Sr. Herman Huisman | innovative techniques in the use and treatment of solid waste
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Just turned the afternoon.
My presentation will be about waste management, new technologies in waste management, but unlike you expect, it’s not about new technologies actually it’s more about organization, legislation and economy.
I think I am the only one in this audience who doesn’t speak Spanish, so I just have one translator over there if somebody wants it, otherwise it is also a lesson in English for you.
I will quickly move on, with a small introduction of the Netherlands and a sort of overview of different phases in waste management and the politics which can be introduced, technologies and practices, and I will finalize with the new politics in Western Europe and that’s the one on circular economy.
So first, a brief introduction on the Netherlands. A small country, 17 million inhabitants and also the 17th in the rank of economies in the world, only 40.000 sq. km. We are a low country, that’s where our name comes from bees mussels and it is the delta, actually, of two main rivers in Europe: the Rhine and the Meuse. Despite the population size, we are also the second producer of agricultural products, and Netherlands is a highly innovative country. Two-thirds of our country is below sea level, so that’s why watermelons** in the Netherlands is quite well known, but I hope to explain that also waste management have deserved that row**.
So, the different phases in waste management, these phases we went through in the Netherlands starting at about 1875. Unless you leapfrog some of these phases, you can… Actually you have to go through these phases.
The first attention at waste management is usually public health. Waste is a source of diseases, and so the first initiatives in many countries is to focus on this, focus on collection of the waste. And so to avoid the waste and sanitation being a risk for public health. So, the focus was on collection and waste was transported outside the city, usually to dump sites which were not well maintained. This is a phase which is really still existent in many places of the world. And in Western Europe we found that, in 1970s, we found that this land fields of dump sites were polluting our groundwater, our soil and the air. So, we entered a new area of environmental protection, one of control and fix, of cleaning the leachates and cleaning the gases from waste energy plants, those kinds of measures.
We still did not do anything about recycling, diverting waste from landfills, that was only in 1990s when we really faced that sort of waste crisis. And there is a saying with us: “Never waste a good crisis because at that moment everybody wants to find a solution and everybody needs to cooperate.” So, that is what happened in the 1990s in the Netherlands, we introduced an integral politics.
As you can see in the graph as well (it’s in Spanish so if you don’t understand my language you can all still read the slides). The collection phase was really based on municipal authority, the control and fix phase was upscaled to regional, provincial level and for the integral politics we are at a national level. And we introduced recycling, we institutionalized recycling, we introduced systems of extended producer responsibility, we introduced landfill bans, landfill taxes and we stimulated recycling a lot. So, that was really a very important phase.
From then on, less waste was going to landfills, and actually we ended this phase recently because we reached everything you can reach with these traditional waste policies. Now we moved to what we call “the Circular Economy,” because if you are still focused on this ‘end of pipe’ solution on the waste which is produced, you will never have better results. So, you have to look at consumption, you have to look at production, you have to look at how the materials are being excavated, so that is part of our Circular Economy. But I will explain that in even more detail.
So, this is the situation which you will find in many different countries, pictures of Turkey, of Homam, of Colombia, you see kettle on landfills eating the waste and well, obviously this will be also passed on to your meat. These are pictures from Morocco, from Tanzania, from India, and you see waste pickers everywhere, catadores, which are in many countries all over the world, only in the Western world we hardly see catadores, but many other parts of the world you see those who try to get some income from recycling. And in those countries these people are the only ones who recycle because the government is not active in this field, they just still collect the residual waste and put it in the dumpsites, and not being involved in formal system of recycling.
Different countries, different birds, goosevills in South Africa, storks in Morocco, vultures which are here in Panama but also in Colombia and other places. Actually it is still indicating that there is still a lot of organic waste in the landfills and the organics are the main source of meat emissions, the landfill gases, of the leachates and of the pest animals. So, that would be the first: to reduce.
So, this is sort of the worldwide picture and you can see that landfilling or dumping is still the most practiced way of treating waste by far. Recycling waste-to-energy, composting and other materials technologies are not that common, and on the right hand side you see that the low income countries, dumping and landfilling, is still most practiced, while in the higher income countries: recycling, composting and all these technologies are being practiced as well.
