Mapping and Influencing Global Perceptions of Waste to Energy

Although more than 800 Waste to Energy (WtE) plants operate in over 40 countries worldwide, this still only represents about 10% of global municipal solid waste processing, meaning now is the perfect time to make the most of the opportunities to expand the global use of WtE.
This is not just because of available capacity, but more because of the current combination of three factors: The move away from landfill; the need for more renewable energy; and the need for greater energy security.
On the global map these attitudes to WtE, illustrated simply by a traffic light system of red, yellow or green to highlight the level of positive or negative perceptions, show that many prospects exist, especially in the U.S. where over half of all states still rely on landfill alone.
However, given the right communications and messaging, there are real opportunities in WtE and us making the most of this hugely beneficial technology. Key to this communication is learning from previous experiences when it comes to conveying the advantages of waste to energy technology and knowing where, and why, others have failed.
Quite simply, without knowing the historical context of waste to energy, it’s likely the mistakes of others will continue to be repeated very quickly.

Attitude Problem

WtE that conforms with the European Waste Incineration Directive (WID) emissions standards is clean and provides a win-win with the disposal of waste and the generation of energy. If plants effectively use the waste heat generated in an efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system, then the environmental advantages are even more significant.
So what’s the problem and why aren’t countries rushing to adopt WtE? In a nutshell, globalisation over the last 10 years has transformed international trade and, to be more accurate, international finance, into a very small market indeed, with a handful of major corporations enjoying world dominance.
This, coupled with the rise of the Internet and more recently, global social media, has resulted in information from one part of the world being quickly transported to another. We live in a truly ‘Global Village’ and, whilst this brings many advantages, one disadvantage is that the misunderstandings and outdated views about WtE – many of which come from the time of poor performing incineration plants from the 1970s – continue to circulate.
As a result, countries new to WtE may find a surprising amount of opposition from communities near to proposed plants, even when they have no experience of the technology previously. Interestingly, in some countries where pre-WID technology was used some years ago with no issues at the time, opposition is now growing to new plants that are far cleaner and much more efficient than their predecessors.
Opposition groups around the world learn from each other very quickly, and although some organisations are good at forming new arguments to focus their opposition in new directions, most community-based groups tend to use material that is being circulated by other groups. This distribution of outdated information leads to the assimilation of arguments which match a person’s negative perceptions rather than allowing for the genuine reviews of all literature available.
This mindset means that excellent websites, such as that of CEWEP – which present all the counter-arguments in increasingly engaging ways – are being ignored with the key audience e.g. those who live near proposed plants, not considering their information as objective and dismissing it, while collecting anti-information.

What Not To Do: Hong Kong

Although Europe has been the main focus for WtE development and growth over the last 20 years, the next 20 years is likely to see global growth will move to Asia. With a classic mistake of failing to learn from the past, many Asian governments, like Hong Kong, which is trying to develop alternatives to landfill, are running into the same old arguments about WtE.
Hong Kong has huge cash reserves and, as such, can afford any technology to address its significant waste problem. It has limited land availability, with landfill sites reaching capacity and neighbours objecting to extensions, coupled with a rapidly growing population significantly increasing waste volumes.
With increasing interest in environmental issues among Hong Kong residents, and a need for more renewable energy, WtE would seem an obvious solution. However, the government’s early attempts to suggest this have resulted in significant opposition and the moving of a large proposed plant (900,000 tonnes pa) away from the centres of population bringing with it a dramatic increase in costs.
Most of the opposition in Hong Kong has focused on the impact of emissions, and the legitimate argument that, although the electricity at the high-cost island development could be utilised, the heat cannot.
The result has been significant protests against the plant and delays in both the funding allocation. In the meanwhile, the volume of waste is ever increasing and landfills are getting closer to capacity and closure.

Early attempts by Hong Kong’s government to introduce waste to energy resulted in a 900,000 tpa plant attracting significant opposition and being relocated away from populous areas

Hong Kong‘s main mistake made was the failure to deliver the immaculate three-stage communications model to generate public acceptance for change:

  • Step 1: There is a problem
  • Step 2: Generate a desire for a solution
  • Step 3: Propose the solution

This model ensures that the population not only becomes aware there is a problem waiting to be solved, but that they understand the context for that change and, with encouragement, are happy to be involved in the delivery of the solution. This buy in is essential to an effective integrated waste management plan that is likely to involve substantial changes in behaviour.
Hong Kong isn’t alone, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh have all run into similar problems with significant public opposition, mostly centring on perceived health hazards due to toxic emissions. Even in China, there is increasing public protests to WtE. Between 2007 and 2012, there were at least a dozen protests by local residents. This year in Hangzhou, more than 10,000 tea farmers took direct action against a proposed plant in the Zhongtai suburb, upwind of the tea plantations.
The protest achieved its objective. Shanghai Daily reported that work on the construction has stopped. City officials said: “We will invite the local people to participate, fully listen to and seek every one’s opinions…” Clearly, public consultation before the decision to construct the plant could have been more helpful.

