Composting with Worms

Vermicomposting is a type of composting in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and produce a better end-product. It is a mesophilic process utilizing microorganisms and earthworms. Earthworms feeds the organic waste materials and passes it through their digestive system and gives out in a granular form (cocoons) which is known as vermicompost.

Worm

Simply speaking, vermicompost is earthworm excrement, called castings, which can improve biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soil. The chemical secretions in the earthworm’s digestive tract help break down soil and organic matter, so the castings contain more nutrients that are immediately available to plants.

Production of Vermicompost

A wide range of agricultural residues, such as straw, husk, leaves, stalks, weeds etc can be converted into vermicompost. Other potential feedstock for vermicompost production are livestock wastes, poultry litter, dairy wastes, food processing wastes, organic fraction of MSW, bagasse, digestate from biogas plants etc.

Earthworms consume organic wastes and reduce the volume by 40–60 percent. Each earthworm weighs about 0.5 to 0.6 gram, eats waste equivalent to its body weight and produces cast equivalent to about 50 percent of the waste it consumes in a day. The moisture content of castings ranges between 32 and 66 percent and the pH is around 7. The level of nutrients in compost depends upon the source of the raw material and the species of earthworm.

Types of Earthworms

There are nearly 3600 types of earthworms which are divided into burrowing and non-burrowing types. Red earthworm species, like Eisenia foetida, and are most efficient in compost making. The non-burrowing earthworms eat 10 percent soil and 90 percent organic waste materials; these convert the organic waste into vermicompost faster than the burrowing earthworms.

They can tolerate temperatures ranging from 0 to 40°C but the regeneration capacity is more at 25 to 30°C and 40–45 percent moisture level in the pile. The burrowing types of earthworms come onto the soil surface only at night. These make holes in the soil up to a depth of 3.5 m and produce 5.6 kg casts by ingesting 90 percent soil and 10 percent organic waste.

Types of Vermicomposting

The types of vermicomposting depend upon the amount of production and composting structures. Small-scale vermicomposting is done to meet personal requirements and farmers/gardeners can harvest 5-10 tons of vermicompost annually.

On the other hand, large-scale vermicomposting is done at commercial scale by recycling large quantities of organic waste in modern facilities with the production of more than hundreds of tons annually.

Benefits of Vermicompost

The worm castings contain higher percentage of both macro and micronutrients than the garden compost. Apart from other nutrients, a fine worm cast is rich in NPK which are in readily available form and are released within a month of application. Vermicompost enhances plant growth, suppresses disease in plants, increases porosity and microbial activity in soil, and improves water retention and aeration.

Vermicompost also benefits the environment by reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and decreasing the amount of waste going to landfills. Vermicompost production is trending up worldwide and it is finding increasing use especially in Western countries, Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Vermicompost Tea

A relatively new product from vermicomposting is vermicompost tea which is a liquid fertilizer produced by extracting organic matter, microorganisms, and nutrients from vermicompost. Unlike vermicompost and compost, this tea may be applied directly to plant foliage, reportedly to enhance disease suppression. Vermicompost tea also may be applied to the soil as a supplement between compost applications to increase biological activity.

Potential Market

Vermicompost may be sold in bulk or bagged with a variety of compost and soil blends. Markets include home improvement centers, nurseries, landscape contractors, greenhouses, garden supply stores, grocery chains, flower shops, discount houses, indoor gardens, and the general public.

The Problem of Shipping Wastes

Shipping wastes, long a neglected topic, has started to attract worldwide attention, thanks to the mysterious and tragic disappearance of flight MH370. During the search for MH370, a succession of items floating in the sea were identified as possible wreckage, but later confirmed to be simply pieces of marine litter. Whilst it was large pieces of debris that complicated the search, marine debris of all sizes causes problems for users of marine resources. In the most polluted areas, around 300,000 items of debris can be found in each square kilometre.

garbage-ocean

Up to 80% of ocean debris originates from land based sources, including beach litter, litter transported by rivers, and discharges of untreated municipal sewage, while ocean based sources (merchant shipping, ferries, cruise liners, fishing and military vessels) account for the remainder. Whilst typically this may be only 20% of marine litter, in areas of high shipping activity such as the North Sea it rises closer to 40%.

Wastes from commercial vessels seems like an area that could be effectively tackled with regulation. However, it is difficult for individual nations or regions to take action when ships operate in international waters and the debris in our oceans is constantly on the move.

So how is it addressed through international legislation?

Law of the Seas

In fact, a good many laws are already in place. The key piece of legislation preventing ‘the disposal of garbage at sea’ is Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Amongst the numerous other relevant laws are the London Convention and Protocol, the Basel Convention, UNCLOS, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In addition, many more laws exist at regional and national levels. In the EU, laws directly related to marine debris include the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Directive on Port Reception Facilities. Laws indirectly related to marine debris include the Common Fisheries Policy, the Water Framework Directive, the Waste Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive…. The list goes on.

