White Paper
on
LANDFILL WASTE DIVERSION

Energy From Waste is the Future -Starting NOW!

 
Rural Council Reports:

Energy From Waste:

Landfill waste diversion at its best!

 


Trash as Treasure – The Future

Municipal solid waste, (MSW), includes two main sources of waste, household waste and commercial waste (IC&I waste), which includes medical waste, construction waste, restaurant waste, etc., (anything that doesn’t come from households).

Other wastes, such as piped sewage waste (and septic tank septage), result in a sludge processing end product known as sewage bio-solids. These are mentioned, even though they are produced at the sewage treatment plant, because their de-watered residues, the bio-solids, often end up in landfill sites.

By perverse irony, highly toxic landfill leachate is conversely ending up in Ottawa's ill-equipped sewage treatment facility (ROPEC), where its untreated toxic liquid fraction is merely "diluted" by the Ottawa River and its toxic solid portion is also diluted by mixing it in with the sewage biosolids, that are then, either disposed of by spreading them onto farmland or re-deposited back into the landfills. (See more on this under the "Biological Waste" heading, below.)

One can clearly see why, up until recently, we have looked at MSW as a problem to be dealt with, or “managed”, hence, the term “waste management”.

However, the mindset of waste as a "problem" must be drastically altered if unfeigned constructive change is to occur. Public programs regarding the three Rs, (of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse), have created little more than a public consciousness of the need for change. But such programs have delivered very poorly as a strategy to divert the waste stream from landfills, in any real cost-benefit sense. Especially when the reality is that much of the Blue Box plastic and Green Bin "compost" ends up in the landfills, anyway, only to become merely another costly green-washing exercise in the new growth industry of "Feel-Good Enviro-pseudonomics".

Recycle numbers are currently stuck in the 11% to 35% range. The lower the public subsidization of the three-Rs, the lower the numbers. The higher the subsidies, the more costly and problematic the program "solutions" become.

The former assistant administrator for America’s Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), J. Winston Porter, stated that diversion of 35% of waste into recycling is about as high as any city can justify. He believes that any higher than that can be wasteful, if not harmful.

Methodologies that can divert all of our MSW away from landfills through real value propositions that are sustainable, and do not require subsidization, will be realized only through use of the new state-of-the-art, (SOTA), clean, green waste-to-energy technologies that are emerging.

That is the only way in which MSW will be properly used, as the valuable resource that it is.

Below, is a brief overview regarding the status of some of our current methodologies. 

Landfills

The most common waste management methodology has traditionally been “landfills”, which of course, is the euphemism for the primitive practice of merely throwing our waste into “garbage dumps”.  

Landfills are hugely problematic, in that they pollute our air with methane, H2S, volatile organic compounds, and a host of other noxious and offensive substances, as well as pollute our ground water and soils with a plethora of disease-causing toxins, the migration of which ultimately becomes uncontrollable.

Environment Ministries rule that dumps are not permitted to pollute neighbouring properties. However, the abatement process can easily be circumvented and deferred for many years simply by dump owners acquiring the land in the path of the polluted groundwater migration. 

Landfills or dumps, by any name, are an abomination, and the intelligent goal should be to eventually divert all waste away from landfills, by recycling, reusing and converting the remainder into energy and inert reusable residues. The utopian goal would be to “mine” all landfills, (as we would do any mining of resources), for their energy and inert construction materials, eradicating garbage dumps from the face of the earth.  

The time when we can begin to do that is now here.

Incineration

The second most common waste management methodology in North America is incineration. “Incineration” is a dirty word, because of its past history of having high pollution-belching smoke stacks that poisoned the down-wind landscape. 

Research into cleaner incineration has never stopped and Sweden now boasts of having some of the cleanest incineration plants in the world, even though they still produce ash that is a highly-toxic water-quenched slurry that has to be disposed of as a hazardous material. 

To achieve the cleaner exhaust releases demanded today, at the 1,1000F to 1,6000F temperature ranges that most operate, requires that often more than half of the equipment and costs associated with these installations is for exhaust scrubbing equipment. That is why large incineration installations these days, look like oil refineries and are very expensive. 

Plasma Gasification

Plasma Gasification, (PG), is a process whereby an external source of energy is used to generate heat from “plasma arcs” subjecting batches of MSW to temperatures between 7500F and 13000F, in the absence (or reduction) of oxygen. This produces a synthetic gas, or “syngas”, which is then scrubbed of enough toxins to be burned as a fuel to produce steam generated electrical power. 