Looking at the amount of waste in the future and the cost of waste in the future, you see that in many countries, low income countries, less than 50% of the citizens are served by a waste collection system, which means that ….in low income countries the collection rate is really very low and this is really a threat to the public health and to the environment. Waste should be collected it's the source of diseases like Cholera for instance, still in many of the big cities. And here it shows that in the future proportionally in the low income countries the cost will be increased a lot. So, in the middle and high income countries in a lower proportional rate and even in our country the cost of recycling the cost of waste management is reducing because we have a highly recycling system.
And here it shows again from low income countries who are focusing on collection but still there is a low level of covering of the citizens. And while in other countries the parts of the cost going to collection is rather low. In different countries, in higher income countries the composition of the waste is different as well. So in the lower income, middle income countries, more than half of the municipal waste is organic while in higher income countries there are other waste streams that become more important like glass and paper, metal, plastics, all those materials. And the organic fraction is lower so waste treatment has a different phase in those areas.
And this is a graph which shows the comparison or which shows the correlation between the solid waste management, the level of solid waste management and the GDP perhaps. And as you might expect, with increasing income, with increasing wealths, the solid waste management level would be increased. That's the general correlation. But also you see in some of the countries with a high income, you will say: Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, they have high GDP, but still they landfill more than half of their waste. So, it's not a general line but these countries they do not regard their waste management too much and don't want to pay a lot of money to that.
So, in order to move on, there are different policies being developed in many Western European countries but also in other countries, and this is also the way or the policies other countries in Latin America adopt, Colombia is active in this, Brazil (I worked there, it is the same).
So, first focus in the legislation is close the dumpsites because the dumpsites, they are really polluting the environment and are very bad for the citizens, for climates and so on. So, close the dumpsites and construct sanitary landfills and include all costs of these landfills, so, it should not be free anymore, it should cover the cost, full cost recovery system and not just for the operational cost but also for the investment and also for the post closure because in the end you have to cover the landfill to reduce the environmental impact.
And as we did and many different countries do is put a tax on landfilling. Make landfilling more expensive just to recycle, to stimulate the recycling, so to create a recycling economy because there are only very few materials, which have a positive value, most waste has a negative value. So, if you make landfilling more expensive, recycling will be more rewarding and so you create a market for that. And if you want to move towards waste-to-energy, just plan it only for residual waste, so not for old mixed waste, but only for the waste which remains after recycling.
So, strict environmental regulations, enforcement, educate citizens of course, ambitious targets, set up monitoring systems, and control and regulate all the activities. Specially for the rural areas set up corporations of municipalities, the municipalities themselves are too small to really adopt all these measures, corporations of municipalities, regional corporations of municipalities is a very important one, and compare their performance. That was a very important step in many countries as well. Introduce extended producer responsibility. Extended producer responsibility means that the one who puts a product on the market has to collect it and recycle it and pay for the whole system. If you buy this product in many countries, the cost of collection and recycling is already included. So, you don't pay it as a citizen but you pay it as a consumer and by that you include the organizing capacity of the industry in making them responsible. And there are other advantages in this as well. The first important step is to actually close dumpsites and introduce a tariff system, ask for a fee for the total cost.
Since the organic fraction is really the largest fraction really focus on this organic fraction, make sure that this will not end up in landfills. And there are rather low cost solution for that windrow compost thing, which is often competing with high cost of transportation to regional landfills. So, there are other systems as well which are more costly but the windrow composting is a very attractive system. So, separate the organics. When you separate the organics you can produce a high quality fertilizer by means of aerodigestion but also by composting. And collect recyclables as separate as possible but you can also choose a system of wet and dry, which is chosen in Brazil, in South Africa and many other countries.
If you have collected a mixture of recyclables you can set up a system for sorting all the materials so instead of having the catadores at the landfills, you can build these facilities, where in good labor conditions and on good public health conditions people can do their work, better condition than on the landfills.
This is a picture from Cape Town but there on the right hand side, there on the top there is a system which is applied in Morocco, in Rabat-Salé the capital city in which the dumpsites were turned into a sanitary landfill and the new owner said: “I don't want the catadores on my landfill,” and he built this rather simple material recycling facilities, and the people who were catadores on this landfill are now employed on this facility. So, that's a very good step you made.
