Of course, our long-term objectives must be to:-
- Produce less waste.
- Re-use and re-cycle more.
If you would like a few suggestions on things you can do do minimise your household waste, click here *.
Here and now, viable alternatives to both landfill and incineration already exist!
Integrated Recycling Plants (IRP)
An IRP is an industrialised system of recycling and composting which has been designed to deal with a mixed domestic waste stream. This technology is already widely in use in Europe and the United States and has been for some time now. Those areas which employ this method of waste processing have reported very positive results in terms of cost-effectiveness and compliance to a safe and effective waste strategy.
The latest processes employ techniques where waste is not shredded and large items are extracted prior to the composting process. Here's a brief description of how the IRP process works:-
- Household waste is collected and transported to the IRP in the normal way. Once at the IRP an initial sort is performed to remove any particularly large items (e.g. pieces of furniture etc) which are put aside to be recycled. Simultaneously, items containing heavy metals and other potentially toxic compunds (such as batteries etc) can be identified and removed.
- The remaining waste is then mixed with non-processed sewage, which contains the natural bacteria that begins the composting process. The mixture is loaded into a system of revolving tumblers (called digesters), which slowly turn the waste over and over, beginning the first stages of the composting process (the process uses the same natural composting process as your garden compost heap, significantly streamlined to minimise the time involved in the composting process).
- After 3 days the organic material has formed rough compost and materials such as cans, batteries and plastics (all with their labels removed) emerge clean and intact and are sent for recycling. The compost is then matured in closed halls (this means virtually no smell!).
- The resulting compost can then be used to rebuild the humus content in soil with the very latest technology able to produce EU Eco-Label compost for domestic use.
The obvious benefits of this technology are:-
- It can reduce landfill by up to 85% (and remove the need for an incinerator altogether!) What material is landfilled is far more inert and less volatile than the traditional mix of unsorted household waste.
- It is by far the most environmentally sound method of domestic waste processing available at present.
- It creates employment.
- It fulfills the need for large quantities of non-phosphate fertilliser, needed in modern agriculture. Much of the current compost currently used in large-scale farming, contains significant quatities of peat material taken from the coastal and low-lying marshlands of the UK. The removal of this material from the lowlands contributes to inland flooding, since the peat material acts like a giant sponge - soaking up excess water during wetter seasons and releasing it in dryer seasons.
- Because it produces a saleable product, it can at the very least contribute to it's own running costs and therefore the cost to the rate-payer is kept to a minimum. This makes it financially viable, (though on smallr scale than incinerators)
- Not only does this system address the problems of municipal waste disposal, but it simultaneously deals with a significant percentage of sewage, thus killing two birds with one stone!
- The process is completely natural and simply accelerates the composting process. Where mother nature takes months to achieve the composting process, the initial stages are accomplished in days and the final compost product ready for use within 4-6 weeks.
The best of this technology has been developed and patented by companies such as Bedminster Bioconversion * and Bioplex Ltd *. Please see their websites for more information.
Other forms of alternative waste treatment include Anaerobic Digestion (without oxygen) and the most recent technology even outperforms the aerobic digestion described above. See Western Sydney's Waste Board * Website for further details.
Some of the technological processed described above have been successfully used in other countries (including the US, Europe and Australia) for many years and the existing technology is constantly being refined and improved.
There ARE viable, proven, cost-effective alternatives that DO work. Why are they not being taken seriously by our elected representatives?