Waste is too often considered as something to be discarded. When discarded inappropriately waste can be a hazard that causes health problems, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and contaminates soil and groundwater resources. If we view waste as a renewable resource to be used to supply goods and energy, we can benefit from the waste rather than allow it to detract from our expected quality of life.
It is very possible for a community to achieve ZERO waste, by completely recycling or reusing its waste. Green waste can be composted and reused for agricultural purposes. Plastics, metals, and glass can be melted, and reused as virgin materials in the manufacturing process. The remaining garbage including tires, medical and hazardous wastes can be turned into electricity.
A zero waste initiative is a multi-stage divergent effort to determine the needs of a community, educate the community, and then construct the facilities that will fully recycle all of the waste produced by the community. The following are some of the more important steps to take to attain the goals of a zero waste initiative. This initiative should be a public/private partnership to work at its highest level.
To fully understand the needs of the municipality, and to complete the design of a zero waste program, an audit should be conducted to determine the different components of the waste stream, when they occur, and where those components originate. A community education program needs to be launched to achieve the buy-in of those that are serving and being served by the program. The more the people understand and co-operate, the more likely the initiative is to fully succeed.
To achieve zero waste is it is necessary to design and construct a facility that will allow for all useful items to be removed from the waste stream. The materials recycling facility (MRF) is a very simple concept. Unsorted waste comes into the MRF and is placed upon conveyors. Recyclable materials and large objects are removed from the conveyors by hand and placed into appropriate bins for resale.
Food waste, municipal landscaping waste, and yard clippings can be turned into compost material for use in agricultural programs large and small. It is estimated that the compostable materials for this project will be about 30 tons per day. Plastics, paper, glass and metal can be removed from the waste stream for resale on the open market. Recycled material often creates local economies that use the recycled material to create other goods.
Gasification equipment can be used to chemically alter organic waste in the presence of heat and without the presence of oxygen into synthetic gasses that resemble methane and carbon monoxide. The best technology currently available on the market today appears to be pyrolysis. The gasses and excess heat can then be used to fuel boilers, which in turn drive a steam turbine generator to produce electricity. A 50-ton per day gasification system will produce between 2.5 and 3 mWh of electricity depending on the Btu value of the feedstock.
The system can be placed within an industrial zone, limiting long distance waste hauling thus improving air quality. The design will also deter scavengers such as rats and seagulls. Under the zero waste initiative the community and the waste company profit.