Positive Prospects

Every country has a different cultural and historical context for WtE and the UK is no exception. in the past, even though plants have existed since Victorian times when horse-drawn carts brought wastes ‘Destructors’, WtE plants were not actually needed.
However, countries like Denmark, Sweden and, to a degree, Germany have always had the need to maximise resources due to a lack of cheap landfill and the serious need for heat and energy, particularly in the winter. This was especially so in Denmark where a lack of fossil fuels meant that WtE constituted a necessity rather than a simply one option.
Two Asian countries with positive reception are Japan and Singapore. Recycling is taken very seriously in Japan, yet it still burns more waste in cities than any other developed country.
Tokyo has 21 WtE plants, all sited within the city and many with facilities for the community to use, such as leisure centres with swimming pools heated by the plants themselves. This community benefit and substantial community education programme has helped generate a more objective response from communities near to sites earmarked for new plants.
In Singapore, they took the decision to focus on WtE back in the 1970s as a solution to the country’s growing population, limited land space and the fact that energy recovery was needed due to a lack of natural resources. To manage increasing waste production, the City state published its Green Plan in 2012, with a significant shift to material recovery through recycling while looking to build new WtE. There is some limited opposition from groups such as Toxics Watch, but the majority of people are happy to accept the new plants.
So, how did Singapore and Japan get it right? There are undoubtedly some parallels with the positive situation in Denmark – the two problems of the need for energy and lack of landfill – but also the constructive ongoing public dialogue which has led to a good understanding of the two issues and therefore, the need for change.
Also crucial to their success is the fact that all three countries consider providing some form of community benefit as fundamental to their projects. Most WtE plants in Denmark are connected to district heating so near-neighbours get cheaper heating and hot water.
The Toshima Incineration Park in Japan has 180,000 visitors per year with most using the leisure facilities. In simple terms, these countries satisfy one of the fundamental principles of human behaviour when it comes to considering whether to protest – what’s in it for me?

Understanding Objection

It can be argued that there are three core principles about human motivational behaviour when it comes to development and change:

  1. The perceived impacts of the development, especially financial impacts
  2. What’s in it for me
  3. People don’t like change.

So, if the starting point for those people nearest to a proposed WtE plant is perceived emissions impacts, fear of a reduction in the value of their home and seeing nothing of any value in the development for them, then it’s hardly surprising that most people are opposed.
The fact that people don’t like change is almost irrelevant, but not quite. The point about this principal of reactionary behaviour is that it’s almost an instinctive human reaction to believe they don’t like change. People don’t mind change if principals one and two are positive for the individual, or perhaps more importantly, they have control over the change.
People change things all the time – they grow up, get an education, move/improve their homes and live in communities that change all the time. However, in most of these situations, changes are slow and/or people perceive some form of control over them i.e. it’s their choice (often when it’s not). Where the change is rapid and where they believe they have limited or no control, the reaction is generally negative.
This has implications for those people who are communicating messages about change. Far too often it’s the developer who drives any consultation process, often with local government looking on nervously. Our experience in the UK shows that the best combination for the successful delivery of WtE is where the developer and local government are committed to the proposed development with aligned interests.

