Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Pros and Cons of Re-Manufacturing: MIT Energy Analysis

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 24th, 2011

Source: Environmental Research Web

Image: Truck PR via flickr CC

From “When is it worth remanufacturing?“:

It seems like a no-brainer: Remanufacturing products rather than making new ones from scratch – widely done with everything from retread tires to refilled inkjet cartridges to remanufactured engines – should save a lot of energy, right? Not so fast, says a new study by researchers at MIT. In some cases, the conventional wisdom is indeed correct. But out of 25 case studies on products in eight categories done by a team led by Professor of Mechanical Engineering Timothy Gutowski, there were just as many cases where remanufacturing actually cost more energy as cases where it saved energy. And for the majority of the items, the savings were negligible or the energy balance was too close to call.

Why are the new results so different from what might have been assumed? The MIT team looked at the total energy used over the lifetime of a product – a life-cycle analysis – rather than just the energy used in the manufacturing process itself. In virtually all cases, it costs less money and less energy to make a product from the recycled “core” – the reusable part of the product – than to start from scratch. But the catch is that many of these remanufactured products are less energy efficient, or newer versions are more energy efficient, so the extra energy used over their lifetime cancels out the savings from the manufacturing stage.


Gutowski emphasizes that this research does not necessarily suggest a specific course of action. For any given product, there may be other reasons for preferring the remanufactured version even if it produces a net energy penalty. For example, remanufacturing may reduce the burden on landfills, reduce use and disposal of some toxic materials, or produce needed jobs in a particular area. And the expanded use of cell phones may have important social benefits, such as contributing to the recent wave of revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. “We’re not saying you shouldn’t do it,” he says – just suggesting that it’s worth understanding the decision’s effects in their entirety. “You think you’re doing the right thing, it sounds so simple,” Gutowski says. But when it comes to understanding the true impact of purchasing decisions on energy use, “things are far more complicated than we expect.”

Interested?  Read the full article from MIT on Environmental Research Web.

Brisbane to Construct Second Landfill Gas Plant

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 18th, 2011

Image via UK Energy Saving

From “Willawong waste-to-power plan gets Green approval” by Karin Adams, Sarah McVeigh on QUT News:

The Greens have welcomed Brisbane City Council’s plan to turn rubbish into power, but say the council is years behind the rest of the world.

The landfill site at Willawong in the south of Brisbane will have its methane and carbon dioxide emissions turned into electricity and put into the grid. Methane gas is 21 times more environmentally damaging than carbon dioxide. Landfill Gas Industries managing director Adam Bloomer, the company building the plant, says this will tackle a huge problem for council. “Every council in Australia that owns a landfill,” she said. “Their landfill is their single biggest source of their carbon emissions.” “Generally they’re somewhere in the range of 60 to 70 per cent of their greenhouse gas emission.”

Queensland Greens spokesperson Libby Connors says Brisbane and Australia are behind the rest of the world. “Queensland and Brisbane in particular are a long way behind the (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) where at least 20 OECD countries are already using this sort of technology,” she said. She says she has been calling for the Willawong landfill gas plan for 20 years. “Australia has been really smug for many years that the easiest solution for our waste disposal is landfill because we’ve supposedly got all this space,” she said. “You know that is just completely been the wrong attitude.”

Waste Management Association of Australia Queensland president Pravin Menon says Brisbane City Council is pushing forward with good sustainability policy. “What Brisbane City Council is doing is extremely responsible from an environmental perspective…in actually utilising a resource in the ground that would otherwise add to our environmental impact,” he said. He says future waste management strategies need to avoid, reuse and divert waste. “Councils should firstly look at reducing the amount of waste that they send to landfill,” he said.

Ms Connors says Queensland is missing landfill gas plant opportunities. “It’s interesting the only two plants are here in Brisbane but there are plenty of other opportunities to develop this around the state,” she said. Mr Bloomer says the benefits of the plant are environmental but won’t stem the rising electricity prices. “I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference to electricity prices,” he said. “Renewable energy is still a premium product as far as cost is concerned.” But he says what it will do is provide power to around 1400 homes annually. The plant will be operational by June 2012.