The process is very complex and costly to build as well as to operate. The plasma arc guns burn out quickly and are expensive to replace. Additionally, in order to operate the PG process the requirement for input of energy is so high that it is often not clear how much, (if any), NET energy would be available to profitably sell to the grid.

Disintegration

Disintegration is a process whereby extreme temperatures, ranging between 1,9950F to 2,2000F, are applied to both solid and liquid waste streams in a computer-controlled environment, in the presence of oxygen (air). The process disintegrates all organic waste into energy and its inert elements, leaving non-toxic residues. After-burner Dwell Times, (DT), of 4.2 seconds, (compared to conventional 1-second DT), at the above temperatures, effectively prevents the release of harmful emissions. Heavy metals and other non-destructible toxic components, representing less than 1% of the waste, are either altered to be non-toxic or are safely sequestered.

The other 99% of the input waste material is either broken down into energy that can be sold to the power grid, or into 17% (by volume) inert ash residues that can be used in cement production, road construction or utilized in other clean applications. 

Disintegration is efficient. Whereas the incineration process extracts only 4,520 British Thermal Units (BTUs), of heat per tonne of municipal solid waste (MSW), the disintegration process extracts 7,446 BTUs of heat energy per tonne of MSW, without requiring any quenching process and without leaving any toxic residues in the ash.

Rotting landfill sites emit up to sixty times more green house gasses (GHG), than that emitted, on a tonne-for-tonne basis, by the thermal disintegration process. If we are to seriously strive to reduce our country's GHG emissions, mining of our nation's landfill sites, using the thermal disintegration waste-to-energy process, appears to be one of the most environmentally beneficial and commercially profitable ways to achieve that objective.

The disintegration process is "auto-thermic", meaning that it uses the waste itself as fuel to power the system, (using approximately 15% of the feedstock energy). That means that there is approximately 85% NET energy available to direct towards electrical power generation.

The greatest two advantages of the disintegration process are its environmental cleanliness and its high net energy output.

Its Capital and Operating Costs rank among the most favourable in the industry, as well.


It is hard to imagine any higher or better “landfill diversion” for our toxic wastes than an application that permanently “amputates” pernicious toxic environmental hazards from becoming generational polluters of our soil, air and water …and produces instant, valuable clean energy in the process.



Realistic discussion on ways to achieve up to 99% waste diversion without pollution.

The three fundamentals of any process applied to optimizing waste diversion from landfills must be centered upon: 1.) honest evaluation of all available waste management options, 2.) start to finish environmental impact considerations, and 3.) thorough sustainability and cost-benefit economic considerations.

1.) HONEST CONSIDERATION OF ALL ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM, IN ORDER TO FIND THE BEST SOLUTIONS

-The preferred solution must be determined through realistic, complete, and verifiable, relative cost-benefit analysis on each of the options. 

-Review all potential ramifications of each option, relative to the others.

-The public has an important role to play, here. Often, misguided or unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and consulting engineers have been known to collude, to advance solutions or technologies that are personal-agenda-focused, rather than having a solution-based agenda with the public interest as the focus. The higher the potential project cost, the more public vigilance that is required. (See Environmental Ethics Paper:
Is there an obligation to tell the whole truth?
.)
By examining the facts and educating oneself on matters before Council, and by several interested citizens communicating regularly with city officials, asking the right questions, the public has a better chance of compelling city representatives to conduct proper due diligence and give honest consideration of what is truly in the public interest.
Recent examples of city actions that should have had closer public --and/or official-- scrutiny, relate to the handling of composting issues in both Toronto and Ottawa. (See more, below, under heading,
Compostables, and links at bottom of page.)

2.) CONSIDERATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF EACH ACTION:  

–Short-term, mid-term and long-term environmental consequences (impacts) of each potential action must be scientifically evaluated and compared.

-Thorough environmental safety evaluations must be conducted on each waste treatment option being considered: from starting point of the waste stream, to its stable end point.  

-Plausible Worst Case Scenario Evaluation must be conducted for each treatment option: Eg.: What is the potential worst-case environmental outcome of each option choice, relative to each possible waste diversion action?

3.) CONSIDERATION OF ECONOMIC VALUE OF EACH ACTION:

-Determine the highest and best use of each waste diversion action for each material group in the waste stream.  

- Ascertain the Cost-Benefit (ROI) of each action, both in environmental and in economic terms. (For example: Is it economically sustainable to warehouse those plastics which have no commercial recycle value, simply to keep them out of landfills, when there is a much better ROI by turning the high energy value of the plastic into electrical power for the grid, as well as concurrently avoiding needless warehouse storage costs?)

 

DISCUSSION OF SPECIFIC WASTE STREAM MATERIALS

Common objectives:

1.)   Avoid sending waste to landfills.

