Rolf Stein, CEO, discusses ‘Waste disposal in the built environment’

Currently more than half of the world’s population is urban and predictions expect this level to reach 70% by 2030.  Burgeoning cities across the world face the same social, economic and environmental challenges as they expand; they have to cope with population growth, increasing demand for energy, reduced access to resources and growing waste levels. Cities at their present rate consume 75% of global energy and are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions so they must adapt as they grow to ensure that their impact on resources and the environment is controlled.

Technology and urban planning go hand in hand. Whether used in new ‘smart’ cities or installed in existing cities, new technologies can be employed to maximise the value obtained from existing resources and minimise the impact on the environment.

For example, in Asia many cities are being built from scratch to accommodate the influx from rural areas and attract new talent to generate economic growth. These cities are designing the latest technologies into their urban planning to integrate and optimise service delivery of: power, water, transport, housing and healthcare, which will allow cities to become better places to live for their residents and for the environment.

However, growing prosperity gives rise to increasing consumption and alarming levels of waste production.  The World Watch Institute believes that urbanisation of the world population could lead to a doubling in the volume of municipal solid waste (MSW) created annually by 2025. So whilst technologies enable us to increase the efficiency of use of resources, we also need to effectively employ technology to manage the reuse, recycling and recovery of the outputs from consumption. There is an urgent need to develop sustainable waste management solutions whilst at the same time expand clean and renewable sources of power generation.

Rather than treating waste as a problem to be disposed of, and relying on rapidly depleting sources of fossil fuels to meet our mounting energy needs, Advanced Plasma Power has developed the Gasplasma® process. This converts municipal, commercial and industrial waste into a clean, sustainable energy source which can be used on a local, community-based level.  The plants are highly efficient, compact and have low emissions; they are designed to sit unobtrusively on the edge of towns taking the waste that the  town generates and providing vital and proximate resources in return. They generate no waste outputs as any ash is vitrified into an environmentally stable and saleable construction product – Plasmarok®.

The Gasplasma® process is a game changer for managing waste in the built environment. Its plasma conversion stage delivers such a clean, high quality syngas that it can be used directly in efficient gas engines and gas turbines to generate power.  In addition to this, the residual heat can be used to heat local buildings and the technology can also be used to create substitute natural gas for injection into national gas grids, thereby serving to green gas supplies and to further reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The plants are very compact allowing them to be sited close to waste arising and also to power and heat users further improving efficiency and reducing the carbon impact of waste management.

By looking ‘beyond waste’ and applying innovation there is potential to create environmental benefit in recovering energy from what might previously have been seen as a residual waste destined for landfill.  We cannot afford to waste what limited resources there are; transforming residual, non-recyclable waste into fuel, heat and power allows urban populations to mitigate the environmental impact of their expansion.

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