Waste generally refers to any material, non-hazardous or hazardous, that has no further use, and which is managed at recycling, processing, or disposal sites. Because no single waste management approach is suitable for managing all waste streams in all circumstances, the EU and USEPA developed a hierarchy (see figure below), ranking the most environmentally sound strategies for solid waste. The hierarchy places emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling the majority of wastes and demonstrates the key components of the Sustainable Materials Management Program (SMM). SMM is an effort to protect the environment and conserve resources for future generations through a systems approach that seeks to reduce materials use and their associated environmental impacts over their entire life cycles, starting with extraction of natural resources and product design and ending with decisions on recycling or final disposal.
Figure: The waste hierarchy
At present, a large amount of valuable minerals are dispersed in the environment through processing or disposal of waste streams, often in difficult to extract, non-bio-available form such as sewage sludge, industrial sludge, manure, household waste, incineration ashes, etc. Considering the full nutrient chain, on average over 80 % of nitrogen (N) and 50 % of phosphorus (P) consumed end up lost in the environment, wasting the energy used to prepare them and causing emissions of greenhouses gases and nutrient compounds to water flows.
Moreover, the world’s population is experiencing unprecedented growth and, for many, living standards are increasing too. The demands being placed on our environment are relentless: accelerated use and depletion of natural resources, increased production, and spreading urbanization are just some examples. The result is more waste and pollution.
Estimates of natural nutrient reserves are highly uncertain, but based on population growth and future demand for nutrients, it is expected that depletion will occur within 93 to 291 years for P, 235 to 510 years for potassium (K), and 20 years for zinc (Zn). Geopolitical moves can, however, shift this date forward, making nutrient scarcity an imminent threat. Moreover, the quality of the remaining natural resources is declining, there is no substitute available, and to date these nutrients cannot be manufactured.
In the transition from a fossil reserve-based to a bio-based economy, it has therefore become a critical challenge to maximally close nutrient cycles and migrate to a more effective and sustainable resource management, both from an economical and an ecological perspective.
SeLow targets maximal cradle-to-cradle waste valorization at minimal cost, energy use, and environmental impact.
What we offer:
– Free preliminary visit and study on site
– Detailed waste management plan with maximal recovery and recycling of valuable compounds
– Market study of recycled end products
– Waste flow characterization (if required)
– Modelling and mass balance analyses (if required)
– Selection and contact with appropriate technology providers
– Follow-up of engineering and construction
– Economic and ecological analysis, life cycle assessment (if required)
Contact us for more information.
Example of SeLow’s cross-sectorial approach to sustainable resource management:
Red arrows = current non-sustainable approach.
Green arrows = targeted sustainable approach.