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How Automated Garbage Segregation Can Increase Generation Of Refuse-Derived Fuel

How Automated Garbage Segregation Can Increase Generation Of Refuse-Derived Fuel thumbnail

Creating public awareness about the need to sort trash into recyclables and non-recyclables can be a never-ending process. For one, our cities are getting increasingly globalized and there is a constant influx of people from outside who may not be aware of the local sorting processes. More importantly, any policy that requires collaboration among thousands of people is doomed to fail at some point in time.

But as landfills across the world clog up and energy demands shoot up simultaneously, there is a greater emphasis on reducing solid wastes and generating green energy in the process. Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) contain plastics, metals as well as a number of organic materials. While plastics and metals may be recycled, the organic materials may be used in generating energy. The inability to properly sort trash at source creates a bottleneck that can increase the cost of generating energy.

That could change however. New-age bio plants seek to shift the onus of sorting trash from the general public to the recycling agencies. The world’s largest waste-to-biogas conversion plant is coming up in Northwich, England and claims to own a patented process that can help achieve this. REnescience is partly owned by DONG Energy and makes use of enzymes to break down organic compounds from the trash that will be liquefied into a sludge that can be further processed to biogas. The remanant metal and plastic materials are sent for recycling while other non-recyclable materials are incinerated to generate more energy that is however not ecologically friendly.

DONG Energy estimates the plant to generate 5MW of renewable energy, sufficient to power 10,000 homes. More importantly, the company considers this a “potential game changer” for the waste industry that not only addresses a critical society need, but also has a large commercial potential. If successful, the REnescience project in Northwich may be replicated anywhere in the world where there is sufficient organic content in the waste generated.

Recycling trash is a critical need that needs immediate focus. Across the world, very few countries can boast of a recycling rate of over 50%. Countries like Germany and Austria lead the pack at nearly 62% and 63% respectively while large contributors to trash like the United States and United Kingdom still hover at recycling rates of around 34% and 39% respectively.

Germany is one of the few countries where the push towards zero waste is not driven by strategic constraints. Singapore, for instance, is a country that is hard-pressed for landfill space. The recycling rate in Singapore is around 61% and plans are afoot to push this figure up to 70% by 2030. One of the main reasons for this is believed to be the unavailability of landfill space in the country which is likely to become full sooner rather than later.

Shifting the responsibility of segregating trash from the general public to energy producers removes one of the biggest impediments to greater adoption of trash recycling processes. Proliferation of REnescience-like trash-to-biogas recycling plants will provide a commercial incentive for countries like the United States that do not face a landfill issue yet. It will however be interesting to see how the energy costs from these sources compare against other newer forms of renewable energy like solar whose costs have been in a downward spiral for a while now.

As long as energy generated from MSW can be priced competitively against other forms of energy, we are likely to see greater adoption of such technologies which can only mean good things for the modern cities.

Energy Collective

17 Comments on "How Automated Garbage Segregation Can Increase Generation Of Refuse-Derived Fuel"

  1. penury on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 5:27 pm 

    Pri8cing will not be a factor. the waste mgmt companies and their paid off legislators will mandate serparation by the customer, with fines for incorrect sorting, you know just like it is today only more bins for you to maintain.

  2. Apneaman on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 5:31 pm 

    Meaningless. Here is some perspective.

    Wadhams puts this plainly. “There is no period in Earth’s history where the rate of rise of atmospheric CO2 is as great as it is today.” The asteroid that finished the dinosaurs blasted 4.5 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, “yet the CO2 rate rise [in the aftermath] was still an order of magnitude lower than the current rate”.

    Have a few kids and teach them to recycle – everything will be fine.

  3. Davy on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 7:24 pm 

    This sentence is lame: “landfills across the world clog up and energy demands shoot up simultaneously, there is a greater emphasis on reducing solid wastes and generating green energy in the process.” Waste is not going to generate green energy. It may generate energy but not green and clean. Further it is likely not profitable in most situations. Green is what is not produced so if the effort were to reduce consumption then think of all that greenness. That is mental greenness of changing attitudes. I don’t like this statement either: “potential game changer”. There are no game changers today. The game is lost. There is only consolation prices to be given to those who accept failure of modernity. This is a good effort and more of it should be attempted but it is not green and it is not a game changer. It is more hopium and business as usual of thinking we can make something good from something bad. Bad is bad and you don’t get good from bad. Try getting less bad from bad and I will give you a round of applause for honesty.