Read this article by Karin Adams & Sarah McVeigh on QUT News.

CERES: Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 2nd, 2011

Image: avlxyz via flickr CC

CERES – Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, is an award winning, not-for-profit, environment and education centre and urban farm located by the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia. Built on a decommissioned municipal tip that was once a landfill and wasteland, today CERES is a thriving, vibrant community. Over 300,000 people visit CERES each year. Many more connect with us through our innovative program taking sustainable education directly to schools across the State.

CERES is recognised as an international leader in community and environmental practice. CERES Organic Farm, Market, Shop, Co-ops and Café and Permaculture and Bushfood Nursery are unique social enterprises that offer new solutions and ways to combat climate change. Community groups such as the Bike Shed, Community Gardens and Chook Group that call CERES home are also vital to CERES culture.

All waste and water on the site is recycled and much of the site is powered by renewable energy such as wind and solar. CERES is now working towards making the site completely carbon neutral by 2012. CERES is a model for a possible future where innovation, sustainability, equity and connectedness are valued. Both as a place and a community, CERES is striving to create a new way of being.

Watch a video about CERES here or visit the website to explore the enormous range of projects, enterprises and opportunities CERES supports:

Learning from a Community Composting Setback

Posted in Movements, Opinion, Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 20th, 2011

From “Community composting – here one day, gone the next” by Russ Grayson:


“…A new technology or new approach to doing something had a greater chance of long-term success when it comes as a package containing the technology + a clear plan for its maintenance + the training of those who will take over and use it.”


What had started as an innovative idea of local people came to an end when, one warm Wednesday afternoon in late March 2011, the City of Sydney removed the community composting installation in Peace Park, Chippendale. The removal reminded me of something I had learned some time ago at a place not very far away.

Technology transfer: a three-legged construction

In those days I worked for an international development NGO operating in the South Pacific and what I learned still makes a lot of sense to me. We worked in village food security and small scale, sustainable farming systems using the LEISA (Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture) approach, however the NGO—then based only hundreds of metres away in the University of Technology, Sydney, though 14 years in the past—also did village micro-hydro electrification.

It would have been easy for the NGO to have come in to some Solomon Island village and install a micro-hydro system, turn on the lights and leave. That approach was not unknown when it came to development assistance work by government programs and even by small, community based NGOs. Instead, those in the NGO were savvy enough to know that technology transfer, to be done properly, comes as a three legged structure. That technology transfer structure is this: a new technology or new approach to doing something had a greater chance of long-term success when it comes as a package containing the technology + a clear plan for its maintenance + the training of those who will take over and use it. It’s a simple enough proposition but it’s all too often ignored. The lesson has stayed with me and it came to mind when I started working with the City of Sydney where I collaborate with the City’s waste projects co-ordinator on community composting trials.


Gone, but a reboot is coming

Community composting is a new idea both to communities and to local government. Neither have tried it before. Solutions are being developed and trialled as we go. There are no instruction manuals. The City and local people installed a community composting system consisting of seven Aerobin composters (one for each day of the week) in Peace Park in inner urban Chippendale that is within easy walking distance of Sydney’s busy Railway Square.

That day in late March, the City in agreement with the local people who had been maintaining the system removed the seven Aerobins of the community composting facility. The reason? Cockroaches. Multitudes of cockroaches. The community compost had gone from a good idea in local resource recovery to a public health issue. There had been the comment from locals about odour and flies, though these may have been not the common house fly but vinegar flies and other flying insects that appear during composting as part of the decomposition process.

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Garage Trail Sale 2011

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 31st, 2011

What if all the garage sales in your area were held on the same day? You could plan your route and visit heaps of different sales easily – maybe even with a bike and a trailer.


