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April 14th, 2013:

Food: Waste not want not



The UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has published a report – Global Food, Waste Not, Want Not – which found that as much as half of the four billion tonnes of food produced globally each year ends up as waste.

According to Dr Tim Fox, head of Energy and Environment at the Institution, the amount of food which could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today – that is being wasted is “staggering”.

By 2075 the United Nations’ mid-range projection for global population growth forecasts the world’s population to peak at about 9.5 billion people. That would mean an additional three billion mouths to feed by the end of the century, a period in which the report said substantial changes are anticipated in the wealth, calorific intake and dietary preferences of people in developing countries across the world.

The report cited inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food as being among the causes for the excessive waste.

In light of the situation IMechE called for urgent action to be taken to address the problem, which has knock on effects such as an unnecessary waste of the land.

It also leads to a waste of water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of food which ends up in the bin. By improving processes and infrastructure, as well as changing consumer mindsets, 60% to 100% more food could be produced, according to the report.

Key Findings

• Between 30% and 50% or 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year never reaches a human stomach

• As much as 30% of UK vegetable crops are not harvested due to them failing to meet exacting standards based on their physical appearance, while up to half of the food that’s bought in Europe and the U.S. is thrown away by the consumer

• Around 550 billion m3 of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer

• It takes 20 to 50 times the amount of water to produce 1 kg of meat as 1 kg of vegetables

• The demand for water in food production could reach 10 to 13 trillion m3 a year by 2050. This is up to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today and could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world

• There is the potential to provide 60% – 100% more food by eliminating losses and waste while at the same time freeing up land, energy and water resources.

Engineered Solution

According to Dr Fox, as water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.

The report cited the examples of India, where 21 million tonnes of wheat is wasted each year due to inadequate storage and distribution systems, and South East Asian countries where losses of rice can range from 37% to 80% of the entire production.

The authors added that in mature, developed economies such as the UK and USA, the purchasing policies for fresh produce operated by the major supermarkets actively encourage waste in the field.


In order to help prevent a future global food crisis IMechE made three key recommendations. Firstly, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) works with the international engineering community to ensure governments of developed nations put in place programmes that transfer engineering knowledge, design know-how, and suitable technology to newly developing countries

Secondly, governments in rapidly developing countries should incorporate waste minimisation thinking into the transport infrastructure and storage facilities currently being planned, engineered and built.

Finally, governments in developed nations should devise and implement policies which changeconsumer expectations and discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics. The report also recommended that losses in the home caused by excessive purchasing also need to be addressed.

Tougher recycling targets and landfill bans to impact waste utilisation

Tougher recycling targets

A considerable quantity of valuable raw materials is lost in waste utilisation and processing chains, according to research conducted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and Lappeenranta University of Technology.

VTT said that with waste being turned into a global trading commodity, there should be better recovery of the valuable metals contained in waste electronic equipment.

According to the report, ‘Directions of future developments in waste recycling’, stricter recycling targets and the rise in raw material prices are expected to promote the birth of new innovations for reducing material loss.

VTT explained that because only certain materials can currently be sorted, a number of waste materials are mixed at the collection phase. However, the researchers added that recycling processes based on crushing are manifestly unsuited to the separation of raw materials contained in ever more complex products.

“Material recycling can be increased by making waste collection and sorting more efficient, and by improving processing and sorting methods to maximise recovery of resources,” said VTT’s principal scientist, Ulla-Maija Mroueh. (see p39 for Ulla-Maija Mroueh’s contribution to WMW’s Trash Talking feature on e-waste).

According to Mroueh product recyclability should be taken into account as early as the product’s design stage.

Waste processing chains in need of development

The researchers said that during the research a new approach to analysing waste value chains was developed. Based on the analyses performed, waste utilisation occurring in the chains, whether in the form of material or energy, is environmentally and often also economically beneficial. New, more cost-effective solutions are nonetheless required for certain kinds of waste materials.

“One of the key problems was found to be a lack of good quality information regarding waste composition and behaviour during the treatment and utilisation processes. The information is necessary in assessing the environmental benefits of raw material recycling and to improve profitability,” observed senior researcher, Helena Dahlbo of the Finnish Environment Institute.

Aalto University project researcher, Maria Törn added: “Significant development areas were found to include improving the effectiveness of collection and sorting of material prior to crushing, optimising the recycling process, monitoring in real time, and analysis of materials throughout the value chain.”

The researchers also noted that more demanding targets for recycling, coupled with a ban on landfilling organic waste, will have a major impact on waste utilisation.

