Waste or Valuable Asset ?
Nations are wasteful. Despite the best efforts of of recycling and even with high levels of source segregated waste collections, the majority of household waste still ends up in landfill sites or is incinerated.
Incineration produces vast quantities of ash which, in the UK, is currently sent to landfill because it avoids the general landfill tax, only paying the lower "inerts' rate. In other words a subsidy
The Waste Hierarchy demands we recycle our waste to recover the valuable assets. Without a doubt household waste is loaded with valuable assets in the form of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, card & paper and high calorific value foodstuff.
The secret to realising the value in the waste is to have the ability to economically, reliably, safely and efficiently extract those items of value for commercial gain.
The recent increase in the export refuse derived fuel (RDF) avoids UK landfill charges and is only viable due to the gate fee differentials charged in various European countries. RDF is full of biomass and plastics and is combusted in power generation stations and cement kilns. It is a 'waste' of valuable resources.
The current methods of disposing of municipal solid waste (MSW) are facing ever tightening targets for landfill diversion.
Biological municipal waste (BMW), when landfilled, produces Methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
Diverting BMW from landfill is difficult since it represents the major fraction of "Black Bag Waste” , or residual waste, which is mostly landfilled.
Separation of Black Bag Waste on 'dirty MRFs" is highly inefficient and a hazardous job. Whereas, "Clean MRFs" dealing with co-mingled plastic, card, metals & glass is efficient and non-hazardous. There is a large capacity of "Clean MRFs" in the UK supporting the 'source segregated household waste collections.
In 2008, only 45% of MSW was diverted, meaning the majority still went to landfill.
The UK future targets for diverting BMW from landfill are extremely tough and unlikely to be met due to the difficulty of processing “ Black Bag Waste" using dirty MRFs. One alternative is incineration, however, these face huge planning hurdles as well as extremely high costs.
The other alternative is the Vickers Seerdrum process, where a very high degree of organic separation can be achieved when processing black bag waste. These organics, once recovered, are available as a biomass fuel for renewable energy