How To Turn Our Unwanted Waste Into A Valuable Resource
We tend not to think about how much our waste is costing us. After all, the rising cost of milk and bread is rarely thought about in terms of how much the plastic packaging cost. But in reality, 16% of the money we spend on products actually goes on the packaging alone, which is quickly disposed of. Then there’s the fact that the contents of an average bin over the space of a year would be able to provide enough energy to power a television for 5,000 hours, while one recycled can could do the same job for three hours. Thinking about it this way, you get a sense of how our waste could equal money. And only 40% of what we put into our bins actually needs to be there and not in the recycling. When you look at the actual figures and what the implication of them is, you can get more of an idea of how we could be better utilising our waste, which is something we are desperately in need of doing.
Forgetting for a second the added environmental concerns of recycling and chucking away our unwanted things, there are many other implications of the amount of waste we are creating. With the average person in the UK generating their own bodyweight in garbage every seven weeks and the total amount rising annually at 3%, the concern over what we do with all this waste has serious financial and logistical issues. After all, at the moment, a lot of this waste might be going into landfills, but there is only so much land available for this and with the world’s population on the increase, we can’t afford to constantly give land away as a dumping ground. So it’s safe to say we’re all fairly aware that we need another alternative on these grounds alone.
The question is then, how do we translate all this increasing amount of waste into money made or saved and not wasted along with our old food containers?
This is where new innovations in waste disposal come in. Refuse Derived Fuel, or RDF, is a process through which we could turn our waste into a new and partially renewable source of energy, so not only would we stop putting so much pressure onto our existing resources with our waste disposal, we’d have a new alternative. We could literally turn our waste into energy.
RDF works by using the waste that we’re unable to recycle and disposing of it in incinerators. These aren’t the traditional types of incinerators, which simply burned our old rubbish, creating only toxic fumes that polluted the environment. These new and modern incinerators instead make it possible to recover energy from our waste, either in the form of electricity, heat or as combustible fuels, which means that all those old packaging containers we throw out can actually help save us money in the end, rather than simply costing us, as they are at the moment. Obviously a new source of energy is something that is essential in our current world, where our valuable finite sources are facing an increasing strain, so the ability to utilise our waste as energy would not only make the process of disposal more efficient, it could potentially save money and create another energy source.
But as anyone who knows anything about waste disposal will know, the process relies heavily on the use of baling wire. This is an essential product that is used throughout every step of the waste disposal process, compressing the garbage into compact bales of waste, which are then much safer and more secure to handle, transport and eventually dispose of. Generally baling wire is essential to making the entire process run more smoothly and efficiently and without it, we would be facing a very different reality when it comes to our excess waste. The only problem with baling wire though is that is made from steel and when it comes to putting waste into incinerators, the steel baling wire needs to be removed before the waste can be burned. This makes the entire process far more labour intensive and thus costly than it would otherwise be, putting a strain it. Therefore, in order to utilise our waste as an energy source, a new type of wire is needed. This is where a new type of baling wire, made out of plastic instead of steel, comes into the equation. Unlike traditional metal baling wire, plastic wire doesn’t need to be removed from the bales of waste before it is incinerated. Instead, it can all go in together. Obviously, this immediately makes the process far more time, labour and cost efficient. Not only this, but the plastic wire also has a calorific value, meaning that by burning it, it too can be utilised as a means of renewable energy, thus improving the process. By using this new plastic wire, we could therefore make the possibility of burning our waste for energy more realistic and profitable and make the entire question of waste disposal far more efficient.
Although the process of extracting energy from our waste still comes with its controversies and there is a great deal of debate surrounding the issue, including the question of whether installing this as a main means of disposal would mean we would rely less heavily on recycling, which would generally make the entire process less energy efficient, it is a viable alternative to our current systems that would end the current strain on our resources in a number of ways. At the moment, throwing out waste means we are literally throwing away money, which is why it’s important we do more to utilise our garbage and turn it into a resource, rather than wasting it.