Taking out the trash—waste treatment technology sol...
California-based company, GaiaRecycle™, is well-established as a world leader within the organic waste recycling industry. The company has developed innovative technologies for transforming food scraps and other organic waste into high-quality soil amendments. Over 40 registered patents have been applied to the systems, which range in size, and are reported to reduce waste volume and weight by up to 90 percent. The systems speed up the organic decomposition process. Drying, sterilizing and grinding of materials can be completed within eight to eleven hours. The systems are used in both industrial and commercial applications, such as for large food manufacturers and producers, and livestock processing plants, across more than eight countries around the world.
“GaiaRecycle leverages proven technology, coupled with the latest clean technology and business innovations from Silicon Valley,” explains Young Song, CEO of GaiaRecycle, LLC. “Diversion of food scraps currently requires a lengthy process for developing local ecosystems to create a source-separated program, and an infrastructure for hauling and composting that requires many third-party dependencies. With GaiaRecycle systems, it provides a fast track for businesses to rapidly rollout an onsite organic recycling program, turn waste into valuable resources, and enhance corporate sustainability towards zero-waste without dependence on third-party operators.”
Green Mountain Technologies
Green Mountain Technologies has created a product line of composting systems, the newest and most advanced of which is the Earth Bin. This unique system is an extension of the Earth Tub, utilizing the same auger technology, with a much larger capacity and more automated controls, which are ideal features for use in large institutions, such as universities. Additionally, the unique, new system’s plug-flow technology significantly increases the amount of composting that can be done on a given footprint.
Vance Calvez, Manager of Sales & Customer Service at Green Mountain Technologies explains, “These systems help organizations reduce waste by allowing them to do on-site composting of their unused food scraps and unwanted landscape materials, such as leaves, cut grass or weeds. This substantially reduces their trash bill and helps reduce their carbon footprint. Plus, it keeps valuable nutrients in our soils, where they belong, and out of our landfills and waterways.”
The product has six installations so far and has been well received by customers. Calvez says, “The systems have been very successful. We have happy customers, and high-quality compost.”
GeoLogic GPS System
The GPS Landfill System, developed by GeoLogic, includes GCS:Density software, which measures compactor position as well as views compaction information. The leading-edge technology utilizes deflection information for calculating waste density. Plus, operators can view a map on the system-screen that measures surface deflection in real-time. The system also allows for information-sharing between compactors, in addition to progress-monitoring from the main office.
Considered to be one of the industry’s most accurate measurement tools, the device is best known for its ability to increase waste density. A customer of the company conducted an internal study, which indicated that the GeoLogic GPS Landfill System increased in-place waste density by seven to 14 percent. Lead Operator, Ed Worrell says,"On average, I would estimate we saw an increase of about 300 to 400 pounds per cubic yard since we began using the GeoLogic GPS.”
Molecular Waste Technologies Inc (MWT) Patented Microwave Technology
This patented process, by MWT, was created based on the use of microwaves, which have the unique ability to break down molecular bonds in hydrocarbon chains to basic carbon. Through the process, landfill components can be condensed into a light-oil, similar to diesel. The only items unable to be reduced through the process include glass and metals.
According to MWT, “The balance of the entire waste stream can be processed and reduced to carbon and oil.” The system has a modular design, which can be adapted to any size. “The technology was designed to accomplish two important goals. First, it had to be environmentally clean, with almost zero emissions; second, it had to reduce everything in the waste stream—Municipal Solid Waste, like tires and plastics—in short, all organics. The MWT Technology has accomplished both of these,” says MWT.
Celtic Cement Technology
This UK-based business has invented a way to repurpose materials that are generally discarded into landfills. Celtic Cement Technology has developed an innovative, environmentally-friendly process for converting landfill waste into cement replacements. The patented technology, which has been evolving over the last ten years, manufactures flexible, high-performance, sustainable cement substitute.
The company performs extensive testing and analysis to determine which industrial by-products can be used as cement alternatives, with the lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and using minimal energy consumption. According to Celtic Cement, “In order to maximize the use of industrial by-products in cement and concrete, an understanding of all the characteristics of each raw material is required. It is essential that each material is tested in accordance with current standards to establish the short-, medium- and long-term effects in concrete structures.”
Industry movement with heat decarbonisation
It is estimated that the heat network market requires approximately £30 billion of investment by 2050 to meet the UK Government’s net zero targets, and the decarbonisation of heat has been highlighted as a particular challenge.
The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget states the UK should target 20% of UK heat demand through low-carbon heat networks by 2050 - but as with most discussions surrounding mass decarbonisation, even reaching that target won't be an easy task. In the UK approximately 40% of energy consumption and 20% of GHG emissions are due to the heating and hot water supply for buildings.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that globally, around half of all energy consumption is used for providing heat, mainly for homes and industry.
Source: Heat Trust
This week saw some positive movement, however, with gas distribution company SGN and UK renewable energy solutions provider Vital Energi announcing a 50:50 joint venture, which will create an Energy Services Company (ESCO) representing utility infrastructure and heat network providers.
This includes delivery of heat to developments planned by SGN’s property arm, SGN Place, and the local vicinities where there is a demand for low-carbon heat.
