In 2007, only 2.6 percent of the nearly 29.2 million metric tons of organic “waste” generated in North America was recovered, due to inefficient collection processes. Through heightened awareness and improved practices, progress has certainly been made since then. However, as populations continue to expand, so too does the sheer volume of residual material we have to deal with. Unfortunately, our current model is still predominantly based on a linear approach of production to consumption to disposal.
This continues to contribute and stress our existence, both environmentally and economically. Many of us have taken steps to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in our own homes and communities including proper recycling and through other methods of waste diversion but what about on a larger scale?? Can we implement the three R’s more effectively to reduce our impact on the natural environment and perhaps even benefit from it?
A recent publication from the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) suggests that, yes we can. Implementing changes to our waste management system and modeling it more like a natural, circular ecological system is the key to unlocking many, major benefits , therebyallowing us to view “waste” as less of a problem and more of a valuable resource with vast, potential opportunity.
Strides towards a more circular economy
The list of challenges that result from a linear approach to waste management is long. The linear model results in decreased productive farmland, increased disposal costs, increased use of finite resources, increased organic waste, and increased social, environmental, and economic pressures – to name a few. However, if we can recapture a significant proportion of these materials, and effectively reuse them, some of these stressors can be alleviated.
One example of organic “waste” is biosolids – and we produce a lot of it. In fact, each year, over 10 million dry tonnes of biosolids are generated in Canada and the United States alone. Wastewater from the drains and toilets in our homes has two components: water and solids. At the treatment plant, the solids are separated using various processing methods. This is where the opportunity to beneficially utilize this organic, energy-rich material lies.
Innovative advancements in biosolids and organics management technology, such as the solutions developed by Lystek International, are allowing us to recapture, transform and repurpose these valuable resources. Utilizing a combination of heat, alkali, and high shear mixing to break down the biological material in these materials, the patented and proven Lystek thermal hydrolysis system provides practical, affordable solutions for converting wastewater treatment plants into Resource Recovery Centres. The multi-purpose system creates an end product with multiple uses, such as the creation of a Class A quality, liquid biofertilizer product called LysteGro.
This unique material, which is ideal for use in agriculture, horticulture, sod farming, golf courses, composting (and more) is helping to close the loop and contribute to a more “circular” economy. Diversion of biosolids and organics from landfills decreases the use of chemical fertilizers, and therefore, our reliance on finite resources, such as mined phosphates. This results in a more sustainable, overall approach to the management of these materials – and the potential benefits of this innovative approach do not end there. The same, simple system can also be leveraged to reduce overall output volumes while enhancing the performance of anaerobic digesters resulting in increased biogas production for green energy. Finally, the “Lystecized” material can also be utilized as a cost effective, alternative carbon source in BNR systems.
Waste to Recovery to Revenue
Generating an organic, sustainable fertilizer is an economical solution for growers and communities. LysteGro biofertilizer can be applied using standard delivery equipment and methodologies. Its liquid format allows for it to be immediately incorporated directly into the soil for more uniform placement, faster uptake of nutrients and realization of the value found in the organic matter present in the product. Ultimately, this can help growers meet the increased demand in food production. The system is also beneficial for generators due to its low operating, energy and maintenance costs.
So, while technologies such as Lystek that can be utilized to sustainably recapture and re-use the value found in biosolids and other organics, there are still many challenges to overcome before we can truly claim we have achieved success in the goal to creating a circular economy. Some great examples of how we can get ether can be found in a recent report issued by the Ontario Waste Management Associations (OWMA). Read more about this here.
In the end, methodologies and approaches (such as the recycling of biosolids and organics) that allow us to mimic nature and implement a more sustainable system of production to resource recovery will also help to create jobs and stimulate our economy. In Ontario alone, it is estimated that a circular economy that recycles and reuses “waste” resources could support up to 13,000 new jobs and result in a subsequent rise to Ontario’s GDP of $1.5 billion. By closing the loop, we can reroute these materials and create new sources of revenue to the benefit both today’s communities as well as for generations to come.