Here in the UK our waste management process isn't as good as it could be. Approximately 57% of our waste gets landfilled and that means a whopping 111 million tonnes of controlled waste gets dumped in a landfill every year. It isn't just controlled waste that ends up in landfills either, waste from mining and quarrying and even sewage sludge ends up dumped at a landfill site also. In today's world burying waste and rubbish in old mining sites seems to be the norm and the easiest option, and maybe this was sustainable when there wasn't a population crisis but with a booming population producing a significant increase in waste yearly, burying our rubbish is no longer good enough not to mention how damaging it is to the environment. Unlike most of humanity's problems we can no longer just sweep it under the rug and simply forget about it.
Singapore is a perfect example of how we can improve our waste management systems, not just here in the UK but all around the world. Singapore has a dense population but they have very little land and this makes throwing waste into a landfill unsustainable, there just isn't space. So if you can't throw your waste into a hole in the ground like most other countries what can you do? Singapore's excellent solution to this problem helps them reduce their landfilled waste and create renewable energy without polluting the environment and it leaves me wondering why other countries aren't using this as their primary solution to dealing with waste. This solution lies within their waste to energy plants where they collect all the waste that isn't being recycled and burn it, then the steam produced spins turbines creating electricity and no toxins are released because any smoke created is passed through filters which remove everything harmful.
Singapore's waste is primarily sent to their waste to energy plants and the incineration process reduces their landfill waste by up to 90%. Their landfilled waste is made up of recycled products that have lost their integrity and can no longer be recycled or burned and other household waste that cannot be burned in their waste to energy plants. This landfilled mass still contributes significantly towards global warming due to it producing landfill gases (methane) but if you compare it to the UK where the percentage of waste thrown in landfills is nearly six times that of Singapore it's still a huge step in the right direction.
The bi-products of these waste to energy plants are even being harnessed to their full potential, 1 tonne of the bottom ash produced is made up of 10-12% metals and these metals can be used in building products or road construction. The energy produced can come in the form of steam, electricity or hot water. The electricity is fed into the gird and distributed to the end-users, hot water is sent to a nearby district heating network to heat homes, hospitals, offices etc. and the steam can be used by nearby industries in production processes.
Many countries have waste to energy plants and they are using them to lower their carbon footprint and produce energy but they are not using them to their full potential and this really needs to change. It is a well used and proven method that effectively reduces our carbon footprint and the amount of rubbish we pollute our planet with and yet most countries still aren't using it as their primary method for waste management and I just don't understand it.
If you want to learn more about waste to energy plants here is a link to a good little slideshow that explains how they work.