Three Steps To Deliver

There are three essential steps to deliver this new paradigm, where WtE is seen as a positive development that communities will not only accept but, on occasion, may proactively seek to take place on their own doorstep.
Step 1: National Positioning
This provides the ground work to explain that there is a problem and something needs to be done about it. It takes the focus away from a proposed location and onto the problems. In the case of Hong Kong, this should have been a campaign that outlined the scale of the evolving problem of increasing population, the increase in waste, lack of landfill and the necessity for a more environmental solution.
This debate, supported by independent third parties, could have been held publically through the media before leading into the development of a strategic plan which included reference to feedback from public consultation.
Specifically in the case of Hong Kong, they could have specified that the need for change was urgent, and highlighted the crucial issue of all landfill sites closing within five years.
Step 2: A need for a solution
With greater awareness of the issues and the appreciation of urgency which can be achieved by step 1, it would be possible for any government to argue the need for a truly integrated waste management solution – explaining how wastes would be moved up the waste hierarchy with an enhanced recovery and recycling process.
This is an important step as it demonstrates that any residual waste solution will be considered from this context i.e. not simply sending all landfill to WtE without attempting to recover materials first. It also demonstrates of the need for public participation.
All the available and developing technologies would need to be discussed, along with likely time frames for delivery and relative costs. Research in the UK has shown that when all the facts are presented to communities about the issues, solutions and relative costs, they tend to review the issues in a far more objective light and therefore have the potential to accept change far more readily than before.
As part of this process, all renewable energy could be repositioned as desirable, but WtE also has the benefit of disposing of residual waste – it’s a genuine win-win solution.
Step 3 – Local delivery of WtE
After step 2, there should be regional debate about delivery before any planning applications or sites are mentioned. This will generate greater awareness of the issues and potential solutions before personal vested interest, and the three principals of personal behaviour can begin. This will result in an informed debate at a local level. It will be inevitable that some people who end up close to proposed facilities will still react in the same way as before, but they will now be doing so against the more widely understood and accepted need for the facilities from the wider community.

Conclusion

WtE should be one of the number one technologies for the 21st century, particularly in those parts of the world where population is growing fast and there is a real need for alternative energy sources – which is virtually everywhere.
To make the most of the huge potential global demand for this energy source, we must learn from past mistakes. By acknowledging the wealth of internet myths and outdated information still readily available surrounding WtE, and providing compelling information we can address these obsolete arguments and communicate effectively with communities.
Paul Davison is managing director of Proteus Environmental Communications

  1. New Zealand generates about 2.5m tonnes per annum (tpa) of MSW with around 25% going to WtE. Regulations would make further plants costly and time consuming to achieve.
  2. Each Australian state has its own WtE policy. About six plants exist with cogeneration and supporting manufacturers. Opposition includes the National Toxics Network of Australia. The Alliance for Clean Environment produced a report in 2008 suggesting a link with cancer.
  3. Singapore is densely populated with limited resources and so has always been pro WtE. In 2012, 2.45m tonnes of waste went through the existing four WtE plants with recycling at approximately 60%. New plants are being proposed to update the technology.
  4. Landfill dominates waste disposal in Thailand and Malaysia, but MSW is on the rise. There are three small WtE plants and around 96 landfills. Opposition in both countries has been strong.
  5. Urban India generates approximately 70m tpa of MSW which increases by 50% per decade. Much is handled by informal recyclers, but about 80% goes to landfill and, often, to dump sites. About six WtE plants are under construction or being commissioned with limited public opposition from informal recyclers who fear losing income.
  6. China overtook the U.S. as the world largest waste producer in 2012 and sees WtE as a significant opportunity. Three state owned energy companies have been established to manage the introduction of the technology. However green NGOs are increasing and groups, such as Green Beagles, report several public opposition protests to WtE.
  7. Hong Kong has a population in excess of eight million and is growing rapidly with limited land availability and four old landfills. A larger 900,000 tpa WtE being built on an island faces significant opposition arguing a lack of recycling, atmospheric pollution and impact on human health, as well as cost and alternative technologies.
  8. Densely-populated Japan has always had a need for more energy and, in a similar way to Scandinavia, was an early WtE technology adopter with good levels of public understanding. Home waste sorting is a national hobby, with some authorities succeeding with over 30 different bins. South Korea also has a positive attitude towards WtE.
  9. Landfill is still favoured in Russia, although a lot of wastes go to illegal dumps. Moscow and St Petersburg have looked at WtE and there are about 10 existing plants. New plants receive considerable opposition over pollution, human health, cost and the lack of significant recycling.
  10. Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, France and the Benelux all have significant numbers of WtE plants with little opposition and, in Denmark and Sweden, considerable support due to district heating. Recently there has been some opposition in France – mainly focused on dioxin emissions. Over capacity in Germany and Netherlands has resulted in significant imports of RDF from the UK.
  11. The UK and Ireland have the potential for more plants, but significant opposition has occurred and will continue for any proposed new plants, particularly for commercial plants not tied to a Local Authority.
  12. Waste disposal has featured heavily on Italy’s media agenda over the last 15 years. WtE’s biggest opposition relates to in Tuscany, specifically the Lucca provincial WtE. The plant, built despite massive opposition, failed dioxin limits in 2003 and was closed, reopening in 2007 before failing again in 2008. and again in 2009. It was ‘seized’ by officials in 2010 another failure and the plant’s manager sent to trial. Italy is focused on Zero waste and new WtE plants face opposition.
  13. The U.S. has significant numbers of WtE plants but most are quite old and will need updating in coming years. Obama’s recent focus on GHGs from energy generation provides a significant opportunity, but opposition focused on emissions, specifically dioxins, will be high
  14. Urban Brazil generates around 250,000 tonnes of MSW per day (2008) with 98% being landfilled and about 0.03% incinerated with no energy recovery. WtE is as a significant opportunity, although it will face difficulties with low landfill gate fees. Awareness of WtE is limited, however, energy is expensive.
  15. The Argentinian government brought in a zero-waste law in 2005, banning incineration. However, increasing volumes of waste in Buenos Aires and strict landfill avoidance regulations are forcing the city to look again and consider AD and mass burn WtE. Plants will face massive opposition with most of the arguments simply focusing on the fact it’s against the law!
  16. Most of Africa can’t finance WtE, lacks the supporting infrastructure or is prejudiced against it Also, MSW is roughly 70% ‘wet’ organics making some WtE technologies a challenge. In South Africa clinical waste incineration is the norm, but emissions checks are limited. A new law was adopted in 2009, but again, the country lacks the infrastructure to effectively monitor emissions. A new WtE in Tanzania was built with foreign assistance. If successful, it could encourage further trials.