I mentioned extended producer responsibility. In Europe there are many different systems for extended producer responsibility but also in Brazil, in Colombia, in Canada, even China, India is moving to this system. And with this system you create a stable collecting system and you create an environmental responsibility behavior. It also contributes to design for recycling and these systems prevent illegal dumping of these materials and illegal exports, and they give their annual reports to us in which they show their performance. And these systems turn out to be very effective. So, in Europe this is by law for all the 28 different countries they have introduced this extended producer responsibility system, and what I mentioned already they introduce new money in the system, as the fee of the products which you recycle.
More advanced systems you can introduce, collections systems, underground containers but that is a more costly system. In our country it is interesting because we have labor cost but in lower and middle income countries you don't want to exclude people from labor, you want to introduce them in this market, so this is only for countries with high labor costs who would introduce these systems which… And waste-to-energy but I will come to that as well.
And when you introduce more advanced systems, make sure that the one who tries to sell you this, the supplier, is experienced as well. So, this is a quadrant which has a proven technology but supplied by an inexperienced supplier, you have a risk and the same with not proven technology but with an experienced supplier, you have a risk. The risk is even highest when you have a non-proven technology and an inexperienced supplier. But in my experience many countries are trying to sell this non-proven technologies to developing countries, and for some reason these are built. So, be aware of these unsolicited bits and always ask for their track records and for their experience. So, the best is to have proven technologies with an experienced supplier, so that is what should move towards…
Waste-to-energy is actually a way to, a part we took waste-to-energy is expensive. In our country it is only used for residual waste, not for general waste. There is even a ban for incineration of untreated waste, untreated waste from households, from construction demolition waste. You have to take out recyclables before you allow to incinerate. You produce energy and you can clean the flue gases at a cost, but it would not be the first technology to introduce. So, this gives a sort of advantages and disadvantages of waste-to-energy. In the end you have to see whether it is affordable or not in your country.
So, so far we have really discussed or talked about the traditional waste management, and the traditional waste management is in the area of linear economies, so where you take, make and discard the products. And there is hardly any recycling going on. If you are going to a next phase, an economy with feedback loops then there is already some recycling going on but not to a maximum extent. And in the circular economy, the idea is to keep all the materials at the highest possible value level so to optimize and reutilize materials and to change, make a change from forcible based, non sustainable products to the abundant available renewable products. And also to create a new way of production, new business models and also new consumption models. So, as an example: you don't but the product, you just buy the service. So, you don't buy a car but you use the service of a car renting system, or you don't buy a copier that you lease the system. That makes it more easy to recycle and to refurbish.
So, there is this expression in the economy of recycling, there are the three R’s: Reduce, reuse and recycle, with the circular economy there are ten R’s which focuses really on: Repair, refurbish, remanufacture and recycling is really the last step.
If you buy this one in Europe you pay about 800 Euros. If this is recycled, the value is only about 5 dollars and if you refurbish it you can buy a second hand refurbished phone for about 300 Euros. So that’s a completely new market which is not just for phones but for many consumer goods that you can refurbish, repair, remanufacture all these products.
To conclude, the technology is not really a sensorial problem, it's really the organization, how to manage, how to organize the whole system, that’s really the key. And also de willingness and the courage to control, enforce and also to charge people for their waste services instead of giving it for free, which is not really an incentive. So, of course this fee should be based on the capacity of people to pay and there are very nice examples, for instance in Colombia where they have certifications of different districts and based on the district you live, you pay a higher or lower fee. The technologies differ, of course, from country to country and no tax solutions often offer more employments, and therefore are more applicable in lower income countries. But in higher income countries this high technology is really based on the high labor costs and therefore, to exclude as much labor as possible. So, it is very important, of course, to create the awareness of citizens but also the corporate social responsibility of the producers. And in this new Circular Economy, actually, we do need some new technologies as well. And so, the focus in the Netherlands is really to see what kind of technology, what kind of science we need to move towards this Circular Economy.
Waste is a choice and the choice is yours.
Thank you very much.