The latest advances in bulk waste management
Bulk waste management technology is constantly evolving with a
strong focus today on recycling and converting waste into clean
While other technologies are also under exploration including the
use of GPS navigation, radio frequency ID tags, software
applications and other equipment used to facilitate waste
collection, the real groundswell is in “green” waste management.
The efforts by the Obama administration and the general concern
worldwide over climate change and environmental degradation have
focused money and resources on new sustainable solutions in all
areas including how we treat bulk waste. More concentration is now
placed on reducing excessive consumption, reusing and recycling.
Electronic waste or e-waste is a particular problem with millions of
people worldwide purchasing new mobile phones, computers and other
devices each year often discarding their older models. Much of this
waste ends up in landfills depositing harmful toxins into the
Creating energy from waste
Various technologies are now in use or are under
development that use bulk waste to create energy. For example,
organic materials in garbage and landfills naturally decay releasing
methane gas. Methane gas is even more problematic than carbon
dioxide in contributing to global warming. According to some
experts, methane is about 20 times more potent in its greenhouse
However, methane is also flammable and when burned to create energy
releases less harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Methane
from landfills can be captured using special wells and then piped to
Waste can also be collected for the express purpose of energy
generation. Such waste is brought directly to generation sites where
it is composted in a more efficient manner than occurs at landfills.
In addition to trash and garbage, sewage waste can be used for power
generation via methane production. Some new research also uses waste
water to generate electricity in microbial fuel cells.
In a microbial fuel cell, the microorganisms in the waste water
oxide organic fuels to create electrons that move between an anode
and cathode creating an electrical current. By placing a resistor
between the anode and cathode, electrical power is generated.
Creating fuel from waste
One form of waste that can be converted very
easily into fuel is waste cooking oil from restaurants. Such oil
when filtered can be used by certain types of vehicles as a type of
Organic waste from various industries can also be converted into
fuel. For example, agricultural refuse can be processed using
microorganisms and/or enzymes to create biodiesel or ethanol. New
research uses powerful enzymes that make it economically feasible to
break down corn cobs and other cornfield waste into cellulosic
Some utilities have converted old coal plants into partial biomass
generators by burning waste wood from lumber mills and other timber
and forest industries. The waste is mixed with coal to help reduce
carbon dioxide emissions.
Even animal waste can potentially be converted into fuel. Some
research is exploring the possibility, for example, of converting
manure from the pig farming industry into ersatz oil. Pig manure is
not often used as fertilizer, so converting it into a biofuel would
help farmers deal with large pig manure mounds.
In addition to converting organic wastes into fuel, there is also
research into converting inorganic waste. Plastic waste, for
example, is a major problem that is contributing to well-publicized
environmental problems including the “garbage patches” in the
Pacific and other oceans. New technologies can break down plastics
to create diesel fuel and oil.
Eco-waste management will
continue to grow
With governments committing vast monetary and
other resources into the development of green technology in the
coming years, we should seen a continued emphasis on green methods
of bulk waste management.
Efforts by nations to reduce carbon emission will also bolster this
trend in the future. We can expect that increasingly waste disposal
sites will double as power generation sites, and this will be the
case especially with newer projects.
Copyright Fell Environmental 2010