Source: Waste Management World

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Bracken Nature Reserve: Dump Site Transformed Into Cape Nature Reserve

A 36-hectare area in Cape Town that was once used largely as a landfill has been transformed into one of the city’s most important nature reserves, home to more than 300 plant species, 10 of which are endemic to Cape Town and threatened with extinction.
After a decade of hard work – and a R2-million investment – the once deteriorated and deserted Bracken Nature Reserve has been rehabilitated and restored into a environmental space that can be enjoyed by all the city’s residents, the City of Cape Town said in a statement last week.
Bracken Nature Reserve was named as the reserve of 2014 by the city’s Environmental Resource Management Department.
The rehabilitation project started with the planting of 60 indigenous trees including, karee, real yellowwood, wild peach, Cape ash, wild camphor and milkwood, which are still growing well.
Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, singled out Tshepo Mamabalo for her will and vision in transforming the space.
Mamabolo’s involvement began when she was doing a city internship at the reserve. “With the support of the reserve team, she dedicated her passion and energy to transforming the site into what it is today,” Van der Merwe said.
Mamabolo is now the area co-ordinator.

Conservation

The 36-hectare reserve is home to Swartland granite renosterveld and Cape sand fynbos, both of which “suffer a dearth of conservation consideration”, the city said.

“More than 300 plant species have been identified here, of which 10 are endemic to Cape Town and threatened with extinction,” the city said.

Important species include cowslip (Lachenalia aloides) and the canary yellow vygie (Lampranthus glaucus).
The reserve also supports a great diversity of wildlife. Regularly sighted birds are the red-capped lark, black-shouldered kite, peregrine falcon and southern double-collared sunbird. Other mammal species found in the reserve include the small grey mongoose and a myriad of rodents and reptiles.

Critically endangered

“Currently there is only one known plant of the critically endangered Kraaifontein spiderhead (Serruria furcellata) remaining naturally in the wild in Northpine,” Van der Merwe said.
“The reserve has been surveyed and found to have great potential as a receptor site for this critically endangered species. Cuttings from the original plant were planted and, to date, 20 healthy plants are conserved at the reserve.”
The City manages 16 nature reserves across Cape Town. During the 2013/2014 financial year, visitor numbers to City reserves increased by 32% to 351 594 visitors (2012/2013: 266 195 visitors).
“The tremendous turnaround of the Bracken Nature Reserve is a good example of how, when the city sows the seeds of collaborative partnerships, the community and the surrounding environment will reap the benefits,” Van Der Merwe said.
“It is of paramount importance that we place a higher financial and environmental value on our nature reserves so that, together, we can make progress possible in building a sustainable future,” he said.
Source: Allafrica.com

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Joburg to power the city with waste

The City of Joburg and Pikitup are rolling out a project to produce energy from landfill waste to alleviate pressure on the national grid.

