The perception of smells take us to places, moments and memories. Apart from damaging the environment and affecting our respiratory system, open-air dumps impregnate us with those memories so that we never forget them and keep them in mind.
When we talk about waste management, we must bear in mind that practically no productive process in the past or its value chain contemplated the generation of waste as part of it, nor the negative effects on the quality of life of human beings. Otherwise, open dumps, clandestine dumps and pollution in general by waste would have no reason to exist.
The generation of waste it is unavoidable. We can be more efficient, reduce the amount of waste we generate, but the goal of zero waste is not feasible today. Therefore, incorporating the treatment of goods and services into the production system is a large part of the solution.
One in two people in the world do not have access to formal wastewater treatment systems. Inadequate waste management is a major global problem for health, the economy and the environment. The good news is that the systems to solve this problem already exist, are viable and represent a substantial improvement in people’s quality of life and in the protection and conservation of ecosystems. Alsothey are a good business, as evidenced by several populations that have successfully implemented them.
The report “Global perspective of waste management” published in 2015 by UNEP and ISWA indicates the benefits of sustainable waste management: public savings (the lack of adequate systems costs countries between five and ten times more than the necessary investments), huge reductions in greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause climate change, creation of millions of green jobs and economic benefits estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Correct waste management not only solves current socio-environmental problems, but also helps us prevent them and brings us great benefits and business opportunities.
Where to start?
As we have already said, the generation of waste is inevitable. And we generate different types or classes of them. Therefore, the first step will always consist of identifying these categories and classifying the waste at source in order to give it the best possible destination and use.
When looking for alternatives for their management and treatment, we are very used to talking about the reuse and recycling of materials such as paper, cardboard, plastics and metals, but we do not usually give greater importance to the management of organics, for that there are also innovative options.
We can find success stories around the world. In addition to the implementation of social, fiscal and legal policies, environmental education, reuse and recycling centers, some were encouraged to do more.
For example, Flanders (Belgium) with the implementation of the system “Pay As You Throw” (PAYT): The less garbage your citizens produce, the less taxes or municipal fees they pay. In Singapore (Asia) and Malmö (Sweden) they resorted to energy recovery, reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Malmö also produces 25,000 tons of biofertilizer per year, 10,000 tons of compost, biogas equivalent to two million liters of gasoline using its waste as resources.
In Argentina, During the last 5 years, 10 large-scale biodigestion projects and more than 100 home-scale biogas plant installations have been developed. Municipalities such as Comodoro Rivadavia, in Chubut, and Presidente Sáenz Peña, in Chaco, have advanced in pre-feasibility studies to generate energy from home collection. These projects put us in perspective of a promising future in terms of energy transition and recovery of waste as raw material in our country.
The great challenge over the next few years will be to build that future, where clean air, clean streets and the smell of wet grass are compatible with the treatment and final disposal sites for our waste. Where the smells and images associated with our garbage, move us to positive memories and sensations, physically and emotionally promoting a substantial improvement in our quality of life.
Technician in Anaerobic Biodigestion and founder of GEA Bio.