These Bright Points of Innovation Have Saved Waste Management

These Bright Points of Innovation Have Saved Waste Management

garbageWhen you hear news about the environment, it’s often bad news. As our concerns about the environment grow, so does the list of issues that need to be addressed. However, these challenges are not always met with indifference.

In recent years, the waste management industry has responded with moments of great innovation. The world of waste management has dealt with many difficult issues and has changed considerably as a result. Often, the industry has found inventive new ways to address some of our most pressing global problems.

Although disposing of garbage seems fairly straightforward, the study of how to best handle garbage in a swiftly growing world of competing priorities is complicated. From safety to conservation to management, the world of waste demands solutions on many levels. So, what are some of the bright spots in the world of waste management today?

Anaerobic Digestion

Often considered to be one of the most innovative and useful technologies developed in recent years, this process of in-vessel waste treatment has changed the face of the industry. Before climate change became an issue, landfill was believed to be an acceptable destination for organic waste. This notion  changed when gas and leachate caused problems.

As a result, developers of early technologies found ways to convert organic waste into fertilizer or compost. Although the process was effective, the open-air nature of the process led to overwhelming odor.

That’s when in-vessel composting plants were developed using the process of anaerobic digestion. Not only does this provide a large-scale solution to this problem, but it also gives us a way to turn harmful gasses into useful energy.

The process is quite simple – anaerobic digestion creates an environment with no oxygen. This environment uses microorganisms to break down organic solid waste and wastewater of many kinds.

The process is fast and effective, and the resulting biogas can be converted into energy. Whether it’s “digesting” food or sewage, this innovative new process is both a management strategy and a functional source of renewable energy for the world.

Zero Waste

waste reductionAlthough zero waste is more of a philosophy than a technology, it can certainly be considered an innovative practice. It is also relatively new on the scene. Zero waste is an ethical goal that also favors economically-sound ways for people to help the environment by making lifestyle changes.

By following certain eco-conscious practices and paying attention to sustainable ideas, people’s understanding of the nature of debris has changed considerably. These changes have included avoiding plastics, reducing the volume of landfill, conserving materials, reusing resources, and implementing best practices at home and abroad.

The zero-waste mentality has led to some significant changes in the past decade. It is also minimized the threat to humans, animals, and the planet.

Waste-to-Energy (WTE)

The process of producing energy from waste has seen some interesting developments in the industry. Traditionally, WTE plants have incinerated waste and converted the heat into energy, a practice that is still widespread today. However, the public became wary of incineration, and this process was viewed as dangerous, noisy, and ineffective.

New WTE strategies such as gasification and the use of plasma were developed. These began to lead the way in the field of waste management.

In brief, these processes convert organic materials into synthetic gas made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, burning them to create steam and electricity. By using a temperature about the same as the surface of the sun, the material can be turned into a syngas – a fuel-gas mixture made mostly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide – a cleaner, alternative gas.

Waste-to-Fuel

food wasteGiven the current fossil fuel crisis and the ever-increasing price of oil, finding alternative ways to run the world is more than a practical idea – it’s mandatory. When organic matter decomposes, it can be made into a type of energy, but it can also be developed into something called biofuel.

Biofuel is a product of anaerobic digestions and syngas, both of which are produced during gasification of certain organic waste. The majority of WTF projects turn harmful emissions into electricity for human convenience, but the process can also be used to fuel cars, homes, and other gas-related functions.

Sorting Technology

Although most people intend to do right by their local recycling centers, the wrong waste inevitably ends up in landfill sometimes. Regardless of whether this happens through ignorance or carelessness, it is just a fact of the waste management world.

Because of this reality, finding ways to separate debris after collection is probably one of the most valuable practices when it comes to increasing reuse in the world. Without the innovative technology known as the “sorter,” this extra step would be impossible on a large scale.

Sorting mechanisms come in many shapes: some focus on separating organic material from recyclables, while others hone in on what ends up in landfill. When mixed waste is fed into this type of sorting facility, the benefits can be seen on many levels. The extent of landfill weight is greatly diminished, and the amount of solid waste that can be reused in some capacity is boosted.

Many companies and industries have invested significantly in such technologies in order to “greenify” their practices and save money in the long run. Given the advancements that have been made just recently, it’s likely we will see even greater and more effective practices in the future.

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