The idea is to extract gas from waste generated from your trash, to produce electricity as an alternate source of energy to ease strain on the overburdened national grid.
The city anticipates that by 2016, around 19 megawatts of electricity will be produced – enough electricity to power 16 500 medium-sized houses, The Star reports. The project will become the biggest landfill gas-to-energy project in the country once completed.
A similar project being piloted at the Robinson Deep landfill in the south of Joburg has already shown good results, Pikitup GM for disposals David Harris said.
“We will install connectors to our infrastructure and within the next year or two we want to start generating power from this gas. Five operational landfill sites [Robinson Deep, Marie Louise, Linbro Park, Ennerdale, Goudkoppies and Witkoppies] will produce electricity for the city from converting gas,” he said.
The gas is currently being extracted and the toxic gasses burnt through a flare to minimise exposure to methane.
While methane gas is a handy alternative to conventional energy, energy analyst Roger Lilley says it hasn’t always been a popular choice given the significant costs involved in storing and distributing it.
“The gas in question is methane, which is commonly obtained from landfill sites when vegetables or any biodegradable waste degrade and it produces methane. But it must be stored properly and distributed, and there are considerable costs involved,” he told Business Day.
Further than a tool to help alleviate the power crisis, retrieving the methane gas from waste means harmful biogases aren’t being emitted into the environment – an initiative that could earn the city carbon credits on international markets.
Harris said there was enough gas in reserve to run the project for the next 15-20 years, but that gas production rates could vary depending on influencing factors including age and composition of waste, the temperature and moisture content of each site.
Source: The Star, Business Day

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Researchers' recipe: Cook farm waste into energy

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.
Guelph researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially “wet” waste that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure to transport waste and produce energy from it.
Scientists have struggled to find uses for wet and green waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips or sawdust, is easier to use for generating power. Often, wet farm waste materials break down before reaching their destination.
Researchers led by engineering professor Animesh Dutta, director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) at U of G, have found a solution: pressure cooking.
Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants.
Dutta said the research, which is published this week in the journal Applied Energy, shows that in a lab setting, biofuels can produce the same amount of energy as coal.
“What this means is that we have a resource in farm waste that is readily available, can produce energy at a similar level to burning coal, and does not require any significant start-up costs,” said Dutta.
“We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment. It’s a closed-loop cycle, meaning we don’t have to worry about external costs.”
Using excess food, green and wet waste to reduce the carbon footprint is drawing a lot of interest in Europe, he said, but so far it has proven unfeasible in North America.
Coal is more readily available in North America. Biomass is highly rich in alkali and alkaline earth metals such as silicon, potassium, sodium and calcium. The presence of these metals in farm waste damages pipes at power plants during combustion.
The new biofuel product made by the BRIL researchers produces a product that has less alkali and alkaline earth metals, allowing them to be used at power plants.
“We’re able to produce small amounts of energy in our lab from these biofuels,” said Dutta.
“The next step is to take this outside of the lab. We have a number of industry partners and government ministries interested in this technology. Essentially, the agri-food sector could power the automotive industry.”
Dutta said large pressure cookers located near farms could accept and cook waste for transport to energy plants.
“We’re looking at a timeline of five to seven years, depending on the funding,” he said.
“Once we have a commercial system set up, we’ll be self-sufficient. It can reduce our energy costs and provide an environmental benefit. It’s going to change the paradigm of energy production in North America.”
Source: Science Daily

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No Easy Answers When Disposing of Oil and Gas Wastewater

We all want easy answers. And often times the harder the question, the easier we want the answer to be.
Increased natural gas use, for example, can help decrease U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as it has a lower carbon content compared to coal or oil. Natural gas also can help transition our energy mix to more renewable energy sources. This is because properly designed, gas-fired generation can respond quickly to pick up the slack if the wind suddenly dies or clouds unexpectedly roll in. But, these benefits mean nothing if the communities where gas is produced suffer air and water pollution, or if methane – a powerful global warming pollutant that is the primary ingredient in natural gas – is allowed to leak into the atmosphere unchecked.
We all should be worried about global warming and the role that sloppy oil and gas production and distribution practices contribute to the problem. But communities where oil and gas development is taking place are also worried about how oil and gas drilling is impacting their water supplies. This is a key issue and one aspect of the groundwater contamination concerns, rightfully gaining attention in these communities, is how and where toxic wastewater is disposed of that is produced along with oil and gas. But here, too, the answers don’t come easy.

The basic regulatory framework

More than 25 percent of the country’s approximately 700,000 injection wells handle produced water from oil and gas operations. The quantities are huge – at least 2 billion gallons per day. And this fluid is not harmless. Produced water from oil and gas operations is usually much saltier than sea water (it will kill plants and can ruin soil) and is often laced with heavy metals and radionuclides that are naturally present in the formation being drilled.  In addition, this produced water can contain hundreds of toxic chemicals – anti-freeze to name just one example.  The current standard practice for addressing this potential environmental hazard is through injection of the water into geologic formations suited to permanent disposal.
The 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act gave the EPA oversight of underground wells injected with chemical-laden fluids for disposal and other purposes. In most cases, EPA delegates the authority to state agencies, but in some states, such as Pennsylvania, EPA regulates the wells itself.
EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program generally has received high marks. In fact, many environmental advocates believe it is important to expand the program to include hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, which was largely excluded from UIC regulation by the “Halliburton loophole” passed by Congress in 2005.

