POST D

Looking at the case of Mexico City, poor waste policies are a threat to public health and the environment. Yet it has plans to solve its problem, by affording the rights of the Bordo Poniente landfill site to BMLMX Power Company. They plan to build a biogas plant on the landfill site, converting the majority of the waste into usable biogas. A recent development pans to use the biogas to light the streets of Mexico City. Not only will this drastically reduce the amount of energy used, but will reduce the levels of carbon dioxide each year

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“It is estimated that a reduction of around 1.4 to 2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved during the first year of biogas utilisation,” says Menéndez-Garza.

Biogas is essentially created by using anaerobic decomposition on all organic substances in landfill waste. Landfill restoration must prevent greenhouse gases from migrating into the atmosphere while avoiding smouldering fires, therefore gas must be extracted under controlled conditions. Perforated tubes are drilled into the landfill body and connected by a pipework system. Using a blower, the gas is extracted from the landfill.landfill_large.jpg

So turning landfill into biogas is a very viable and sustainable way of managing waste. In particular with the case of Mexico City, where the waste management is already dire, it allows the City to profit of waste. However the inorganic waste must also be addressed.

Mexico City Government’s have made an agreement with CEMEX – the world’s largest building materials suppliers and cement producer – to deliver up to 3,000 tonnes of solid waste inorganic fraction (SWIF). SWIF is separated from materials that can be immediately recycled (e.g. aluminium and glass) or otherwise these materials would add to more landfill.

Therefore the processing of SWIF decreases the amount of material going into landfill. This prolongs the life span of existing landfills and means the creation of new sites can be avoided. Reports argue, that even fuel spent in transporting the SWIF, has a lesser impact on the environment, than if they were sent to landfill.

Unfortunately, the closure of the landfill site has caused some unusual problems. Individuals claim, that the closure has destroyed and entire community that has based it self in salvaging parts from the landfill. It seems there are some in Mexico City, that have a strong will to recycle.

But the magnitude of the problem the landfill has reached, vastly outweighs any recycling effort. Given all the benefits of converting the waste into natural energy, and trade, this is by far the best option.

Now Mexico City creates 12,500 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. It has reduce the amount going to landfill to 5,500 tonnes, in order for it to be sustainable. Through the proposed recycling programme, 1,023 tonnes of waste will be converted into energy. 507 tonnes will be turned  into compost. These are the necessary changes Mexico city needs, to being a more sustainable path. It should learn from its past; recycling is the key to avoiding such crises. Educating people to be mindful of their organic waste, is an assured way to prevent future problems from occurring, but strong government policies will be key.

Images:

References:

Michell. G, 18th January 2013, ‘How Mexico city turned garbage into fuel’. Available on: http://cities-today.com/how-mexico-city-has-turned-garbage-into-fuel/

https://www.clarke-energy.com/landfill-gas/

POST C

Mexico city is still gripped, in perhaps the worlds biggest waste crisis. In 2012, its largest rubbish dump was closed, thrusting the city beyond breaking point and highlighted the lack of a comprehensive, urban waste policy. The Bordo Poniente landfill site has been in use since 1985. Covering an area of 600 hectares the site was receiving 12,600 tonnes of waste a day, 7,000 of them from municipalities outside of Mexico City – 70 million tonnes of waste are even buried underground at the dump.

The problems with poor waste management in the city, have been severe and emphasised the need for proper waste management. Drinking water has previously been inaccessible through the, poisoning of aquifers underneath rubbish sites. Excessive amounts of methane come from the landfill sites, furthering global warming. The problem has extended so far as, professionals don diving suits simply to unclog the waste from the cities sewers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI2UO9YQXks. The city has run out of space to put its waste.

Waste management is essential, for any functioning city, but it relies on proper infrastructure. Mexico’s ministry of the environment and natural resources has estimated that; of 40 million tonnes of waste each year, only 15 percent is recycled.

“We are tossing valuable materials into the trash, and there is the whole problem of the absence of re-use and recycling. The goal is to recycle at least 60 percent of our waste. We must establish sanitary landfills that meet health and safety regulations. You can’t just improvise a landfill site,” said Restrepo.

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“We are going to have a problem with garbage for a long time. If we take action now, it need not get any worse, but we need a long-term strategy,” he said.

The Ecology and Development Centre identified at least 30 failed garbage dump projects since the 1980s. The failures were due to a mix of corruption and lack of political will.

Here its is evident that resident of Mexico city, are entrenched in consumerism. Disposing of this much organic waste is part of the cities culture; it seems that if people have no use, or even a dislike for something, it just ends up in landfill.

But getting to the point Mexico city has reached should be avoided entirely. Switzerland’s recycles more than 50% of its municipal

solid waste with 2.8 million tons were recycled from households. This comes from the philosophy in peoples waste management; the Swiss people are more efficient and mindful of their waste. RESAG is a Swiss company that manages to recycle 85% of what it collects. This attitude to waste is reflected in the manager of RESAG: “We’re a fast-moving consumer society. We’re quick to buy a new mobile phone or furniture – and the lifespan of these is increasingly shorter – so there’s automatically more waste,” However, although impressive, Household waste affects only 10% of total waste.

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Landfills have actually been banned since 2000, and all non recycled combustible waste is incinerated. Even now, 28 of its incineration facilities have been removed. Government pressure has forced businesses into being sustainable, and has created this efficiency in waste management.

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While its recycling endeavours are impressive, Switzerland is still producing more than 700 kilograms of rubbish per capita, one of the highest rates in the world. Recycling is efficient for solving tangible waste problems on a small scale, but its effectiveness is greatly diminished in larger countries. It requires individuals to change their habits, it cannot be achieved from forcing government legislature. But we should look to Switzerland as a role model, in global waste management.

