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Food Waste

Mary Creagh confirms Labour support for landfill ban on food waste

23 Sep 2013

Speaking at the Labour Party Annual Conference 2013 in Brighton yesterday (22 September), Mary Creagh MP confirmed Labour’s intention to introduce a ban on food to landfill should they be successful at the 2015 general election.

Creagh said: “A one nation Labour government will ban food from landfill so that less food gets wasted in the supermarket supply chain and more food gets eaten by hungry children.”

In a speech full of condemnation for the Conservative’s policy on food, Creagh, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also confirmed that Labour will insist upon improved labelling in supermarkets as well as increased levels of food regulation, boldly stating that “deregulation gave us horse meat in our burgers.”

Creagh’s speech builds upon the strong environmental stance set out by the Labour in its ‘Resource Security: Growth and jobs from the waste industries’ released this April, in which Labour singled out the waste industry as vital to boosting the economy, adding that there is an urgent need to improve packaging and design and ensuring that the UK remains a world leader in waste management technologies.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “The current debate about banning food waste to landfill highlights the seriousness of the issue. In addition to the cost to both society and the environment of discarded food that could have been consumed, the need to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill continues to be a strong policy driver.

“In the short term, we need to strengthen our efforts to raise awareness about the environmental and economic costs of food waste and ensure we have the right infrastructure to extract value from unavoidable food waste. In the medium term, we expect to see further policy measures across the UK governments to tackle this waste stream.”

To read the full transcript of Mary Creagh’s speech, click here

8 ways to rethink resources: nappies to benches and food waste to biogas

3 November 2014

Conscious consumers know not to use disposable plastic bottles, or single-use plastic bags, and try to use as little packaging as possible in order to save the planet. A growing number of companies are also developing innovative ways to give waste a second lease of life.

1. Nappies to roof tiles and railway sleepers

Every parent knows that disposable nappies generate enormous amounts of waste. And with the average baby using the equivalent of 150kg of wood, nappies waste a lot of resources, too.

To remedy this, two years ago Scotland – with a total of 450,000 used nappies per day – pioneered a nappies-to-roof tiles scheme. Nappies are collected in recycling bins and sent to treatment plants, where they’re sterilised and the human waste removed. The plastics and celluloid contained in the nappies are then converted to everyday products such as park benches, railway sleepers and road signage.

In Mexico, consumer product giant P&G now turns rejected Charmin nappies into roof tiles, while scraps from its American Pampers nappies are reused as upholstery filling. Fifty P&G plants now produce zero manufacturing waste, and it claims that repurposing the waste has created an additional value of $1bn for the company. Elsewhere, a growing number of parents are turning to GNappies. The British company makes nappies in two parts: covers that can be reused, and inserts that can be composted or even flushed down the toilet with human waste.

2. Paper to reduce food waste

Rarely does one blank piece of paper make a big difference. But FreshPaper, an organic and biodegradable sheet added to fruit and vegetables, keeps the produce fresh for two-four days longer, thereby eliminating countless tonnes of wasted food. As world demand for food keeps rising, eliminating food waste will become even more important. Today FreshPaper, first sold at farmer’s markets in America, is available in shops in several dozen countries.

3. Sustainable construction materials

San Diego-based Ecor takes cellulose fibres, a material found in wood, cardboard and even forest and agricultural waste, and turns it into new construction material. The process is surprisingly simple: the waste is mixed with water, heated, pressurised and made into sturdy panels that can be used in a variety of functions: as wall panels, tables, bowls, building walls, even glasses frames. Best of all, the products contain no toxic additives and can themselves be recycled at the end of their life-span.

4. Clothes from old water bottles

If you really need to buy soft drinks or even bottled water, make sure to recycle the bottles; they can be used for yarn. Bionic Yarn turns used PET bottles into fibres that can be used in clothes. This is how it works: the bottles are cut into chips, which are in turn shred into fibres. The fibres are mixed with polyester and spun into yarn. The end product, reports Bionic Yarn, contains 40% recycled plastic bottles, including ones from the large colonies of plastic bottles floating on the world’s oceans.