The Garage Sale Trail is about sustainability, community and fun. By getting people together to turn their old stuff into someone else’s new stuff, the day not only proves that second hand items can still have value, it keeps rubbish off the street, removes clutter from cupboards, stops a bunch of new things being brought into the world (along with the environmental impact that creates) and gives everyone good reason to meet the neighbours and have a good natter at the same time.

The Garage Sale Trail is on Sunday April 10 all around Australia – check out the map to see sales in your area or add your own. The site also has a free app to let you navigate easily on the day using your phone.

Using Price to Improve Recycling Rates

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 30th, 2011

Source: via Awake

What’s “rubbish”?  Image: haemengine via flickr CC

From “A small town in Germany where recycling pays” by Leo Hickman:
A car towing a trailer full of construction waste pulls up at the weigh-station by the entrance gate. Weiss wanders over to inspect the contents. “This weighs about half of tonne. If will cost €270 to dump it as it is. Or if the car owner sorts it into separate types of waste — timber, paper, plasterboard etc — it will cost him just €17. That, in summary, is our system. We provide a major incentive to recycle.”

The citizens of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse take their recycling very seriously. So much so that there is even a collection point at the recycling depot for dead animals. “People bring their dead dogs here,” says Stefan Weiss, one of the town’s waste managers, as he steps into a refrigerated shed and opens the lid on a wheelie bin containing a deer’s head recently deposited by a local hunter. “All these animals get rendered down at a nearby facility for their fat. It then gets used to produce things like this.” Weiss pulls a tube of lip balm from his pocket.

Located in the south-western state of Rheinland-Pfalz and set in the heart of Palatinate wine-growing region, the predominantly middle-class, medieval town of Neustadt boasts the best recycling rates in Germany. Over the past 30 years, the town has nurtured and refined a system that means it now recycles about 70% of its waste – 16% higher than the state target. By comparison, UK recycling rates average about 40% – up from just 5% in the mid-1990s.

The reason for Neustadt’s success is simple, says Weiss. “It’s all about providing financial incentives and education. We don’t charge citizens anything for the recycled waste they leave out. And the less waste you put out for incineration – we’ve had no landfill in Germany since 2005 – the less you pay. Having no incentive to reduce waste is poisonous to your aims. We have a separate, visible fee that is intentionally not embedded within a local tax.”

For example, the majority of Neustadt’s 28,000 households opt for a 60-litre bin for their non-recycled waste. This is collected once a fortnight and costs the household €6.60 in collection fees. If a household opts for a 40l bin, the fee falls to €5.30. Conversely, if they opt for a 240l bin (the standard wheelie bin volume in the UK), the fee rises to €24, or €48 if they want it collected weekly. If they produce higher than expected waste due to, say, having a party, they can buy special 60l plastic sacks for €3 and leave them out by their bins for collection.

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“Green Demolition”: Localised Redistribution of Materials

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 21st, 2011

Source: Change Observer

From D-Build: A sustainable model for the second life of buildings by Maria Popova:

Materials science has been one of the fastest-growing frontiers of innovation, particularly in the realm of sustainable design. Yet there seems to be an odd disconnect between our desire to reinvent tomorrow’s materials and our failure to intelligently address the life-cycle of today’s. This is precisely what Syracuse-based project D-Build is trying to change through a new model for materials reuse and upcycling in building deconstruction, using principles of design thinking to change the afterlife of architecture. An alternative to both traditional demolition, which can be costly and dangerous, and traditional deconstruction, which is time-consuming and requires a large workforce, D-Build uses a hybrid process called “green demolition.” A building is cut into pieces of manageable size and processed on the ground by a tight, efficient local crew. The site then serves as a hub for connecting buildings, people and businesses, offering a peer-to-peer marketplace for users to exchange materials salvaged from deconstructed buildings and sell industrial design products made with these upcycled materials.

This time-lapse footage captures D-Build’s fascinating, nearly ant-like deconstruction process.

Read the full article by Maria Popova on Change Observer.

