In the world that we live in today, the growing demand for finished goods and the resultant increase in industrial activity means that there is a steady increase in the amount of waste that we generate daily. According to the World Bank, 3.5 million tonnes of waste were generated per day in 2010, and it is estimated that the figure will increase to more than 6 million tonnes per day by 2025.
Unfortunately, we do not extract as much value from waste as is possible, and the bulk of waste in many countries ends up deposited in landfills or being disposed wrongly, leading to pollution.
When we consider the various components of solid waste and the potential uses of waste, it becomes a huge source of untapped value.
We will use Sweden as an example of how to extract value from waste.
In Sweden less than 1% of waste ends up in landfills. The rest is recycled.
Newspapers are turned into paper mass, bottles are reused or melted into new items, plastic containers become plastic raw material; food is composted and becomes soil or biogas through a complex chemical process.
There is a high level of awareness about proper waste management methods, and as a rule, recycling stations are as no more than 300 metres from residential areas. Most Swedes separate the recyclable waste in their homes and deposit it in special containers or drop the waste off at a recycling station.
- Waste as a Source of Energy
Sweden incinerates about 50% of its household waste to generate energy. Swedish plants treat and convert over two million tons of household waste to energy every year.
Statistics from Avfall Sverige – the Swedish Waste Management Association, show that the waste that is burnt in Sweden provides enough heat to meet the needs of 810,000 homes, which is around 20 percent of all the district heating produced. The burnt waste also provides enough electricity to serve almost 250,000 homes.
Sweden’s waste-to-energy conversion is so successful that the country imports trash from other countries to meet the demand for energy conversion!
In the long run, we expect to see an increase in awareness about Waste Management and the opportunities that lie therein, and we would like to see more countries tap value from their waste, especially in Africa.