5. Agri-waste into plastic bottles

Bio-on provides an excellent reason to choose your plastics carefully. The Bologna-based company has developed a pioneering process that allows it to turn agricultural waste into biodegradable plastics. Using a fermentation process involving sugar beet, Bio-on manufactures plastics that can be used for anything from food packaging to electronics. Better yet, the process requires no chemical additives, and the end products are biodegradable, dissolving upon prolonged contact with bacteria.

6. Worms as fertiliser

Repurposing waste can be as simple as it is ingenious. In Guatelamala, Byoearth uses red worms to transform food and other biodegradable waste into organic fertiliser. Doing so, of course, reduces waste but also results in higher-quality soil.

7. Food waste to biogas

Got food waste, need energy? BioTrans Nordic has got just the thing for you, especially if you work in a restaurant, canteen or other large kitchen. The Danish company’s BioTrans tank stores food waste, where it turns into biomass. The biomass is collected by a truck for delivery to biogas plants and delivery to local customers.

8. Recycling polyester

Japanese firm Teijin didn’t set out to repurpose clothe; it’s a chemical company. But, almost as a by-product of its R&D, Teijin discovered a way of recreating polyester from itself. Because reusing clothes’ fibres has long been considered near-to impossible, Teijin’s discovery was a considered a breakthrough. It has already saved tonnes of clothes from landfill, and earlier this year, Swedish firm Re:newcell unveiled a similar process for cotton. For several years now, retailer Patagonia has sold clothes made from Teijin-recycled fabric.

Today you can wear new clothes made from old clothes and old plastic bottles, while eating food enhanced by old food – and stored in plastic containers made from agricultural waste – in a restaurant powered by food-waste energy and decorated by agricultural-waste wood panels with nappy-based roof tiles. Not too shabby.

How education can change people’s attitudes about waste disposal

04 November, 2014

Edwin Lau

The Council for Sustainable Development is heading in the right direction with plans to charge according to the amount of waste each household disposes of. This will be the best incentive to drive down waste generation. However, the council and the Environment Bureau seem to worry about whether people will act properly and not dump their waste in public areas when legislation is in place.

They seem to have forgotten how effective a tool education can be – more effective than policing – in changing attitudes about social and environmental issues. Some think education takes a long time to achieve results. It really depends on the approach. Government propaganda on TV won’t work; constant public engagement and provision of convenient recycling facilities will.

Two recent success stories show how Hong Kong people can change their attitudes about the environment once they have a better understanding of the problems and the eco-friendly options available.

Case one is our four-week trial in a private residential building to educate tenants on what to do in a waste charging simulation exercise. We worked with the group Greener Action to educate tenants and set up systems to separate items for recycling before putting the remaining waste into designated bags every evening and recording their weight. Some 90 per cent of tenants took part; the amount of waste for disposal was cut by up to 30 per cent.

The second success is our food waste recycling trial in public housing. To get tenants to reduce waste seems mission impossible in the minds of senior government officials, who believe only regulations can make tenants act.

We approached the estate management to inform them of our waste crisis, and took them to visit – and smell – our landfills and food waste recycling plants, and encouraged interaction with our trained staff and volunteers to motivate them to act.

Senior officials found it amazing that, after our education processes, housewives, the elderly and young parents alike put their food waste into a small bucket, and brought it downstairs every evening to pour into a special bin for a food waste recycler to take away. In a year, around 250 tonnes were collected from over 940 households.

In Taipei city, the government organised more than 300 meetings to educate and motivate citizens to turn a once-unwelcome policy into a habit for most citizens. Such habits have helped bring down the waste disposal amount by 60 per cent since the introduction of waste charging in 2000.

Recently, an international insurance company asked whether other plastic items, besides bottles, could be put in recycling bins for plastic. The public may generally be more environmentally aware these days, but many still do not fully understand the simple steps to go green. Education can help.

Of course, we need the government to establish the green “hardware” to treat our waste to extend the life of our landfills. But what we badly need is waste charging legislation coupled with public education. That will motivate everyone to cut waste, reuse and recycle in order to pay as little as possible. Education does not require spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

The Council for Sustainable Development is due to submit its recommendations to the Environment Bureau soon, and it proposes to allow certain types of buildings to begin with a less effective scheme (charging based on the amount of waste per building) if they cannot immediately adopt the mode of waste charging per tenant. There may be a need for such arrangements but, within a year or two, the whole city should have adopted the best method to cut our waste as much as possible to tackle this crisis.