  4. makati1 on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 8:25 pm 

    Separation is good for the trash company. More trucks. More employees. More profits. It ain’t about saving the ecology. NET energy from trash fuel is not likely. Just as most “alternate” energy sources are not NET energy producers. Never will be. Dreamers seem to be interbred with the non-thinkers.

  5. Sissyfuss on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 8:31 pm 

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Notice that recycle is least important in the pecking order. I ran a tricounty recycling operation from the late eighties to the early nineties and while our participation rate grew exponentially our price for the materials gathered never did. Recycling is in direct conflict with a capitalist system that venerates waste and planned obsolescence. That’s why they make things to fall apart and are inseparable. It is profit over all things until all things are sold.

  6. Sissyfuss on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 8:32 pm 

    Are unrepairable.

  7. Boat on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 9:49 pm 


    Your generation polluted/screwed up and mine is trying to clean it up. Your generation/Republicans slowed environmental response and common sense solutions. Now your where you belong. The P’s, where you can crap in your yard and it’s just another pile.

  8. makati1 on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 9:56 pm 

    Boat, You are in deep denial as always. Your vision of reality is way out there in the Twilight Zone.

  9. Apneaman on Tue, 25th Oct 2016 10:08 pm 

    Boat, so yore 58-59? Lets see most start to really earn somewhere around 30 years of age and it goes up from there, so 30 years ago puts you at 28-29. Y’all been doing a bang up job by the way. I can tell by the stats.

    Global Warming Fact: More than Half of All Industrial CO2 Pollution Has Been Emitted Since 1988

    Lets look at it the last few generations, shall we.

    Good looking out boat.

  10. Boat on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 12:28 am 


    The US is finally gaining some momentum and in spite of the haters Obama will get a lot of the credit. The naysayers of renewables will be so disappointed as their contribution to cleaner air blows away estimates.
    Keep your eyes open, the world of energy is changing fast and it’s gonna change faster.
    The generation impact kinda starts at 30 but more like 45 for running a higher percentage of business infrastructure. Many of us set the path by using tech to lower cost.
    And yes we were able become much more efficient including energy and man power use.

  11. GregT on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 2:14 am 

    “The naysayers of renewables will be so disappointed as their contribution to cleaner air blows away estimates.”

    Call them what they really are Kevin; alternates, fossil fuelled modern industrial society extenders, or temporary bridges to a vastly reduced standard of living within a
    decade, or two at the most. So called renewables, are not renewable. To continue to say otherwise, is a lie.

  12. Ralph on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 3:33 am 

    Reduce Reuse Repair Recycle.

  13. JuanP on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 7:32 am 

    Boat “Your generation polluted/screwed up and mine is trying to clean it up.”
    Every living generation polluted more than the ones before. We are not cleaning up anything. Today we polluted more, made more garbage, and caused more environmental damage and destruction than any other day since our species exists. Tomorrow it will be even worse, but not quite as bad as the day after and so on and so on. If you can’t accept this then you are living in denial.

  14. Apneaman on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 7:51 am 

    Boat you keep using that word “efficiency” like it’s a magic charm – just say it and and the other magic word “technology” and all problems are warded off. Meaningless words.

    “Furthermore, modern technology has not made our economies more efficient, as promised. As technology has advanced, material consumption accelerated. Fossil fuel consumption has grown annually by 2.9%, metal ores by 3.5%, and non-metalic minerals by 5.3%. Since 2000, even as economic growth and population growth slowed, material demand accelerated. Frivolous consumption has increased among the rich and we now spend increasing amounts of energy to extract lower grade resources, reducing productivity.”

    BTW, anything short of a global “Manhattan Project” to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere is a waste of time time talking about except for less asthma inducing smog. Even with a CO2 Manhattan Project there would still be major consequences to pay. It will never happen. Again I don’t think you understand the physics or the scale. The planetary system doesn’t work like a light switch with instant results more like a huge oil tanker or a super long and heavy freight train heading for the ravine……..except the bridge is out.

  15. penury on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 9:58 am 

    What are the stages of grieving? I think a lot of people are stuck on “denial” soon to change. I think.

  16. Kenz300 on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 11:27 am 

    Waste not, want not.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle….

    Donate unwanted items to charity.

  17. Go Speed Racer on Wed, 26th Oct 2016 7:07 pm 

    The article is right. We should all burn our trash.

    In our backyards.

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