The strong signals sent by the EU and the Dutch government about waste diversion stimulates action and invention. While entrepreneurism brings with it considerable risks, the private sector is willing to take these risks if there is certainty in and enforcement of government policy.
One challenge in the Netherlands that we have in common is how to separate the plastic from the food in packaged food wastes. Mavitec has developed an innovative technology to de-package a variety of food wastes. They are able to take a mixed stream of organics from grocery stores, which they run through a hammer mill and run through a shop return press. The organic waste can be used as a feedstock at anaerobic digestion facilities. The packaging materials can be cleaned and recycled.
Orgaworld’s Amsterdam Greenmills (part of the Shanks Group) is an anaerobic digestion facility that has capitalized on the move towards eliminating disposal of organic wastes. It captures 120,000 tonnes of mostly ICI wastes (80 per cent out-of-date materials from supermarkets), much of it with low solids content. This organic waste is converted into 5.5MW of electricity and heat. The heat is used for some on-site processes and also for Amsterdam’s district heating system. Greenmill’s next door neighbour uses a Mavitec system for de-packaging some of the food wastes, which are then directed to Greenmills for processing.
Another challenge is how to deal with residual garbage. With garbage to landfill virtually eliminated and the recent tax on energy from waste facilities, solutions to capture waste for recycling and reduce disposal are in demand. Omrin, in Heerenveen, takes mixed residential garbage and captures 55 per cent of it. Using a series of trommels, conveyors, magnets, eddy currents, and optical sorters they manage to strip off the paper, plastic, and metal. They are left with a contaminated organics stream that is then directed to their on site digesters. The digestate is directed to energy from waste. (They were very clear that the inbound organics feedstock quality was never intended to produce compost). The dry recyclables are sold as commodities. The gas from the organics was being converted into electricity. They are currently building a gas hub to turn it exclusively into natural gas and put it to the grid.
Attero manages some four million tonnes of waste annually. At the Wijster location, which includes clean and dirty MRFs, composting, anaerobic digestion, an incinerator, and a landfill, they accept two million tonnes annually. They have considerable biogas upgrading capability at this facility and have sufficient capacity so that they can also import agricultural biogas from surrounding farms. They direct upgraded gas to the grid but also to a close-by Shell vehicle fuelling station. They have also invested considerably to extracting resources from their bottom ash (i.e. various metals). Apparently their bottom ash has a higher concentration of copper than “the best South African mines.” What was also quite fascinating and applicable to Canada was their “dirty MRF.” All garbage is directed to this facility to pull out available recyclables and organics prior to incineration (this is over and above recyclables and organics from source separation programs). As at Omrin, a contaminated organics stream is directed to anaerobic digestion to strip out as much energy as possible with digestate directed to their incinerator
In Canada, we often turn up our noses at “dirty MRFs” because in the past incorrect expectations of outcomes and outputs have been presented. Both the Omrin and Attero facilities use this to deal with the garbage stream and extract as many resources as possible. As we look at how to take waste diversion and the reduction of our waste’s GHG impact to the next level, this type of approach offers promise. It could work very well to manage parts of Canada’s multi-residential and IC&I waste streams, which in some cases have very poor diversion opportunities or participation. Push source separation as far as you can and then sort and process the remaining garbage stream.
Read more about Paul's adventures >>