NY Food-Waste-to-Energy Pilot Expands

New York City will expand a pilot food-waste-to-energy program this fall.

The program, which launched last summer, diverts food from the waste stream and converts it into natural gas, Capital New York reports. The city expects the program to avoid about 90,000 metric tons of CO2.

Waste Management separates the uneaten food from the rest of the trash it collects.

During the pilot program, the city has processed between 1.5 tons and 2 tons of food waste daily. This will increase to 50 tons a day under the expanded program. The city hopes to eventually process 250 tons daily.

The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, which processes the waste, could process up to 500 tons or 15 percent of the city’s residential organic waste, the newspaper reports.

In New York City’s other food-waste reduction efforts, its restaurants diverted more than 2,500 tons of food waste from landfills between May 2013 and November 2013. The food from 100 restaurants participating in the city’s voluntary Food Waste Challenge was used as compost or donated to food banks.

August 15, 2014

Food waste disposers can mitigate climate change and reduce costs

For climate change mitigation, food waste disposers are better than composting, waste-to-energy and landfilling. Their wider adoption calls for integrated decision making encompassing solid waste management and wastewater.

Food waste disposer (FWDs), devices invented and adopted as a tool of convenience may now represent a unique new front in the fight against climate change. These devices, commonplace in North America, Australia and New Zealand work by shredding household or commercial food waste into small pieces that pass through a municipal sewer system without difficulty. The shredded food particles are then conveyed by existing wastewater infrastructure to wastewater treatment plants where they can contribute to the generation of biogas via anaerobic digestion. This displaces the need for generation of the same amount of biogas using traditional fossil fuels, thereby averting a net addition of greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere. The use of anaerobic digesters is more common in the treatment of sewage sludge, as implemented in the U.K., but not as much in the treatment of food waste. In addition to this, food waste can also replace methanol (produced from fossil fuels) and citric acid used in advanced wastewater treatment processes which are generally carbon limited.

Despite an ample number of studies pointing to the evidence of positive impacts of FWDs, concerns regarding its use still exist, notably in Europe. Scotland for example has passed legislation that bans use of FWDs, stating instead that customers must segregate their waste and make it available curbside for pickup. This makes it especially difficult for the hospitality industry, to which the use of disposer is well suited. The U.S. however has seen larger scale adoption of the technology due to the big sales push it received in the 1950s and 60s. In addition to being just kitchen convenience appliances, FWDs are yet to be widely accepted as a tool for positive environmental impact.

Food waste disposers – is the jury still out?

In the hope of contributing to a process of informed decision making, we organized a panel – Food waste disposers – is the jury still out? – which explored the doubts often cited regarding the use of disposer units, discussed where there may be need for further research, and defined region-specific criteria needed for assessing suitability of FWDs for wider use. Beyond discussion of pros and cons of FWDs the panel also cites communication, policy, legal and technical barriers that would need to be overcome to achieve widespread adoption of the technology, wherever deemed a feasible solution.

Prof. Adam Read, Practice Director for Waste, Ricardo-AEA; Dr. Tim Evans, founder at Tim Evans Environment and Michael Keleman, Manager of Environmental Engineering at InSinkErator provide the expertise on Food Waste Disposers in this panel moderated by Ranjith Annepu, co-founder of be Waste Wise.


Responsibility for waste management

Foremost among concerns regarding the use of FWDs is the fear that responsibility for food waste management could shift from one industry (waste) to another (water) and fear of the impact that this change may have on traditional wastewater infrastructure. Results from multiple studies show that in the case where penetration of the technology is assumed to be low (10-20%), there is no significant difference in characteristics (total flow, BOD and TSS) of the wastewater stream. At higher percentage of penetration, greater than 40%, the characteristics of the wastewater stream change enough that it may require modifications to the plant’s capacity. (1) (2)

In the best case scenario known, soil scientist Tim Evans, cites a unique case study from a town in Sweden which witnessed a rapid shift from no disposers to 50% of households using them. The town sampled the wastewater coming into the treatment works every four weeks to obtain a 24-hour composite sample. From this data it appeared that there was no increase in flow, i.e. no increase in water use, but also no increase in other wastewater properties like BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand), COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand), nitrogen or phosphorous. There was however a 46% increase in biogas recovered.

