Wasting Our Waste

A local blogger highlighted how we are potentially wasting our waste with potential energy sources being dumped with little regard for their potential value. http://cracker666.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/waste-to-energy-again/#comment-2985 

My comment developed into a blog post:

Quite right, Paddy, there are so many lost opportunities regarding our management of waste, whether it be farm, industrial or domestic. I think there has been some progress over the years but we really need strong leadership and determination from our national and local governments. A large part of this is the difficulty of making long term commitments to initiatives that may not be initially viable but make sense over time.
For Invercargill we went through a relatively robust process, led by Geoff Piercy, ( http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.com/2010/08/two-bins-or-not-two-bins-that-is.html ) yet the council lost resolve at the last minute and the resulting system will need to be changed again in the next few years. Our family’s current experience with the two bins is that our recycling bin is overflowing by the end of the second week and each week the bottom of our waste bin is barely covered.
Green/food waste causes the most problems at the dumping site yet we have again delayed effective management of this and the energy created by this waste is a largely untapped resource as well. We compost all our food and garden waste and if there was an opportunity for people who don’t have this collected separately to have this done, we would be much closer to a useful domestic  system.
Our council continues to stockpile our glass waste and there needs to be a national solution to this issue until a commercially viable industry is developed. The same applies to our electronic waste, the government withdrew support from the existing collection system and has yet to come up with an alternative. China has realized the value of E waste as we rapidly approach a “peak metal” crises, we need to give value to this potentially rich resource as well. Giving a value to waste is a great incentive, I’m not sure how it can be applied in all cases but I remember when you rarely saw a broken or discarded bottle because they provided useful pocket money and were a mainstay of charity fundraising.
Individual farmers are expected to manage their waste at present and while farm based systems, like the one you promoted the other day, may work you can imagine a subsidized, collective management of the waste could create commercially viable fertilizer and bio energy. I can envisage tankers following the milk ones to collect another valuable commodity from the milking sheds and wintering pads.
We used to have a gas works in Invercargill and I discovered in our original house plans (1932) that a gas stove was to be installed in the kitchen. Perhaps if we were to be truly visionary we could be heading towards self sufficiency in energy through greater efficiencies (another story) and practical management of our waste, the lignite could stay in the ground and oil slicks won’t eventually be washing up on our beaches.


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