Life Cycle Analysis of Fresh Mango Industry: Reducing Waste

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 14th, 2011

Source: CSIRO via FoodMag

Image: visualdensity via flickr CC

A study by CSIRO on the carbon and water footprints of the Australian fresh mango industry has identified areas of waste in the supply chain that could apply to other food industries.

CSIRO determined the impact of food waste on the carbon and water footprints of the Australian fresh mango industry using a technique called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA can also highlight where the greatest opportunities are in the supply chain to help minimise wastage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve valuable water resources and improve food security. The results show that a staggering 54 per cent of the average yearly production – about 19 000 tonnes of mangoes – are wasted along the way from farm to fork. In this podcast, CSIRO’s Dr Brad Ridoutt explains how and why the LCA on fresh mangos was done and how important Life Cycle Assessment could be in making food systems more sustainable in the future.

“…Probably the bigger issue is how representative is the mango industry of the food industry generally. And that’s where we’d like to expand our future work to understand more broadly, because what we’re really trying to understand is, how can we produce a sustainable food system. The work on mangoes was really just a case study to give us some insights.”

Read the full transcript of the interview or listen to the podcast here.

Not Far From The Tree: Urban Orchard Network

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 9th, 2011

© Not Far From The Tree

Not Far From The Tree puts Toronto’s fruit to good use by picking and sharing the bounty.

When a homeowner can’t keep up with the abundant harvest produced by their tree, they let us know and we mobilize our volunteers to pick the bounty. The harvest is split three ways: 1/3 is offered to the tree owner, 1/3 is shared among the volunteers, and 1/3 is delivered by bicycle to be donated to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens in the neighbourhood so that we’re putting this existing source of fresh fruit to good use. It’s a win-win-win situation! This simple act has profound impact. With an incredible crew of volunteers, we’re making good use of healthy food, addressing climate change with hands-on community action, and building community by sharing the urban abundance.

With our first full season in 2008, Not Far From The Tree has grown quickly:

  • We transport all of our equipment and fruit by bicycle, keeping our carbon footprint low.
  • We were an official part of Nuit Blanche with our all-night cider-pressing art installation, City Cider.
  • We participated in 40+ fairs, festivals, and community events across the city this year.
  • We ran 12 preserving workshops to extend the harvest year-round and share local food skills.
  • We harvest maple syrup from city trees, too, to demonstrate a local winter crop from Toronto trees (see Syrup in the City)
  • We will be starting a public fruit tree mapping initiative to be launched in 2011.
  • We helped Toronto’s first community orchard become established.
Visit the website to find out more about this very active project

Tracking the Impact of Films: “The End of the Line”

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 28th, 2011

Source: The Ecologist

From “The End of the Line: how a film changed the way we eat fish” by Tom Levitt and Ali Thomas:

A new report highlights the lasting impact of The End of the Line in raising awareness of unsustainable fishing practices – and illustrates how radical new film funding models can work.

More than one million people have now watched The End of the Line, a groundbreaking expose of the consequences of overfishing, according to an evaluation of the film’s impact. The film was the first major documentary to look at the impact of overfishing on the world’s oceans with a quarter of the world’s fish stocks being exploited to extinction and a further half at, or close to, their maximum capacity. It highlighted how many of well-known species, including bluefin tuna and cod, are likely to be extinct by 2048.

Although initially watched by less than 10,000 people in the cinema, the film managed to reach a much wider audience of 4.7 million in the UK through a combination of media coverage, strong campaigning – and later – TV screenings. It also inspired a wave of coverage of unsustainable fishing practices, including the recent TV series ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’.

A new report by the Britdoc Foundation said post-film campaign work around the documentary meant that for each film watcher, a further 510 people had heard about it. A quarter of a million people alone watched the film’s trailer on YouTube.

The team behind the film set up consumer focused websites ‘Seafood Watch Widget’ and ‘Fish to Fork’ to allow people to check on the sustainability of popular supermarket fish species. It also advised on restaurants selling fish species listed as endangered by the Marine Stewardship council (MSC).


Read the full article (there’s lots more great detail) by Tom Levitt and Ali Thomas