Challenges with existing methods

For all its high marks, the UIC program also has its problems. For starters, it is uncertain whether all states are following EPA’s definition of “Underground Source of Drinking Water”– the water that is supposed to be protected.
Leaks sometimes occur from storage tanks at UIC wells.
Other challenges include: inadequate investigations in some jurisdictions of the surrounding disposal area to make sure no unplugged wells or natural faults allow wastewater to migrate into water supplies; not always assuring that pressures during injection are held low enough to avoid breaks in caprock that protect aquifers;  failing to make sure that injection is always limited to permitted intervals;  and responding to the  increasing number of small and medium size earthquakes that are linked to injections.
Underfunding of regulatory programs compounds the problem, making it harder to provide the public with assurance that their water quality is protected from oil and gas development.

Wastewater Recycling: Buyer Beware

Recycling oil and gas wastewater for reuse in hydraulic fracturing operations is on the rise. The challenge, however, is that recycling requires storage and transport, and almost always requires some sort of treatment. How new residual waste streams are dealt with that carry far more toxic and concentrated substances than the water treated is a major environmental concern as companies jump on the recycling trend. Growing interest in the Appalachian Basin to treat oil and gas wastewater and discharge it into surface streams has heightened attention on these matters. Right now, these discharges are subject to EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), but as EPA recently noted in its Preliminary 2014 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan, “current regulations may not provide adequate controls for oil and gas extraction wastewaters.”
Recycling wastewater does reduce the need for freshwater and reduce the volumes that need to be disposed, but it can make disposal much more challenging – particularly when we don’t know enough about the treatment process and resulting waste products.

Diligent oversight needed

Permanent storage using underground injection wells remains by far the most common disposal method. At this point, it also appears to be the least risky, not to be confused with “unrisky”.
But there are things that can be done right now to help us begin to minimize these risks, such as updating requirements for the installation and maintenance of pits and tanks, assessing risks posed by new forms of transport and adopting appropriate risk controls, and doubling down on efforts to identify and remediate leaks and spills.
Bottom-line: none of this is simple. And questions about management of this produced water from drilling operations further demonstrates why we need to stay vigilant in better understanding the environmental impacts of oil and gas development. Having worked most of my career on these issues, it is clear to me that incremental but near-constant improvements are essential to minimize risks and protect communities.
Source: The Energy Collective

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Recycling needs to become a part of SA culture

Sappi‘s well-known waste paper bins have a brand new ‘purpose’. They are used as collection points all over Newcastle, in KwaZulu-Natal, where people can donate their unwanted shoes to the local Rotary Club’s ‘Sole Struck Shoe Project’.
The waste paper bins were recently handed over to the Newcastle Majuba Rotary Club by Holland-born Nel Vuyk, owner of Waste Salvage – a local waste paper agent of Sappi’s ReFibre waste management division. Vuyk and her family moved to South Africa 17 years ago to take over the Newcastle-based recycling business. It was a perfect fit for Vuyk, because she grew up within a recycling culture.
“That is what’s missing in South Africa,” she says. “In Holland, due to the lack of space, recycling is a necessity. We can’t do without it. I remember how we used to go to the recycling depot as kids to trade in our newspapers for cash. We grew up being recycling-conscious.”
It’s not the same in South Africa. “Here space isn’t an issue, so people simply dig a hole and that becomes their new dumping site.” Vuyk’s company collects 100 tons of recyclable cardboard and 10 tonnes each of plastic and paper every month – an indication that Newcastlers are keen on recycling. But South Africans in general still have a long way to go.
“It’s all about making a conscious choice to create less waste and dispose of recyclable waste in the right way. If every person, in every household can commit to this, we will soon have a cleaner society – and save on resources,” says Vuyk.
Recycled material is an excellent fibre resource for the manufacturing of new products. The cardboard waste from Sappi’s network of agents re-enters the manufacturing cycle to produce containerboard for the packaging industry. Sappi Cape Kraft Mill in the Western Cape, for example, uses 100% recycled fibre in its production of linerboard and fluting medium. The mill uses approximately 67,000 tons of waste paper a year. Sappi‘s Enstra Mill in Gauteng also uses recycled paper in the making of linerboard, while the Tugela (KwaZulu-Natal) and Ngodwana Mills (Mpumalanga) use a percentage of paper waste in its production processes.
With over 20% market share in the local recycling industry, Sappi is also doing its bit for job creation and economic empowerment. The company has helped over 80% of its 70 agents to set up and sustain their businesses by supplying the necessary equipment and know-how. Many of these entrepreneurs, like Vuyk’s Waste Salvage, have been in operation for over a decade. Collectively, these agents supply Sappi with 275,000 tons of recyclable cardboard a year.
But much more waste could re-enter the production chain across a number of industries, including paper, glass, plastic, aluminium, ink and toner cartridges and computer consumables. All it takes is consumers who are passionate about recycling.
Source: Bizcommunity
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Electrical Plug tax planned for South Africa