Landfill Gas Fuelled Turbine Passes Independent testing

Irvine, California based energy and environmental technology developer, Flex Power Generation has completed successful independent emissions tests of its Flex Powerstation™ FP250 system at the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Fort Benning, GA Army post.

The company claimed that the Flex Powerstation is the only landfill gas fuelled turbine to offer energy generation and pollution control for previously wasted landfill gas. The system can generate 250 kW of electricity, enough to power 250 around homes.

According to Flex, the energy produced has near-zero emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and will reduce the Army’s carbon footprint and bottom line.

The independent tests, conducted by Southern Research were carried out in October last year. As part of the process, three, one-hour sampling runs were completed per standard reference methods of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Among the results, which the company said it will publish formally in coming months, the Flex Powerstation emitted less than 5% of the California Air Resources Board’s 2013 allowable limit for NOx.

“The CARB 2013 standard is considered to be among the strictest in the world, and the Flex NOx emission results are unprecedented for a turbine or reciprocating engine running waste gas,” commented Boris Maslov, president and CEO of Flex Power Generation.

Meanwhile, Tim Hansen, director of Advanced Energy & Transportation Technology at Southern Research said: “The Flex Powerstation has demonstrated significantly lower emissions of NOx and non-methane organic carbon than many waste to energy solutions.”


Racketeering Charges in New York Waste industry

Twelve members of three New York crime families have been charged with a racketeering conspiracy in the waste industry following an extensive investigation.

In total, charges have been made against 32 individuals as part of an investigation into organised crime’s alleged control of large aspects of the commercial waste-hauling industry in greater New York City and in parts of New Jersey.

Australian Waste Gasification Plant Nears Completion

A waste gasification facility is in the final stages of construction in Carisbrook, Australia, according to a report by the Bendigo Advertiser.

Managing director of the project, R ay Gattisnce of Australian Renewable Energy Parks, explained that once complete the AU$6 million plant will convert waste timber into Syngas. He added that the plant will also have the potential to use waste from Bendigo or Ballarat, or even Melbourne.

The facility is expected to be operational in around six to eight weeks.

ISRI Scrap Yearbook 2012

The U.S. Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has published its Scrap Yearbook 2012.

The organisation said that the yearbook not only includes useful information about the economic and environmental benefits associated with scrap recycling, but also provides readers with commodity specific overviews of how scrap is generated, processed, traded and used.

In addition, the yearbook contains practical examples of the life cycles and material flows of key recycled goods and commodities.

Annual Bristish Plastics Recycling Survey Published

The British Plastics Federation’s Recycling Group (BPFRG) has released the results of its 2011 Annual Return Survey, which showed that its members recycled a total of 517,000 tonnes of plastics – breaking the half million tonne barrier for the first time.

The organisation said that its annual survey obtains information and statistics on the total tonnage of plastics recovered by its members and is a critical instrument to better understand the dynamics of the plastics recycling sector.

Annual Bristish Plastics Recycling Survey Published

The cumulative installed capacity of the global biogas power market has grown from 2388 MW in 2001 to 8377 MW in 2011, at a compound annual growth rate of 13.4%, according to a new report by market research company Global Information.

The report added that cumulative installed capacity is projected to register moderate growth over the forecast period, with cumulative installed capacity expected to reach 22,040 MW by 2025.

Backing for UK waste plastics pyrolysis technology developer

Swindon, UK based Recycling Technologies – a University of Warwick spin out company – has completed an equity financing deal with the Wroxall Investors Group (WIG), a Midlands-based business angel syndicate.

According to Recycling Technologies it was formed to commercialise a pyrolysis process developed at the University of Warwick which can transform mixed plastic waste (MPW) into heat and electricity. The company was spun out in 2011, with assistance from Warwick Ventures, the University’s research commercialisation arm.

In the first phase of the pyrolysis process, the WarwickFBR™ system shreds and dries the MPW. It then injects blended product into a fluidised bed, where in an oxygen depleted environment the long hydrocarbon chains form an energy rich gas.

The company said that this gas is then filtered to remove contamination and cooled to provide a type of heavy fuel oil. This fuel can be used to create steam or to power an engine driven generator. Each installation is tailored to the material to be processed and the facility in which it is installed.

“The concept of a machine that can be installed into existing recycling facilities to turn what most people still regard as waste plastic into electricity and heat in a CHP plant is timely given the increasing costs of landfill and energy prices,” commented Adrian Griffiths, managing director at Recycling Technologies.