2.)   Avoid waste processing options that have negative environmental side effects.

3.)    Use every possible component of the waste stream as a resource for future re-application, or alternative benefit.

4.)    Waste components of current low commercial value must be utilized in ways to yield their present highest and best use, without posing an environmental hazard.

5.)    Toxic materials that are currently unusable in their present form must be detoxified, rendered inert or safely sequestered, to avoid environmental contamination.

6.)    Always look for secondary uses or benefits from detoxified, altered, or denatured breakdown elements of previously toxic waste components.

One approach to addressing the above points is to individually review several specific materials that commonly appear in waste streams (that are, or may become, harmful by-products of the waste stream and/or its decomposition process).

As noted in the October 2009 Minister’s Report on the Waste Diversion Act 2002 Review, metals, glass and wood are generally recognized as having good economic recyclable value, and should be diverted from landfills as part of the collection and pre-disposal steps. 

Automobile tires are another material that is finding more creative re-applications from doormats to road construction. However, supply of unwanted tires may from time-to-time outstrip the demand for its alternative uses. Past incidents of stockpiled waste tires that have been ignited have resulted in cases of serious environmental pollution and health risk.  

In such cases where storage becomes too costly or presents an environmental hazard, then the highest and best use for tires could temporarily be seen to be in the clean Thermal Energy From Waste, (TEFW), area, until other demand for used tires again catches up with supply. 

Plastics.  While certain grades of plastic are listed for recycling in municipal Blue Box programs, the current problem that exists with many plastics is that it is cheaply made and there is very little market for recycled plastic.  

In Ottawa, for example, as storage space bursts with currently unmarketable plastic, often 100% of the conscientiously home-sorted plastic that is put into Blue Boxes, now goes straight into landfills. This below-the-radar practice is neither honest nor environmentally sound.  

Until better plastic waste applications can be found, it is logical that clean TEFW could be considered one of the best interim uses for plastics that might otherwise sit in a landfill for 1000-plus years, breaking into smaller coloured shards that get mistaken by birds and animals as food, only to poison, entangle or suffocate wildlife, or pollute waterways and oceans and are thus consumed by fish and sea mammals in the same manner.  

By turning the high thermal energy (enthalpy) of these same plastics into clean local sources of power, as a beneficial by-product of clean waste disposal within the very same communities, provides immense benefits for both the environment and the economy. 

Polyethylene hay bale covers, from farms, are produced and discarded into landfills in ever-increasing amounts. While some enterprising uses, (such as deck and fence-building products), can be made from this material, demand has not kept up with supply and much of it continues to end up in landfills.  

Clean TEFW may well be the on-and-off process to balance commercially non-viable oversupplies and deal with unsalvageable dirt-contaminated poly-bale covers, thus diverting them from landfills. 

Roof shingles:  One-and-a-quarter million tonnes of asphalt roofing is discarded annually in Canada; (Source: Paul Stastny, Alberta Construction Magazine, July, 2007).

 

Roof shingles are one of those high-volume discard products that have high enthalpy and are thus a valuable feedstock for clean TEFW processes. This may well be the highest and best use for old asphalt shingles, by diverting them from landfills.


Biological Waste: Compostables and Non-Compostables.  Because vegetable parings and other kitchen wastes have been used for centuries on family farms and rural properties, as hog feed or turned into rich soil composts, the thought of making valuable compost out of such materials from city kitchens has wide emotional appeal as a landfill diversion methodology.

However, the idealistic similarity is quickly lost when one looks at the reality of what goes into the city’s organic waste stream. Rotting meat waste, disposable diapers and sanitary products would never be considered healthy components of a home compost bin, and do not appear to have market appeal or suitability as marketable compost ingredients.

Commercial acceptance of this product for farmland application is the entire premise upon which the urban ‘Green Bin’ program’s business case is founded. Without a market for this uncertain and potentially toxic product, the final output material will, itself, become merely another very expensively prepared waste stream.

A classic example of such a program gone wrong is Toronto’s ‘Green Bin’ compost product, which was found to have excessively high E-coli counts and concentrations of salts so elevated, that plants could not grow in the material. An enterprising Toronto Star reporter recently revealed that trucks were found transporting this unwanted “Green Waste” compost product to a Michigan landfill site, while some others were caught dumping what they could into an abandoned gravel pit, en-route to the US border.
(See References at bottom of page.)

In Ottawa, a private foreign firm has been given a 20-year contract to follow a somewhat similar Green Bin program. Local farmers, (who are the intended users of composted material), are beginning to express concerns that the product has too many input variables and unknowns, thus, is excessively prone to contain unknown contamination hazards. They feel that use of the material could put their farming livelihoods at undue risk, which they refuse to allow.