Government has proposed a levy or tax on all products that have an electrical plug, which will lead to price increases on electrical goods

The Department of Environmental Affairs has proposed an environmental levy or tax in South Africa on all goods which have an electrical plug. This is according to a report in Business Day.
This levy, said Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise, is aimed at managing the disposal of electrical products after they are no longer used.
The new levy or tax is therefore a way to get funds to limit harm to the environment by electrical equipment.
Business Day quoted Modise as saying that the department is planning to improve the “management of various waste streams”, which includes electrical equipment.
Modise would not confirm or deny that the planned environmental levy would be 10% – the number which Business Day said was claimed by an industry group.
This additional tax on electrical goods will be passed on to consumers, which will result in an increase in the price of electrical products,
This was seen earlier this year when government introduced VAT on digital goods sold in South Africa.
Many digital goods suppliers, including Apple, informed consumers that there was an upward adjustment of prices to account for the 14% value added tax being charged on digital goods.
Source: My Broadband

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Machine could be vital in fight against Ebola

A new Italian machine appears set to bring about a revolution in the treatment and disposal of infectious and dangerous medical waste – and it may soon also prove to be a vital weapon in the fight against Ebola.
The Newster NW10, imported to South Africa by Alloro Africa Enviro Services, may well be the final solution to the problem of illegally or accidentally dumped infectious medical waste and the dangers it poses to people, especially children.
It already promises to dramatically ease the task of handling infectious waste at large health care facilities, including any materials and waste products that had been exposed to lethal organisms such as the Ebola virus.
Handling and disposing of items such as bedding, clothing and used medical supplies that had been exposed to deadly infections have become one of the greatest challenges facing medical personnel engaged in combating outbreaks.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa clearly illustrated the problem of dealing with such items.
The illegal dumping of medical waste has also taken on serious proportions in the country, costing local authorities millions to clean up. Last year, it was estimated that there had been 985 illegal dumps in Cape Town alone according to a report published in the Cape Argus last year.
Over the past decade, there had been numerous reported incidents of medical waste dumped illegally, even in places to which children had access.
Cleaning up illegal dumps was costing the city as much as R200 000 a day, a city spokesperson said at the time.
The first Newster NW10 machine, imported from Italy, has been undergoing extensive testing in Cape Town and the results appear to have borne out the manufacturer’s claims.
The machine has now been independently certified in accordance with the national Department of Environmental Affairs, said Alloro Africa Enviro Services director Carlo Bovetti.
“The response to the machine has been overwhelming and, in conjunction with top South African scientists, we are currently discussing doing feasibility studies for the destruction in loco of medical waste from isolation wards where patients could be treated for deadly infections such as Ebola,” Bovetti said.
“This waste definitely cannot be transported on our public roads.
“The World Health Organisation has assumed a new aim and slogan in their approach to the handling of infectious waste – ‘zero kilometres from the cradle to the grave’. This means they do not want the waste to be transported in an infectious state. The Newster system offers exactly that.”
The machine has been designed for hospitals and other health care facilities where medical waste is produced in large quantities. It is powered by three-phase electrical power obtained from the health care facility’s own power supply and is simple to use, requiring basic operator training.
Medical waste is placed in the machine according to the capacity of the specific model of machine and after a period it is automatically discharged, completely shredded, unrecognisable and sterilised.
The machine turns waste into homogeneous dehydrated granules, reducing initial volume by 75 percent approximately and its weight by 15 to 25 percent, depending on humidity in the waste to be treated.
“The Newster NW10 is environmentally completely safe. It is not an incinerator, it does not burn waste and independent environmental tests have proved that it does not give off harmful vapour,” Bovetti said. “It uses the friction of a high-speed blade to finely shred the waste and heat it uniformly to a temperature of exactly 150°C, which completely sterilises it and destroys any pathogens and/or viruses.
“Any medical waste, from used bandages, to syringes, cotton, everything, can be treated by this machine and the waste that comes out is a completely neutral, sterile shredded mass.”
Bovetti said the system was already in use in many parts of the world and was widely used in Europe.
Source: IOL