In one study conducted at the University of Hanover for a scenario of 100% coverage, the results estimated that at a higher percentage coverage in a city the sewage treatment plant will often require capacity additions. But, that may benefit the WWTP in terms of energy efficiency because of increased energy recovery as biogas can be used to run the plant itself. The study estimated an increase in flow of 3-5%, BOD by 10-25%, TSS by 40-60%, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN) of 5-10%, Phosphorus of 7-14% and 90-100% increase in biogas production. (3)

Given the evidence Prof. Read suggests that technologies such as food waste disposers would be most ideal in areas where there is new housing development and industrial development is taking place where the sewerage and wastewater treatment infrastructure can be built more efficiently with the strategy of disposers in mind.

Increased water usage

Critiques often cite increased water usage as a deterrent to the wider adoption of food waste disposers. Michael Keleman estimates that the additional water requirement in the use of a disposer amounts to 1 gallon/capita/day, a figure reiterated by several studies estimate approximately 3 – 4.5 litres/capita/day. (4) (5) This may be a cause for concern in water scarce areas thus rendering the use of FWDs unfeasible, however in most places where water is available in sufficient quantities, the additional 1 gallon consumed may be a desirable tradeoff given other benefits that accumulate.

Electricity requirement

Though they give the impression of being power hungry devices disposers do not use a lot of power when considering an entire annual cycle. Estimates suggest that additional power consumption of a food waste disposer amounts to 3-4 kWh a year, a figure which has been compared in studies to determine the difference in alternative methods of treatment of food waste. Results of these studies suggest that the net benefits gained in terms of climate change are greater when food waste disposers are used over other options.

Load on wastewater infrastructure

The argument that wastewater pipelines may not be suited to carrying the additional load from FWDs Michael Keleman clarifies is only of relevance in certain circumstances. Food waste disposers shred waste into granules, 95% of which are smaller than 3 mm and 40% of which are smaller than 100 microns. This is waste much smaller than fecal matter (Kegebein et al., 2001) and therefore it can be easily carried by traditional wastewater infrastructure that is able to carry fecal matter. Mattsson et al. (2011 and 2014) from University of Lulea have confirmed this by CCTV survey of sewers – at 180 locations totaling 10km. European wastewater infrastructure though older is not much different in design from wastewater infrastructure in U.S. cities that have adopted disposers, thereby negating infrastructure design as a reason for hesitating to adopt disposers.
The potential for buildup of grease in pipelines increases with the use of disposers and in this case it is acknowledged that to avoid this awareness programs are indispensable. (5)

Criteria to determine suitability of food waste disposers.

A life cycle assessment conducted by InSinkErator in collaboration with CDM Smith and PE International in 2010 looked at the use of a disposer in conjunction with 8 different types of wastewater treatment plants and compared each scenario to landfilling, composting and waste-to-energy. It was found that disposers and wastewater treatment are always lower in global warming potential than any other schemes. If the treatment plant uses the process of anaerobic digestion to create energy and recovered bio-solids are used as fertilizer, then this case represents the lowest primary energy demand as well.

To determine suitability of disposers, it is important to consider area-specific characteristics such as availability of water resources, household practices, condition of the sewerage system and wastewater treatment processes. The specific composition of food waste in a particular region is an important consideration. A region already prone to sewers clogging with oil and grease may not do very well if food waste is added to this load. Cold water added along with the food waste helps the grease congeal and it therefore does not deposit. Care must also be taken to ascertain whether the flow of sewage in a particular region achieves self-cleaning velocity, else it may require additional maintenance on the adoption of disposers. Studies suggest that if these considerations are given adequate importance the adoption of disposers should not affect sewer lines.

Research to evaluate the technology

There are a number of countries that are doing their own studies. There have been studies done from Sydney, Australia (2) to Japan (6) and studies going on in the U.S. as well. Research still remains to be done that will help to ascertain the extent and manner of adoption of this technology.
A part of the analysis of the data collected by Dr. Evans indicated that it was the biofilms on the walls of the sewers were doing some of the treatment of food waste before it reached the WWTP. Research conducted to determine how the microbes in these bio films respond to the wastewater flying past them is another aspect of this technology that needs further exploration.

