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Recycling our path towards cleaner energy and planet

Nina Simons's picture
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My name is Nina. I'm a digital nomad, yoga aficionado, travel enthusiast with a distinctive taste for interior design. I’m passionate about learning new things and sharing meaningful ideas.

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  • Dec 13, 2017 3:27 pm GMT

Recycling and energy saving has become a burning issue of many countries. With fossil fuels rapidly reducing in amount and the growing need of households over the world for more energy, not to mention factories, it is clear that an increasing number of countries needs to step up and a find a way to recycle more than before.

Of course, there are countries that are already global leaders when it comes to awareness of its people about the importance of recycling and their government's effort to reduce the use of non-recyclable materials and to come up with new ways of reducing waste. However, the circumstances demand a higher level of participation of every citizen and of creativity amongst recycling companies.

Maximizing the use of waste

Even though there are western European countries that invest in recycling and reducing waste, Sweden is far more active in it than any other. It is a country where almost a hundred percent of household waste is recycled, having to even import waste from other countries in order to have some waste to burn and produce energy. This is a path that every country should follow. According to a rule, every residential area in Sweden must have a recycling station no more than 300 meters away from the residential buildings.

Materials that are being recycled and reused in Sweden are numerous. Newspapers are used for creating paper mass, plastic containers are turned into raw material, bottles are usually melted and new items are then produced. Food residues are also not wasted - they are composted through chemical processes and turned into soil or biogas. Even wastewater goes through a purification process until it becomes safe for drinking. The recycling process goes so far that even pharmacies accept medicine that remained unused. This country is quickly approaching fulfilling the goal of zero waste.

50% of waste in Sweden is used for producing energy. The ashes that remain after the burning consist of metals, which are later separated and used again. A smaller amount of ashes is porcelain and tile, which the Swedes use in road construction. The smoke coming out from the incineration plants is filtered, and the mud that remains after is used for refilling deserted mines.

Another northern European country is making best out of waste - Denmark. According to statistics, this country generates 831kg of waste per person every year, which they cleverly use for producing electric energy. Just for comparison, junk removal services state that an average Australian family produces approximately 2.2 kg of junk every day, which is around 600kg per year. However, the question is what is each of these countries doing with that waste? According to experts, if we burn just one bag of rubbish, we could provide an average home with 3.5 hours of electricity. This is what Denmark is great at - in 2016, 56% of Danish household electricity was generated from the waste collected.

Recycling prospects in Australia

Rotting rubbish is a huge source of potential source of electricity in Australia. Currently, the company Cleanaway could produce enough gas from food residues and organic rubbish to provide approximately 80,000 homes in Australia.

The issue in Australia is not the lack of interest in recycling among people; it's the lack of awareness and access to recycling stations and overall schemes for recycling.

First, non-recyclable materials can be turned into heat, electricity or even fuel, if proper companies develop and start using the proper technology. Most of this type of waste can be burned, namely combusted.

However, organic waste like food residues from the kitchen and garden can't be treated this way, as they have too much moisture to undergo the process. This type of waste is then sent to problematic Australian landfills, where they naturally decompose and release methane, the infamous greenhouse gas, which poses an issue in many countries. Unfortunately, only 20-30% of this gas is used to produce electricity in Australia. The problem is in funding - in order for the landfills to be able to use a higher percentage of methane, they need to upgrade their current technology. Sure, the cost would initially be higher, but the benefits would be numerous and expenses would be lower in the long run. Australians would be certainly ready to agree on giving more money to the landfills if it will mean reducing the emission of methane and using it for heating their households.

Regarding the recycling in Australian households, 30-35% of materials are recycled thanks to people who diligently separate their paper, glass and plastic items. It is a clear sign that the awareness of the importance of recycling is present, but the awareness needs to be spread, as well as clear and detailed plan regarding the use of waste and equipping the landfills and recycling companies.

All in all

Most countries, as well as Australia, are on their path to a cleaner environment and planet. This path is paved with recycling activities and waste-reducing programs, present at the level of each household, as well as at the level of big recycling companies and governments. Each country has a task to improve their fight against pollution and waste and to move it to the next level.

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Rachael Lewis's picture
Rachael Lewis on Jan 16, 2018

From a share to LinkedIn: "Food waste and other organic material can be processed into energy via pressure and heat preceding an advanced anaerobic digestion system."

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