According to Griffiths the company’s first machine is due to go into production in 2014. He added that the WIG investment will allow the company’s infrastructure to be expanded at its Swindon base, ensuring that the commercial opportunity is fully exploited.

BIR: Beware offers of cheap scrap metal shipments

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has issued a warning to recyclers in light of an on-going spate of spurious business offers involving non-existent cargoes of scrap metal.

According to BIR, over recent weeks it has received several reports of cases were cargoes of scrap metal were offered to member companies at knock-down prices. These ‘deals’ were accompanied by a set of documents confirming the quality of the goods on offer.

The Bureau said that following verification through the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), it became clear that the documents were not authentic. In several cases the same documents had been presented on multiple occasions with different company names.

This is said to suggest that either the same individuals were behind the offers, or that the documents were available in the public domain for use by fraudulent individuals.

BIR also cautioned that further analysis of these offers by the IMB revealed that they were quite frequently made in the name of real traders, whose identities were ‘cloned’ for fraudulent purposes.

Chinese residents at risk of lung cancer from e-waste plant

A recent study, co-authored by Oregon State University (OSU) researchers, has found that residents near an e-waste site in China face elevated risks of lung cancer.

According to the researchers e-waste is often collected at dump sites in developing countries and crudely incinerated to recover precious metals, including silver, gold, palladium and copper. The process is often primitive, releasing fumes with a range of toxic substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a group of more than 100 chemicals.

The main focus of the study was PAHs, many of which are recognised as carcinogenic and linked to lung cancer when inhaled. Over the course of a year, the researchers said that they collected air samples from two rooftops in two areas.

One was in a rural village in the southern province of Guangdong, less than a mile from an active e-waste burning site and not surrounded by any industry. The other was Guangzhou, a city heavily polluted by industry, vehicles and power plants but not e-waste.

The scientists concluded that those living in the e-waste village are 1.6 times more likely to develop cancer than their urban peers.

“In the village, people were recycling waste in their yards and homes, using utensils and pots to melt down circuit boards and reclaim metals,” explained Staci Simonich, a co-author of the study and a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at OSU.

Furthermore, the researchers estimated that of each million people in the e-waste area, between 15 to 1200 would develop lung cancer on account of PAHs over their lifetimes, while the likelihood in the city is slightly lower at nine to 737 per million.

INCINERATOR – County tried to blackmail me into removing opposition – MP

Henry Bellingham MP arrives at the incinerator inquiry to give evidence.

Henry Bellingham MP arrives at the incinerator inquiry to give evidence.

Published on 14/04/2013 14:00

Henry Bellingham MP told the inquiry that Norfolk County Council effectively attempted to blackmail him and Government colleague Elizabeth Truss into removing their opposition to the Saddlebow incinerator.

He accused the county council’s leadership of refusing to tolerate any dissent to the view the incinerator should go ahead, a campaign of vilification against those who did speak out and he said there was predetermination of the outcome of a committee meeting whose job it was to scrutinise the decision.

Mr Bellingham said that issue was so “disgraceful” that he plans to complain to the Secretary of State about it.

As Mr Bellingham set out a raft of reasons why he believed the incinerator should not be built in West Norfolk, he said it was necessary to ask why the proposal had even got so far as a planning inquiry.

He questioned the influence of Derrick Murphy, the former leader of applicant Norfolk County Council, who stepped down in February.

Mr Bellingham said: “He drove this whole project, becoming completely obsessed with this project and as part of his obsession he asked an official to lie on his behalf.

“I think this is incredibly serious and must cast a great deal of doubt over his role in the process.

“When you have behaviour as serious as this it is very difficult to isolate that and not look at the impact it had on other processes and the way in which other people behaved within the process.”

Mr Bellingham, North West Norfolk MP, told the inquiry at the Professional Development Centre, in North Lynn, on Wednesday, he and Elizabeth Truss, South West Norfolk MP, were warned county council funding would be removed from their constituencies after they raised objections to the incinerator. A decision, which, he said, was later revoked.

“It was tantamount to blackmail,” Mr Bellingham said.

He said county councillors John Dobson and Brian Long were vilified for asking for decisions over the incinerator to be called in for cabinet scrutiny.

Mr Bellingham added that in advance of that scrutiny meeting an email was sent by Tony Adams, the chairman, which said: “There has been a group discussion and a decision on the stance cabinet scrutiny committee members should adopt.”

Climate Change Impacts of Residual Waste Treatment

Download PDF : Eunomia_July_2011_Climate_ Change_Impacts