An additional area of research that could shed light on the future prospects of this technology is the variation in suitability of biosolids that results at the end of the anaerobic digestion process in the presence of chemical waste streams of different compositions that arise from the use of a variety of pharmaceutical products in households nowadays.

Barriers to the adoption of food waste disposers


The technology of food waste disposers faces an uphill challenge against preset notions of what is the ideal manner for treatment of household wet waste. Options other than composting are seen in a bad light. Past brand names given to disposers such as ‘garbage gobblers’ and ‘macerators’ convey a sense of irresponsibility towards the treatment of food waste which has not done the technology any favors.


Tim Evans points out the case of Palo Alto in California where people have been lobbied by waste management companies who want them to buy their composting or digestion systems. Palo Alto however is a city where nearly every house already has a food waste disposer. It was a while before the council realized that disposers are actually a part of the recycling process and that if everybody used a disposer then the need for separate collection wouldn’t exist. The wastewater treatment works were then updated with efficient anaerobic digestion and thermo hydrolysis to form an intelligent integrated system.

Traditional recycling targets

The absence of an agreed upon method of measurement for the impact of food waste disposers is another challenge to communicating its efficacy. Adam Read points out that unlike traditional recycling, the waste that goes down a disposer to an anaerobic digestion facility is not considered as waste diverted from a landfill. An appropriate solution in this case might be calculating the weight of waste added to the wastewater stream and subtract from this the weight of biosolids generated that will end up in a landfill due to it not meeting required standards for application on farms.
Jurisdiction and regulations

Prof. Read also highlights the existence of separate geographical areas under the wastewater treatment utility and a municipal council’s waste collection program as a major regulatory barrier to the wider adoption of food waste disposers. This was the case in the U.K. which led to the abandoning of disposers as a strategy to handle food waste since their early adoption in the 1980s. Sweden in contrast is an example of a country where cities have control over multiple utilities. In cases where decision making does not happen at the local municipality level, the city will face challenges to support strategies such as food waste disposers that are most ideal when put into implementation comprehensively at the city level.

Technology resistance

Similar to technologies like gasification and pyrolysis which have been operational for decades in other industries, food waste disposers have also found it hard to gain wider acceptance as a solution within the waste management industry. All it would take to change this Prof. Read claims is a few progressive cities taking the first leap and demonstrating with undisputable numbers that these solutions can be implemented and provide positive environmental impact as well as economic gain. This would lead to other cities in turn asking the same question of their own waste strategies and thereby lead to wider adoption.


A sentiment echoed unanimously by all the panelists is that of the need for cities to think about their waste management issues on an integrated basis. Philadelphia for instance has invested over $ 50 billion dollars in their anaerobic digesters and cogeneration at their wastewater treatment to reduce their solid waste collection and disposal cost by using food waste disposers. The city is also planting rain gardens and green roofs, which stop rain rushing rapidly into sewers and overloading the pipes underground. This represents integrated thinking because it is a solution that fits well alongside their investments in wastewater treatment. By increasing renewable energy generation at the treatment plant this strategy is a win-win both from the environmental and economic perspective.

In the developing world

Besides the developed world, food waste disposers can also be put into use by some in developing countries as well. T. H. Culhane, is one such person who has been able to put this into practice by actually carrying a food waste disposer with him to developing countries where he works and uses it to grind food waste, make bio-gas and use it for cooking purposes.

Among its many advantages, food waste disposers offer a solution to reduce the incidence of disease with lesser food waste lying in the open attracting fewer disease vectors.(1) It also reduces the complexities of having to induce behavior change in citizens to segregate waste at source (7) and simplifies the logistics for waste collection. (4) It is important to observe the contrast in motives for using food waste disposers in the developed world and developing world. However, if this technology is considered at a city level, then the criteria mentioned above should be considered to determine their suitability.


