Within the next 10 years, nearly all commercial and industrial waste will be sold, yet currently businesses pay to have it taken away. The old model was collect-move-dump. There is now an immense range of alternative technical options, all the way to hydrogen gasification.
This shift was a very strong message of change from two talks yesterday evening (14 March) by Peter T. Jones OBE, formerly at Biffa and now retired; and by Charlie Browne who leads on waste minimisation for IKEA nationally.
Already waste is being measured in gigajoules / tonne as an energy source, but increasingly because of growing commodity shortages and price rises there is a vibrant recycling market as well. For example used clothing is worth £2,000 a tonne or £2 a kilo. Charlie Browne noted that when IKEA buys a waste bailing machine it gets a full return on investment within 15 months of the capital purchase. Wood waste is shredded and burnt onsite by IKEA to heat air and water.
Peter Jones commented that the “big brands” like Tesco are now competitors to the traditional waste collection companies. These big brand companies are beginning to combine their home deliveries with ‘waste’ removal, only now what used to be ‘waste’ is now a resource with value. This growing market in recycling and reuse supports the closed loop approach of sustainable production and consumption.
The key to innovation in the waste sector, claimed Peter Jones, was the increasing involvement of big engineering companies who were able to de-risk projects and then replicate them at a large scale. The four key elements for success are to understand and organise: the feedstock, the site, the technology, and the end market. But strangely, it is this complexity which is still scaring off investment. However, the existing gate fee business model is collapsing.
Charlie Browne’s top tip to any business was to examine all your bills and invoices and think about how to avoid any waste you find. An example he gave was that IKEA is replacing wooden pallets with paper pallets to save resources and so reduce costs. In Germany they sell their food waste from cafes etc, using a mascerator and then de-watering the product to extract the particulate for sale, eg to anaerobic digestion.
Link: http://www.ecolateral.org (Peter Jones and others)
* The organisers:
#NWSBQ is the North West Sustainable Businesses Quarterly network, which typically meets on a Thursday evening in Manchester city centre. It is hosted by Bruntwood and organised by M4C Sustainability pro bono.