It is not surprising to hear that increasing numbers of European farms, which have had surprise audits of their soils that have found hazardous levels of contaminants, now find that their farmland is quarantined and their livelihoods are lost.

Ottawa already has a serious problem disposing of its large volumes of sewage sludge biosolids. To make matters worse, Ottawa's highly toxic landfill leachate, is also added to the city's sewage treatment system.

The landfill leachate is so toxic that it exceeds the limits of Ottawa’s own “Sewer Use Bylaw” (resulting in on-going fines paid by the City to MOE …which MOE then pays back to the City), is being piped into Ottawa’s sole sewage treatment plant (ROPEC). Since the ROPEC treatment plant uses a microbial digestion process, all of the highly toxic chemicals piped in from the Carp Landfill site and the Trail Road Landfill site remain untreated. The toxic aqueous components of the leachate pass directly through the plant into the Ottawa River, untreated, while the remaining toxic insoluble particulates reside in the sewage biosolid-sludge, untreated, presumably to be spread onto farm fields (that produce feed for dairy herds, etc.). Sewage sludge biosolids are not fit materials for composting, (but are high in enthalpy and thus ideal for thermal waste to energy systems).

Medical Officers of Health and environmental regulators are also currently ignoring the potential time-bomb of prions in sewage entering the food chain through biosolid deposition on farmlands. MedicineNet.com describes prions as disease-causing agents that "have been held responsible for a number of degenerative brain diseases, including scrapie (a fatal disease of sheep and goats), mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, fatal familial insomnia, kuru, an unusual form of hereditary dementia known as Gertsmann-Straeussler-Scheinker disease, and possibly some cases of Alzheimer's disease". This is one of many reasons why disposible diapers and sewage biosolids should not be allowed as materials for composting. Prions are not destroyed by the sewage treatment process or by composting. They can be thermally destroyed when temperatures exceed 5000C.

See more on sewage sludge, ("Links of Interest" on left side of page): http://vernonsludge.blogspot.com/2009/11/ocaps-ottawa-citizens-against-pollution.html.

One wonders how soon it will be before the operators of Ottawa's Green Bin Composting scheme will receive provincial permission to exacerbate the spread of contaminants throughout our food supply chain by adding the purulent sewage biosolid sludge, the landfill leachate brew, and now the unwholesome mix of contaminated and disease-ridden sanitary products to its Green Bin Compost concoction? 

From environmental as well as human health and safety perspectives, combining the three toxic waste streams into one would be a clear case of triple jeopardy.

Many enlightened farmers are no longer accepting sewage biosolids because such biosolids are already laden with landfill-leachate toxins. Why would they want to accept even greater risk and uncertainty?

All of this points to the environmental and health hazards, and economically wasteful problems, that can arise when superficially seemingly-clever, “green” ideas such as the Green Bin Program are not thought through to their logical conclusions, considering all of the environmental and economic consequences of each in order to produce correct decisions. (See references at bottom of page.)

The highest and best use for toxic biological/biosolid waste is to extract their high enthalpy, through TEFW, producing clean energy without toxic residues. 

New, clean, Thermal Energy From Waste disintegration technology, (TEFW), now exists, that operates (auto-thermically, at 2,200 0F. to 3,000 0F.), at much higher temperatures than the standard process known as “incineration” (which operates at approximately 1,100 0F). The TEFW disintegration process has distinct advantages, in that it is able to use much higher dwell times and temperatures to destroy, denature, or sequester virtually all known toxins and their combustion byproducts, thus preventing any of the typical, (even scrubbed), releases of modern incinerator smoke exhausts, from re-entering the environment as pollutants.

This would also mean that a clean TEFW plant could handle all of the problematic biological waste materials such as diapers, sanitary products, sewage biosolids, medical waste, farm deadstock and other contaminated substances, in ways that permanently protect the environment and produce valuable clean energy from these waste streams, as well.  

Additionally, other problematic materials such as paints, solvents, antifreeze, used oil filters, automobile upholstery ‘fluff’, batteries and e-waste can all be handled in the same, contained, environmentally safe, extractive way with the new TEFW disintegration technology.

CONCLUSIONS:

 

Landfills have changed drastically from a century ago when they were much smaller in scale and more-or-less composted on their own in a world without plastics.

 

Today, landfills are far larger, highly plasticized, toxic chemical/industrial waste depositories that increasingly pollute our air, ground and water with VOCs, heavy metals, and a plethora of other pernicious cyto-toxic compounds that are hormone-mimickers, prions, mutagens and carcinogens.

