Waste To Energy: An Organic Waste Management Renewable Energy Future
We have argued in recent blogs – which I hope you have read – that we should not penalise dumping food waste at landfill as we do currently. We argued that due to the potential for waste to energy – and no real other viable alternatives – that food waste in landfills or anywhere else is really not that bad an idea (organic waste processing).
Whilst I completely understand that this argument may be unpopular and lead to a backlash – the arguments I think are pretty solid. We also need to remember that this assumes that all food waste has been donated to charities etc wherever possible – through organisations such as SecondBite and similar.
The main reasons we argue this are:
– Energy to Waste – can capture huge amounts of energy from organic food waste – and help us power our cities. This is really innovations in waste management renewable energy.
– By penalising food waste with a waste levy – i.e. fee per tonne dumped – we are basically penalising food waste producers – such as cafes, restaurants etc and subsidising the real issue such as plastic.
For example – in Sydney in 2019 – it is cheaper to have a bin full of plastic removed than a bin full of organic produce – that makes no sense to me at all. It is down to the weight pure and simple – and a landfill levy which views all waste as equal – which most definitely is not the case in the real world.
A bit about Waster
Waster works with small and medium Aussie companies – to help reduce costs and boost recycling.
We provide all the required waste and recycling services such as general waste bin hire, cardboard bins and of course organic waste solutions.
You can arrange all your services in complete confidence with our flexible 30 day agreements, no rollovers and zero hidden fees.
Click the blue links at the top and bottom of this page.
Can waste to energy really offer waste management renewable energy?
We have argued before that with improved gas capture at landfills (see Melbourne landfill) – we could power our cities purely from rotting material! This may not be totally the case – when we look at the waste to energy statistics – but it could certainly help.
The excellent website – theconversation.com often has good articles on the environment and recycling – and the one on biogas is no different – we quote as below – re the sheer amount of organic waste:
“Australia produces about 20 million tonnes of organic waste per year from domestic and industrial sources. This in turn accounts for a large portion of national greenhouse gas emissions. Manure from livestock industries alone accounts for 22 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents.”
“Organic waste, when broken down by bacteria, produces a methane-rich “biogas” that can be used to generate electricity and heat.”
“According to one estimate, if all the organic waste from Australian domestic, industrial and agricultural industries was treated in biogas plants, it would have the potential to produce around 650 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power almost one million Australian homes.”
How much waste to energy do we currently see in Australia from organics?
Despite the huge potential of waste to energy and the potential for energy production from waste – it is still under-resourced and supported.
In fact we still tax dumping of organic waste at landfill (through levies) but have not really invested in large scale alternatives – i.e. as if the food waste is expected to vanish into thin air. See a blog here on the economic value of trash.
You can not really incentivise recycling – when there is no other facility available for many customers.
The amount of waste to energy (organic waste) currently is low:
“Renewable energy provided 14.8% of Australian electricity generation during 2013. Bioenergy totalled 7% of this, with biogas contributing to about 2.0% of the share of total renewable electricity capacity. In comparison, wind stands at 26% while solar power is 11%. The bioenergy industry expects biogas could be more important than solar, and as important as wind. The remainder of Australian bioenergy comes mostly from the combustion of sugarcane waste, also known as bagasse.”
Could farms become energy sufficient?
The benefits of waste to energy are even more clear for farms and rural businesses – where haulage to landfill is difficult.
This waste to energy approach can even reduce odours:
“Abattoirs, dairies and poultry farms are also investing in biogas technology as they look for a means of solving their waste and odour problems as well as reducing their carbon footprints, not to mention their electricity and natural gas bills.”
Is waste to energy renewable?
One of the most important questions is of course as regards the waste to energy statistics of biogas – and organic waste to energy processes generally. This is one of the best stories:
“Biogas has zero net greenhouse emissions because the CO₂ that is released into the atmosphere when it burns is no more than what was drawn down from the atmosphere when the organic matter was first grown.”
“But in a biogas system this methane is captured and ultimately converted to CO₂ when the fuel is burned. Because that CO₂ was going to end up in the atmosphere anyway through natural degradation, biogas has zero net emissions.”
Conclusion on biomass and waste to energy
At Waster – we really believe that food waste has to be seen as a cold, hard money making resource for our country.
The potential for energy production from waste is huge, renewable in every sense of the word – and definitely a net positive for the country and the world.
The food is being produced, the waste is being dumped – we might as well make electricity from it!
I see waste to energy disadvantages as being very limited – obviously we will require funding and research and development – but as a country like Australia – we should welcome that challenge!