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Essential Waste Management course updates practitioners

Since 2008, South African waste legislation has increased and diversified and for generators of waste, municipalities, waste companies and other environmental practitioners, keeping up to date is often problematic. Cognisant of this, Litha Communications has organised an expert speaker for Cape Town.
Laura Taylor, BA (Hons), BSc, MSc (Environmental Management and a former Environmental Manager with mines and industry, will present ‘SA Waste Laws – an Update’, a two-day workshop on 9-10 December 2014 that will cover all of the critical developments in waste legislation, planning and policy since 2008. This will enable key role players to plan and seize the opportunities that will present themselves.
Taylor will impart her knowledge and a clear understanding of waste management legislation, policy and planning, provide a clear explanation of the new waste classification system, together with exercises to make sense of it all and, through discussion, examples and exercises, assist delegates in understanding how it applies to their organisation.
The workshop is aimed at those in:

  • Municipal waste departments
  • Waste producing industries and businesses
  • Waste planners and regulators
  • Waste management companies and personnel
  • Waste contractors responsible for managing waste
  • Environmental managers, co-ordinators and champions
  • Sustainability co-ordinators
  • Quality Assurance Managers
  • Consultants with an interest in waste management

Course content
The course will cover the following legislation and anything new that is promulgated between now and the course dates.

  • NEMWA – National Environmental Management Waste Act
  • NEMWA Amendment Act
  • Waste Licensing in terms of NEMWA:
    • List of Waste Management Activities – 2009
    • Amendments to lists of Waste Management Activities – 2010
    • Amendments to lists of Waste Management Activities – 2013 and May 2014
    • Amendments to EIA Regs to accommodate changes due to waste lists
  • National Waste Management Strategy
  • National Waste Information Regulations
  • Waste Classification and Management Regulations, including how the new SANS 10234 waste classification system works
  • National Norms and Standards for Assessment of Waste for Landfill Disposal
  • National Norms and Standards for Disposal to Landfill
  • National Norms and Standards for Storage of Waste
  • National Policy on Thermal Treatment of General & Hazardous Waste
  • NEM:AQA – National Ambient Air Quality Standards and List of Activities which result in Atmospheric Emissions which may have a significant detrimental effect on the environment – Waste Related activities
  • Contaminated Land and the National Norms and Standards for the Remediation of Contaminated land and Soil Quality

More about the facilitator
Since her student days, Taylor has specialised in this area and now has considerable industry experience. She has run waste management workshops all over South Africa in the last few years, as well as in Namibia and is currently involved in helping several companies to manage their waste better.
Most recently, Taylor has been the waste and hazardous substances consultant to Letseng Diamond Mine in Lesotho. She participated in a large scale and comprehensive Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) and the drawing up of a Social and Environmental Management Plan (SEMP) at the mine during the course of 2012/13. In addition she is involved in on-going work with regards to its waste management program.
While working at Anglo Platinum (AP), she coordinated the implementation of an Integrated Waste Management Plan across all the business units of the Rustenburg region. She also participated in the permitting of the AP landfill site and the process leading up to the establishment of the municipal regional landfill site on AP land. While at TSAM, she coordinated the implementation of a comprehensive waste recycling system across all the plants.
Taylor is well qualified to guide any organisation through the plethora of waste laws and in the implementation of a waste management system that meets environmental best practice. She has the unique quality of years of hands-on practical experience as an environmental manager in industry and on the mines as well as a solid academic and teaching background.
More about Litha Communications
Litha Communications, an integrated marketing consultancy, offers training as part of its core offering. With its head office in Johannesburg and newly opened satellite offices in Cape Town and Nelspruit, it offers national representation. Learn with Litha is the training division that began offering conferences, events and exhibitions training in 2013.
The consultancy is well positionedin offering sustainability training, as the CEO Andile Ncontsa is a sustainability leader, an alumnus of Cambridge Sustainability Academy and a board member of Wildlands Conservation Trust that plants almost a billion indigenous trees annually in South Africa, working with more than 70 communities.
Bookings
The cost of the workshop is R6,000 (excluding VAT). For more information, emailkevin@lithacommunications.co.za or call Kevin Cloete on +27 (0) 21 782 0508 or Debbie Last on +27 (0) 11 484 7663.

Source: Bizcommunity
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