 

Various uses for many specific waste stream materials are expanding as we collectively attempt to reuse and recycle metals, glass, wood and other useful materials, thus preventing them from going into our overloaded landfills. 

But, will we be able to divert 100% of our waste? Unfortunately, the honest answer is: not through recycling and reusing, alone.  

Given the complex toxic makeup our post-industrial modern waste streams of today it is not likely that we will ever be able to recycle our way through 100% of waste in its original states.  

Even though some materials presently defy reclamation, and cannot be given second cost-effective end uses in their original states, such materials, for example, may, still, very well be able to deliver valuable clean energy when submitted to the new super-clean, highly efficient, TEFW process. For example, much of the unusable plastic that currently wraps and entangles our household garbage, as it sits rotting in brimful dumps, has very high locked-in enthalpy, (heat producing value), that can be used to power our homes and industries. 

It is hard to imagine any higher or better “landfill diversion” for our toxic wastes than an application that permanently “amputates” pernicious toxic environmental hazards from becoming generational polluters of our soil, air and water …and produces instant, valuable clean energy in the process.

With the additional availability of the new, clean, SOTA, extreme-high-temperature EFW technologies, working together with sensible recycle and reuse methodologies, propelled simply by free-market forces alone, municipal solid waste should progressively be seen less as a problem and viewed more as a valuable resource.  

Clean Thermal Energy From Waste (TEFW) is very much a valid waste diversion methodology, if it means that TEFW keeps the waste out of landfills. To claim otherwise is not an honest assessment of the terms: “landfill diversion of waste” or “diversion of waste from landfills”.

The key issues to be addressed with respect to consideration of TEFW technologies alongside other diversion processes are:

a.)   What is the highest and best use -–at this particular time-- for the specific material being diverted from landfills?

b.)   For each waste material, a worst-case scenario evaluation of each possible treatment option must be considered for that material. (That must be an honest assessment of all environmental and economic levels of impact, over extended time considerations.) 

c.)   The short, medium and long-term environmental and economic ROI on each of the alternatives should be evaluated.

d.)   In choosing a TEFW process it must be shown to produce clean energy. In fact, every part of the process must avoid creating any secondary air, water or soil pollution problems that are as bad or worse that the problems it is attempting to solve.

e.)   Any TEFW process, to be viable, must not merely trade one pollution problem for another. It must have the distinct advantage of permanently “amputating” (otherwise) long-term toxic hazards from the face of the earth.

f.)    In the context of applying the appropriate methodologies of reusing, recycling and applying TEFW technologies, to detoxify and salvage all municipal solid waste streams, the concept of 99% waste diversion (from landfills) can, in fact, become a modern-day reality. In this context waste can, and should, truly be viewed not as a problem but as a valuable resource. 

We have to learn to divert all of our future waste away from toxic, leachate-producing, poison-emitting dumpsites that wreck havoc on our natural environment.

Now, with the benefit of new SOTA technologies, such as clean Thermal Energy From Waste Disintegration Systems, not only can we divert waste streams away from landfills, we can completely mine and eradicate the perpetual scourge of the very landfills, themselves, (those, both active and ancient).  

Now, that’s waste diversion!

 

References:

Green bins: A wasted effort? The Star- July 04, 2009:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/660864

How tons of rotting garbage ended up in a gravel pitThe Star- July 04, 2009:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/660862

Province steps in to fix Green Bin messThe Star - July 07, 2009:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/661902

How your blue bin hurts the environment - National Post:
The recycling conundrum: How your blue bin hurts the environment - N. Post

Persistence of pathogenic prion protein during simulated wastewater treatment processes.  - Hinckley GT, et al. -Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Jul 15;42(14):5254-9.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18754377

CEWEP (Confederation of European Waste-to- Energy Plants) represents about 380 Waste-to-Energy Plants across Europe. They thermally treat household and similar waste that remains after waste prevention, reuse and recycling by generating energy from it. This is how they replace fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil, used by conventional power plants. At the same time Waste-to-Energy plants help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste from landfills.
Waste-to-Energy - low hanging fruit for Copenhagen

The renewable energy contribution from waste across Europe
Position paper on sustainable energy from waste

Environment Canada Website: "
Municipal solid waste landfills are one of the largest sources of human-related methane emissions in Canada." ..."Approximately 27 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent are being generated annually from Canadian landfills equal to almost 6 million cars on the road."
Turning Trash into Green Power

Ottawa’s Green Bin Program smells foul before it begins - RCOC Reports
Is the Green Bin Program mere "green-washing"?

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