The public’s expectations of corporate responsibility are ever-increasing, as is the demand for operational transparency. Consequently, businesses are acknowledging the need to prioritise sustainability. Global events such as COP26 have brightened the spotlight further and inspired many businesses to ramp-up or revisit their sustainability goals and how they’re achieved.
Waste management was noticeably absent from the COP26 agenda, leading to Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) President, Adam Read, branding the lack of resources and waste representation in the programme a ‘critical oversight’. He called for global leaders to recognise the crucial role that recycling and resource management has to play in supporting decarbonisation.
Dr Stephen Wise, from biotechnology business Advetec, is urging facilities managers to do the same, yet believes that many are being held back by a series of green misnomers and a lack of waste-education. He reveals that despite increased efforts to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, up to 50% of ‘forgotten’ commercial waste still goes to landfill or incineration and stresses that this portion – if managed strategically – has the power to transform organisations’ green credentials.
Here, he lifts the lid on how this waste has come to be ‘forgotten’ and what can be done by FMs to improve business accountability and waste handling scrutiny within their facilities.
He said: “The majority of businesses believe that because they have waste contracts in place, recycling bins aplenty and a widespread desire to reduce waste to landfill that all their ‘green obligation’ is in hand. What they don’t know is that despite these efforts, around 50% of waste still goes to landfill or for incineration. Every 100 tonnes of waste that goes to landfill generates 47 tonnes of CO2e, plus the transportation of waste for disposal produces further CO2 and particulate emissions. This so-called forgotten waste is making a significant dent in their carbon footprint.”
This 50% is made up of mixed residual waste – a half empty drinks bottle, a yoghurt pot or a sandwich wrapper with crusts in, for example. This waste can’t be segregated or sorted for recycling because it contains contamination such as an organic fraction and is therefore sent to landfill or incineration – with devastating effects on the environment.
Dr Wise continued: “Sending waste to landfill is the least desirable option. They release greater quantities of greenhouse gas such as methane, produce leachate which requires treatment and can lead to offensive odours being released making them potentially harmful to both the environment and public health. Sending waste to incineration means the energy can be recovered but while Energy for Waste may sound green, it’s not as sustainable as you may think.”
In this country, unlike most of continental Europe, 99% of EfW plants don’t capture heat offtake. That means about half of the energy created from burning waste is lost into the atmosphere rather than harnessed for greater commercial use. Add the transport-related carbon attached to EfW into the mix, and it starts to paint a much less green picture. Without heat offtake, EfW is inherently inefficient – further highlighting why a commitment to reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill or incineration should be an absolute priority for FMs.
The good news is that recycling and landfill or incineration aren’t the only final destinations for your waste. By turning to biotechnology, organisations can reduce the mass and volume of the residual waste stream by 70% and 85% respectively on site – which means considerably less waste goes to landfill or EfW, there are fewer collections to pay for and less road related carbon.
“It’s best practice to minimise the costs and environmental impact of waste management as far as is reasonably achievable,” said Dr Wise. “By reducing the quantity of waste leaving site, FMs can cut the costs associated with the off-site treatment and disposal of waste. In turn, this lessens the number of truck journeys required for collection – cutting costs, particulate emissions, improving air quality and reducing the carbon footprint of waste.”
Advetec has developed a pioneering way of digesting waste using unique blends of bacteria inside enclosed aerobic reactors, which are installed on-site – the only technology of its kind. The only bi-products of the aerobic digestion process is carbon dioxide and water vapour and all that’s left behind is ‘floc’ – the inorganic fraction, such as plastics which has a potential number of uses.
Dr Wise concluded: “This decentralised approach to waste management not only promotes the circular economy and negates the potential for landfill, but encourages businesses to take more responsibility for their own waste – an essential part of future-proofing waste management strategies and accelerating the journey to net zero.
“Only when FMs champion waste management and educate business leaders about the waste journey and the technologies available can we achieve the levels of change required to protect our beautiful planet.”
For more information, visit www.advetec.com