The objective is to supply new and existing residential, industrial and commercial facilities and development activity is already underway for two projects in Scotland and the South East, with another 20 in the pipeline. SGN is looking to develop alternative heat solutions alongside its core gas distribution business and expand into the growing district heating market, recognising the future of heat is likely to include a mix of technological solutions and energy sources.
Vital Energi is seeking to expand into asset ownership opportunities to complement its core design, build and operations businesses. The complementary skillsets of both organisations will offer a compelling proposition for developers, commercial and industrial users and public sector bodies seeking low-carbon heat solutions.
SGN’s Director of Commercial Services and Investments Marcus Hunt said: “Heat networks are likely to play an increasing role in the delivery of UK heat in the context of net zero. The creation of this joint venture with market-leading Vital Energi enables us to build a presence in this emerging market, delivering new heat infrastructure and supporting decarbonisation.”
Nick Gosling, Chief Strategy Officer at Vital Energi, said: “Combining the resources, expertise and know-how of both organisations will allow us to play a major role in delivering the UK’s transition to low and zero-carbon heat.”
In March, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) starting collaborating with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) to decarbonise heat and power at Kirkwall Airport through green hydrogen technology. 2G Energy was selected to deliver a CHP plant which generates heat and electricity from 100% hydrogen.
Heat decarbonisation options
The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) highlights the following options for decarbonising heating.
Use renewable electricity to generate heat in the home. As power sector emissions fall, emissions associated with electric heating are decreasing rapidly.
Low carbon gases
Replace natural gas that most homes use for heating with hydrogen, which releases energy but not carbon dioxide, the only waste product is water. Biomethane is also an option as it produces less carbon than natural gas over a full lifecycle.
For hydrogen to work, the pipes in the national gas grid would need to be replaced and home boilers would need to be adapted or changed. This is possible but could incur considerable cost.
Biomethane is chemically identical to methane from natural gas, so is suited to existing infrastructure and appliances. It is unlikely, however, that it can be produced in sufficient quantities to replace fossil gas entirely.
A hybrid system combining both electrification and hydrogen is a third option. Here, heat pumps could be used to meet the majority of heat demand, with a (low carbon) gas boiler taking over in extremely cold weather. Advantages of this approach include helping establish a market for heat pumps while hydrogen is developed to displace natural gas in the hybrid system eventually, and the ability to call on hydrogen when heat demand is at its very highest.
Heat networks connect a central heat source to a number of buildings via a series of underground hot water pipes, and are popular in countries such as Denmark, where heat networks supply 63% of households. The Government expects the heat networks market in the UK to grow quickly to supply up to 20% of heat demand over the next decade or so, investing £320 million into its flagship Heat Networks Investment Project to help get this underway.
Heat networks work particularly well in built-up urban areas or industrial clusters where there is a large and concentrated demand for heat. Over time, it is thought that if the central heat source can be low carbon, then there is the opportunity to ensure that multiple homes and buildings are decarbonised at once.
Biomass can be used to reduce emissions when used instead of more polluting fuels like oil in off gas grid properties. Support for biomass boilers has been available since 2011 via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), but take-up has been low.
Supply constraints also restrict the role that biomass – burning solid material such as wood – can play. In any case, according to the Committee on Climate Change, this resource may be better used in other sectors of the economy such as construction, where it provides carbon storage without the need for CCS and reduces demand for carbon-intensive materials such as steel and cement.
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC)'s latest report sets out how rapidly increasing demand for bioresources could outstrip sustainable supply, undermining climate mitigation efforts and harming biodiversity, unless alternative zero-carbon options are rapidly scaled-up and use of bioresources carefully prioritised.
"Alternative zero-carbon solutions, such as clean electrification or hydrogen, must be developed rapidly to lessen the need for bio-based solutions," it states.
The overall decarbonisation of industry is another major challenge, especially among four sectors that contribute 45 percent of CO2 emissions: cement, steel, ammonia, and ethylene, according to a McKinsey report.
The process demands reimagining production processes from scratch and redesigning existing sites with costly rebuilds or retrofits. Furthermore, companies that adopt low-carbon production processes will see a short- to mid-term increase in cost, ultimately placing them at an economic disadvantage in a competitive global commodities market.
Ken Hunnisett is Project Director for the Heat Network Investment Project (HNIP)’s delivery partner Triple Point, which is the delivery partner for the government's Heat Network Investment Project, which is responsible for investing up to £320million in strategic, low-carbon heat network projects across England and Wales.
He is calling for the urgent need to invest in the development of new heating infrastructure to support the nation’s decarbonisation effort. So far £165m of HNIP funds have prompted £421m CAPEX, providing more green jobs as the UK economy eases from the lows sustained from the pandemic.
Decarbonising the UK's heating infrastructure is critical if we are to reach our net-zero goals and it’s crucial that progress is made in this decisive decade, he added.
"Heat networks are a part of the lowest-cost pathway to decarbonising our homes and workplaces in the future but are also the bit of the jigsaw that we can be putting into place now," he said. "Penetration into the UK market is still low, despite heat representing 37% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, the largest single contributor by some way. Funding needs to be urgently directed towards reducing the environmental impact of the residential sector, particularly given the slow pace of the decline in residential emissions in comparison to those of business and transport."
Currently, just 3% of UK buildings are serviced by heat networks. "Further investment in this industry, using public and private funds, will not only drive wider sustainability targets but will boost the economy by providing more green jobs as the country emerges from the pandemic," he said.