  1. Environmental Aspects of Food Waste Disposers. Koning, de. s.l. : Delft University of Technology, 2004.
  2. CRC. Assessment of Food Disposal Options in Multi-Unit dwellings in Sydney. Sydney : Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Waste Management & Pollution Control Limited, 2000.
  3. Rosenwinkel, K.H. and Winkler, D. Influences of Food Waste Disposers on Sewerage System, Wastewater Treatment and Sludge Digestion. s.l. : Institute for Water Quality and Waste Management (University of Hanover), 2001.
  4. NYC DEP. The Impact of Food Waste Disposers in Combined Sewer Areas of New York City. s.l. : New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 1997.
  5. Kegebein, Jorg, Erhard, Hoffmann and Hermann, H. Hahn. Co-Transport and Co-Reuse – An Alternative to Separate Bio-Waste Collection? s.l. : Institute for Municipal Water Treatment, University of Karlsruhe.
  6. National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management. Report on Social Experiment of Garbage Grinder Introduction. s.l. : Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport, Japan, 2005.
  7. Karlberg, Tina and Norin, Erik. Food Waste Disposers – Effects on Wastewater Treatment Plants. A Study from the Town of Surahammar. s.l. : VA – FORSK REPORT, 1999.

SCMP letters: Concerns over new organic waste plant

from Emily Lam, Tai Po resident, writing in to the SCMP:

I am pleased that the Legislative Council’s panel on environmental affairs has approved funding for the construction of Hong Kong’s first organic waste treatment plant in northern Lantau.

Although some argue that the government should focus on waste reduction at source, building the Siu Ho Wan facility is still necessary to treat the waste that cannot be avoided, such as vegetable and fruit trimmings, and fish bones.

However, I have some concerns about the project.

According to the Environmental Protection Department’s website, the collected food waste will be composted to produce soil conditioners, for example. It is estimated that about 20 tonnes of compost will be generated daily.

Yet, soil conditioner does not have to be applied every day to enhance the growth of plants and crops.

I therefore think this 20 tonnes will exceed the demand in Hong Kong.

The government should think of the possible uses and distribution channels for the soil conditioner.

If it is not used and therefore some of this material is wasted, the plant will become a white elephant.

Apart from market size, the department will also have to recognise the importance of quality control. If quality control is variable, it will be difficult to process it effectively.

Given that 200 tonnes of food waste will be treated per day, how can the government ensure the quality of the organic product that is generated by the plant?

As the focus initially is on business waste, officials will have to work with what are described as “professional kitchens” so that companies educate kitchen staff to co-operate with the food waste recycling programme.

It might be more cost-effective for the department to start with large food companies and hotels.

It could also work with property management companies of shopping malls to engage restaurant tenants in the programme as they can spread the message more quickly and effectively.

24 Mar 2013

Chairman’s Focus: Waste management consultation

In Hong Kong, 43% of the city’s daily municipal solid waste (MSW) waste is food waste – ultra wet food waste (water content is 75% in mall waste and 90% in wet market food waste). The Government insists on burning this water-waste with an incinerator on a scenic island, but the feedstock does not have the required calorific value required for combustion. Previous tests at composting Hong Kong food waste failed miserably due to the low quality and water content, and the test samples were actually landfilled since they were neither saleable nor exportable.

If there could be a mandatory separation for food waste here, placed in a Green Bin (see below example on Santa Monica), then collected Free of Charge by Government contractors, delivered to Transfer stations and garburated into a puree, the food waste can be then poured into the sewage system network. The CEPT system at Stonecutters island alone (there are ten other smaller treatment plants also) can handle 2.45million m3 of sewage per day by 2016. For reference, the current daily load is under 1.3million m3, so 3,600m3 of ultra wet pureed food waste per day would be a negligible load increase. This idea came from a senior technical engineer working for a company that happens to be Government consultants and it is totally viable.

The removal of food waste contamination would leave dry MSW that could form a new recycling industry here – without this, you cannot sort MSW already mixed and contaminated by food waste. Our Government-provided recycling figures are inflated. They pad the figures using imported trash from Europe and America that was being transferred through HKG to China – this only came to light when China erected ‘Operation Green Fence’, leaving many incoming containers stuck here.

The current lack of waste pre-sort requirements leaves food waste to create methane (23 times more dangerous greenhouse gas then CO2) and hydrogen sulphide when buried in landfills. On top of that, trucks drip foul stinking water (again, because of the high water content in local food waste) onto the roads whilst delivering to landfills. Flies and rats abound. The above food waste option, aside from being a much cleaner option, will create sensible recycling industries here. Tuen Mun can become ‘Green Tuen Mun’ instead of the territory’s toilet.

