energy in the process.
With the additional availability of
the new, clean, SOTA, extreme-high-temperature EFW technologies,
working together with sensible recycle and reuse methodologies,
propelled simply by free-market forces alone, municipal solid waste
should progressively be seen less as a problem and viewed more as a
Energy From Waste (TEFW) is very much a valid waste diversion
methodology, if it means that TEFW keeps the waste out of landfills. To
claim otherwise is not an honest assessment of the terms: “landfill
diversion of waste” or “diversion of waste from landfills”.
The key issues to
be addressed with respect to consideration of TEFW technologies
alongside other diversion processes are:
What is the highest and best use -–at this particular time-- for
the specific material being diverted from landfills?
For each waste material, a worst-case scenario evaluation of each
possible treatment option must be considered for that material. (That
must be an honest assessment of all environmental and economic levels of
impact, over extended time considerations.)
The short, medium and long-term environmental and economic ROI on
each of the alternatives should be evaluated.
In choosing a TEFW process it must be shown to produce clean
energy. In fact, every part of the process must avoid creating any
secondary air, water or soil pollution problems that are as bad or worse
that the problems it is attempting to solve.
Any TEFW process, to be viable, must not merely trade one
pollution problem for another. It must have the distinct advantage of
permanently “amputating” (otherwise) long-term toxic hazards from the
face of the earth.
In the context of applying the appropriate methodologies of
reusing, recycling and applying TEFW technologies, to detoxify and
salvage all municipal solid waste streams, the concept of 99% waste
diversion (from landfills) can, in fact, become a modern-day reality. In
this context waste can, and should, truly be viewed not as a problem but
as a valuable resource.
We have to learn
to divert all of our future waste away from toxic, leachate-producing,
poison-emitting dumpsites that wreck havoc on our natural environment.
Now, with the
benefit of new SOTA technologies, such as clean Thermal Energy From Waste
Systems, not only can we divert waste streams away from landfills,
we can completely mine and eradicate the perpetual scourge of the very
landfills, themselves, (those, both active and ancient).
that’s waste diversion!
Green bins: A wasted effort? –
The Star- July 04, 2009:
How tons of rotting garbage ended up in a gravel pit –The
Star- July 04, 2009:
Province steps in to fix Green Bin mess –The Star -
July 07, 2009:
How your blue
bin hurts the environment - National Post:
The recycling conundrum: How your blue bin hurts the environment - N.
Persistence of pathogenic prion protein during
simulated wastewater treatment processes. - Hinckley GT,
et al. -Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Jul 15;42(14):5254-9.
CEWEP (Confederation of European Waste-to- Energy Plants) represents
about 380 Waste-to-Energy Plants across Europe. They thermally treat
household and similar waste that remains after waste prevention, reuse
and recycling by generating energy from it. This is how they replace
fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil, used by conventional power
plants. At the same time Waste-to-Energy plants help to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste from landfills.
Waste-to-Energy - low hanging fruit for Copenhagen
The renewable energy contribution from waste across Europe
Position paper on sustainable energy from waste
Environment Canada Website: "Municipal solid waste
landfills are one of the largest sources of human-related methane
emissions in Canada." ..."Approximately 27
megatonnes of CO2
equivalent are being generated annually from Canadian landfills equal to
almost 6 million cars on the road."
Trash into Green Power
Ottawa’s Green Bin Program smells foul before it begins - RCOC Reports
Is the Green Bin Program mere "green-washing"?