Images:

http://cazalis.tumblr.com/image/94798540747

References:

Godey. M, 9 January. 2012, ‘The waste mountain engulfing Mexico city’. Available on: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jan/09/waste-mountain-mexico-city

Misicka. S, 30 November. 2015, ‘How the Swiss deal with waste’. Available on: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/it-s-rubbish-_how-the-swiss-deal-with-waste/41783866

http://www.bafu.admin.ch/abfall/01495/01497/index.html?lang=en

POST B

Reflecting on the previous post: the methods for my own waste audit involved analysing the waste in relation to persons adding to them. Given my household, this was hard to track, so i only analysed my own wastage. Not enough variables were known, hence why I only included myself; I could not provide any real commentary on the wastage without knowing who contributed – the main food bin may have even been there for weeks or seconds.

If we apply this to a larger scale, it still makes sense; the data of organic waste is meaningless, if it is not explained by different variables. This data is only relevant, given its use, i.e. to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfill. Therefore, the variables are necessary to provide insight in how to deal with the statistics we attain about organic waste.

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Government agencies are doing exactly this; an example of this is done by the NSW EPA. They produced these key statistics:

  • The average NSW household generated 23.6 kg of waste a week, consisting of 5.1 kg of recyclables, 5.3 kg of food and garden organics and 11.7 kg of landfill waste.
  • The average person in NSW generated 9.2 kg of waste a week, down from 9.4 kg the previous year
  • NSW households generated a total of 3.47 million tonnes of waste, sending 2.02 million tonnes to landfill and recycling the remaining 1.45 million tonnes.
  • The overall recycling rate for household waste dropped slightly to 46.5 per cent, compared to 47 per cent in 2011/12

Most NSW households are generating 23.6kg of waste a week. The variables here are, organic waste, weighted against total waste, per average household. These statistics allow us to make broad generalisations of how much organic waste NSW resident are producing and those resources recovery rates.. Essentially the only important information in furthering the Waste for Wealth initiative is, that how much organic waste ends up disposed of unsustainably. The waste audit give us a way to outline, how much organic waste we could reduce.

But the problems of this scale of data collection are that the investigations are not intimate enough to know exactly how much organic waste residents produced, e.g. some organic waste may never leave the household. If the initiative is reduce organic waste from households, the process in which the organic waste is produced ought to be known. Advising people to compost more, is useless if they live without a garden. Convincing people to act more sustainable requires more information. A waste audit is not enough, but its the start in generalising how we ought to handle our organic waste.

As Laura Singer demonstrates, it is possible to live a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle. Her habits are an example, in aiding other individuals to reduce their organic waste. While perhaps a bit extreme, even if just some of her practices could be adopted, it would help many households in reducing waste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYDQcBQUDpw.

Images:

References:

http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/warrlocal/data.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYDQcBQUDpw

POST A

Living in a house with several other people, I would of thought the waste produced in one day, would be considerable. However, upon assessing the lifestyles of the people in the house; it is obvious why the bins hold a minuscule amount. Waste in a broader sense, is more appropriate for myself – and probably the others. For example, procrastination and living in clutter are things that I excel at, more so than producing tangible waste. Keeping lights on perpetually, as well was the heater in Winter, are both excellent ways I ‘waste’ energy. From the energy bill, I could estimate I wasted about 4kWh of electricity in one day – thats 28kWh per week.

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And this is the main food bin; its just a small plastic bag, weighing roughly 300g, and mostly containing plastic waste. For one day, it is pretty measly in comparison to the wastage electricity. Recycling doesn’t really feel like a real option, in a house full of backpackers – hence the mixed and unassorted rubbish (mainly plastic). Nobody has the time, nor the motivation to argue the case for it. But the organic waste it does contain, is mostly made up of fruit.

Given my apathetic nature to cooking, and the busy schedules of my housemates, it isn’t hard to see why the main bin is lacking in organic material. The bin with the most rubbish is actually the one in my room.

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Looking at the contents after one day, 80% is organic, i.e. tissue, paper and mandarin skin. The rest is synthetic materials like plastic bags, and the plastic wrappers of some Chinese snacks. Paper is the most abundant organic waste here, and has an interesting lifecycle.

Pulp and paper is produced on all continents; the largest producer countries, US, China, Japan and Canada, with 400 million tons being produced each year. Both are made from wood fibres, originating from natural forests or pulpwood plantations. Over half of the resource comes already from recycled fibre and other fibre sources.

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The lifecycle of paper, is very circular i.e. almost all the products of the process can be reused and are being so. While there is still potential for growth in recycled fibre use, it is the logging industry, the start of the process that needs the most refinement.

The harvesting of the input, pulp, is still an unsustainable practice. Demand for pulp is still increasing rapidly, and is being achieved by the consumption of whole forests. The paper industry is accelerating climate change and causing wildlife loss; such practices also affect people who depend directly on forests.

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From these graphs, its is clear that paper consumption is huge and still increasing. Solutions involve:

-Assuring wood fibres can be grown, sourced and reused in a responsible way.

-Maximising the use of recycled fibres and sourcing the fibre from natural forests and plantations

-Using cleaner technology; the manufacturing processes can be optimised to reduce pulp and paper products’ impacts on climate change and water.

-Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the manufacturing process by investing in more efficient plants and retrofitting existing plants.

And again, improving responsible consumption practices can also help to reduce the environmental impact of paper, i.e. recycling the fibre. Paper has become an integral part of our modern practices; it makes sense, to find the most efficient and sustainable method, to lessen the impacts on our environment.

Images:

http://wwf.panda.org/_core/general.cfc?method=getOriginalImage&uImgID=%26%2AR%5C%2A%21%5E%230

References:

http://www.cem.com/pulp-paper.html

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/forest_sector_transformation/pulp_and_paper/