Landfills: viable recyclables are currently being dumped in landfills since they are tainted with food waste and there is no viable local recycling industry. A major portion of the landfilling is construction waste. Whilst 18,000 tonnes of construction waste is hived off to CEDD daily for shipping to China the remaining 3,000 odd tonnes of unusable construction waste is landfilled.

In Belgium a joint venture between APP UK and Group Machiels is building a  plasma gasification plant at the Houtalen Hechteren landfill – this will reverse-mine the landfill back to its pristine state, the recovered metals will be sold, electricity will be generated from the plasma syngas hydrogen and sold to the local grid and the plasma’d soil will form Plasmarok, fused at 6,000 Degrees C into an inert saleable road aggregate. The Government was offered a FREE 150,000 tonnes per annum trial plasma plant and rejected it, as it went outside of their incineration blinkers. This could have been operational now at the Tseung Kwan O landfill.

Incineration requires increased oxygen, frequently the addition of low-grade coal or oil to obtain combustion of wet matter and burns at 850 degrees C. If the burn temperature drops due to wet feedstock dioxins can and do form. Dioxins also form mostly on startup and shutdown of the burner. There are numerous peer reviewed studies of cancers, orofacial child defects, and deaths in proximity to incinerators. These are facts. The Government consistently refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of this salient health matter. The proposed stack height at Shek Kwu Chau will affect the whole of Hong Kong with wind borne toxic pollutants and heavy metal emissions carried on PM1 and PM2.5 particulates that escapes bag house covers and other equipment. Meanwhile, 30% of what is burned by weight remains as toxic bottom ash and fly ash. This needs landfilling, hence the need to extend landfills instead of doing away with landfills. Government officials will start applying to Legco for funding to build mega islands in the sea for new ash lagoons, when Hong Kong is hit annually by tropical storms. Super typhoons like Haiyan are always ready to hit and destroy empty safety promises of protective structures and punish the city with a blanket of toxic ash.

With current judicial reviews and appeals, the mal-thought incinerator option would not appear until 2023, by which time the rest of the world will be using plasma gasifiers for years already. Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, countries that Hong Kong citizens don’t usually consider superior in terms of progress, are moving ahead with plasma projects; Solena Fuels Inc already signed with Pertamina Indonesia for an MSW feedstock plasma plant.

In a plasma gasification plant, plasma gasifiers operate with an initial fluidised bed at 1,200 – 1,500 degrees Centigrade that vaporises anything – construction waste, MSW, rock, metal – into its molecular gaseous state. The dirty syngas is then passed through multiple plasma arcs operating at the temperature of the sun, above 6,000 degrees Centigrade, which destroy any dioxins or other contaminants, leaving only pure hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is captured and the hydrogen is used to drive turbines to produce electricity. The plant emissions from the hydrogen are steam. There is no ash to landfill.

Alternative processes can add a Fischer-Tropsch backend process that takes the syngas and creates carbon neutral bio jetfuel, bio naptha, bio diesel or bio marine fuel as in the Solena Fuels system. Such systems are used in large-scale plasma plants that are being built in numerous countries, with some in the UK close to completion. The BA / Solena Fuels plant with a capacity of 1550 MSW tonnes per day and produces bio jetfuel is underway in London. (BA has ordered 3 more plants, one more in UK and two in Spain.) Lufthansa / Solena plant is underway in east Germany near the Polish border. A total of 14 airlines have signed agreements with Solena for projects, including Qantas, SAS, Alitalia, Fedex, Alaskan, American, Canadian Air etc. Maersk is seeking planning permission for a bio marine fuel plant with Solena in New Jersey. The US plant in Gilroy, California will supply the US based airlines.

Westinghouse Alter NRG has operated MSW / RDF plasma plants in Japan since 2001. Their Utashinai plant closed recently due to the loss of feedstock contracts to operate the plant. The Government and recently an alliance of Govt friendly academics are misleading the public by implying that the Utashinai plant closed due to technical problems, when the real reason is the lack of MSW feedstock. We challenged the academics, CS Poon from HK Poly U and Irene Lo from HKUST, to produce the evidence of Utashinai failure or retract their statements at an open public meeting in Tuen Mun this afternoon. They rejected the invites and any ‘evidence’ they might have is of course unavailable, still lying in the EPD’s imagination. (Coincidentally, Elvis Au – the prime mover of the incinerator idea from EPD, CS Poon, Irene Lo, and other EPD engineers are all on the Environment Committee of the HK Institution of Engineers, from whence the Alliance of academics has sprung.)

Westinghouse torches will power the Teeside Airproducts plasma plant in UK. The 1,000 MSW tonnes per day plant will open within the next few months. A second plant is also being built by Airproducts next to the first and will supply the UK Government Cabinet office with an 84 million pounds savings on its future energy bills.

Building an incinerator will cost 20 billion, landfill extensions 10 billion, operational cost per year 300 million + landfill management costs, new ash lagoons in sea 15 billion – treatment costs of illnesses caused by the emissions ??$ billion

Plasma gasifier – cost ZERO – funded by the design build operate company – operation cost funded by operator – emissions hydrogen/steam

Coming back to the Green Bin collection of food waste. This has been done successfully in numerous cities in California, especially with Santa Monica, where incidentally the undersecretary of environment, Christine Loh, has a residence. There is no excuse as to why Hong Kong should not take up the idea. By removing the food waste problem and initiating proper local recycling businesses, we obviate the need for an incinerator and the need to extend landfills.

The Government Environment minister previously stated unwisely that they have no Plan B – it’s time for a plan ‘G’ (‘G’ for Green Bin).

James Middleton


8 Jan 2014

Food waste creates methane (23 times more dangerous greenhouse gas then CO2) and hydrogen sulphide when buried in landfills. The delivery trucks drip foul stinking water onto the roads whilst delivering to landfills. Flies and rats abound.

Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan

The Scottish government released a‘Zero Waste Plan’ in 2010, outlining an organised scheme for achieving zero waste production over 10 years. Readers will find special emphasis on presorting waste and banning materials from landfills, development of infrastructure for recycling, and, most importantly, recognising the importance of businesses participating in the effort.

BigHospitality: Restaurants urged to join campaign to gain zero food waste to landfill by 2020

from Helen Gilbert, reporting for Big Hospitality:

Restaurants, retailers, food manufacturers and householders should view food waste as a ‘valuable resource’ and adopt new measures to prevent the millions of tonnes of leftover and surplus food being sent to landfill each year, a new report has claimed.

The research, by food waste recycler ReFood and entrepreneurial charity BioRegional, calls on firms to recognise the value of food waste which can be turned into energy, provide nutrients for agriculture and generate heat and sets out measures to help companies and householders achieve a zero waste to landfill target by 2020.

Restaurants are being urged to adopt methods to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill. (BigHospitality)

According to the ‘Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill’ report the reduction of food waste by households, businesses and the public sector would save the UK economy more than £17bn a year by 2020 and prevent 27m tonnes of greenhouse gas a year from entering the atmosphere.

Over 1.3m tonnes a year of valuable nutrients would be returned to the soil, while enough electricity to power over 600,000 homes would be generated, the report claimed.

Recommendations include a clear timetable for the phased introduction of a ban on food waste to landfill to come into effect by 2020, compulsory separate collections of food waste from homes and businesses, which can then be reused in the form of energy and for agricultural purposes and greater collaboration at every stage of the supply chain to accelerate the adoption of best practice.

The report also calls for the integration of food waste education into school, college and professional training programmes and increased support for WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative.

“Our message is clear; food waste is a valuable resource that should never end up in landfill sites,” Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, said. “Everyone from the food producer, through to the retailer, the restaurant and the householder can play their part in ensuring that we take full advantage of its considerable potential by ensuring we re-use, recycle and recover every nutrient and kilowatt of energy it has to offer.”

Sue Riddlestone, OBE, chief executive and co-founder of BioRegional added: “The case for change is compelling. We will save billions of pounds. We will prevent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. And crucially, we will ensure that food is treated as a precious resource.”

The Pig Idea Feast

The national initiative comes as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Thomasina Miers prepare to cook up a free lunch for The Pig Idea Feast, an event being held in Trafalgar Square, London on 21 November in aid of a separate campaign to get food waste back on the menu for pigs in the UK.

The chefs are calling for change in European law to allow surplus food waste from restaurants, supermarkets and other food businesses to be fed to pigs – a practice that has been outlawed since 2002.

12 Nov 2013

The potential of food waste disposal units to reduce costs

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