Fathoming the Legislation

Despite the profusion of legislation, the scale of the current and potential problems caused by marine debris, it is clear that implementation and enforcement is lagging behind. Why so?

Ratification

As yet, not all coastal or flag states have ratified international instruments such as MARPOL Annex V. This means that ships registered with a non-ratified state under a‘flag of convenience’ may legally continue to discharge garbage in international waters. However, even if the current suite of international legislation was universally ratified, this would serve to expose the remaining gaps in the framework.

Discharge provisions

MARPOL Annex V includes specific requirements regarding the discharge of different types of waste and location of discharges. For instance, ground food waste can be discharged up to 3 nautical miles from land, but if it is not ground it may only be discharged at a distance of 12 nautical miles or more. Although the discharge of ‘all other garbage including plastics’ is prohibited, compliance relies upon good waste management practices on board vessels.

If waste streams are contaminated, this may result in plastics and other debris being discharged into the sea. The current approach may have been developed to accommodate shipping activity, but in practice it is somewhat confusing and it would perhaps make more sense to issue a blanket ban on discharges.

Scope

Another gap within MARPOL Annex V is the scope of the requirements for ‘garbage management plans’ and ‘garbage record books’. Vessels of 100 gross tonnes or more are required to have a garbage management plan, while vessels of 400 gross tonnes or more are required to have a garbage record book. Smaller vessels are not obliged to comply with the requirements.

Less than 1% of vessels in the world fishing fleet have a gross tonnage of over 100 tonnes, the majority has no obligation to implement and maintain a plan or book; with no planning or record keeping, the risk of illegal disposal is increased. Small fishing vessels may not be considered ‘commercial’ shipping vessels at all – thereby avoiding legislation – but they still contribute towards the problem of marine debris. Most notably, abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear has a considerable impact on marine species through ‘ghost fishing’.

Port waste reception facilities

MARPOL Annex V requires the government of each ratified nation to provide facilities at ports for the reception of ship generated residues and garbage that cannot be discharged into the sea. The facilities must be adequate to meet the needs of ships using the port, without causing undue delay to ships. However, MARPOL does not prescribe any set standards or provide for certification. The term ‘adequate’ is instead defined in a qualitative (rather than quantitative) manner in Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) resolution 83 (44).

Furthermore, MARPOL does not set any requirements regarding how waste delivered to port reception facilities should be managed. Only the non-mandatory MEPC resolution 83 (44) requires that facilities should allow for the ultimate disposal of ships’ wastes to take place in an environmentally appropriate way.

Cruise ships

Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide, often in pristine coastal waters and sensitive marine ecosystems. Operators provide amenities to their passengers similar to those of luxury resort hotels, generating up to 14 tonnes of waste per day. Worldwide, the cruise industry has experienced a compound annual passenger growth rate of 7% since 1990, and the number of passengers carried is expected to increase from approximately 21 million in 2013 to 23.7 million in 2017.

The majority of current legislation on pollution and ship waste was developed prior to the rapid growth of the cruise market; as a consequence, there is no international legislation addressing the particular issues surrounding pollution and waste management on these vessels.

Although there is not yet data to support this, intuitively the amount of waste produced by ships would be linked to the number of people on board, rather than the vessel’s gross tonnage (which determines whether MARPOL rules apply). If the industry grows as forecasted, cruise ships may be responsible for a significant proportion of waste generated by ships, particularly if unmanned are the future.

To address this, onboard waste management systems that implement zero disposal of solid waste at sea are needed for cruise ships, together with a requirement that they only dispose of their waste at ports with reception facilities adequate to handle the type and volume of waste produced.

Taking the Helm

Where international and regional legislation is found lacking a number of voluntary mechanisms have been devised, indicating an appetite to improve the current waste disposal practices of the shipping industry.

  • The indirect fee system aims to remove the disincentive for ships to dispose of waste at port rather than at sea by including the cost of waste disposal services in the port fees paid by visiting ships, irrespective of whether ships use the facilities
  • The Clean Shipping Index is an easy to use, transparent tool which can be used by cargo owners to evaluate the environmental performance of their sea transport providers. The information is entered on a ship-by-ship basis but is also added to a total carrier fleet score for an overall ranking. Questions on waste relate to garbage handling and crew awareness, and scores can only be obtained for measures that go beyond existing regulations.
  • One commercial container operator (Matson Navigation) has introduced a zero solid waste discharge policy. The ‘greentainer’ programme uses containers specifically designed for storing solid waste. Since 1994, this programme has prevented over 10,000 tonnes of garbage being disposed of at sea.

Currently, international legislation does not properly support a closed loop system for waste management onboard ships. Despite legislative progress and improvements in practice, the monitoring of waste from shipping remains problematic. ‘Policing the seas’ to verify what a ship discharges and where, and whether this follows recommended best practice, remains one of the most challenging aspects of waste management practice at sea, but critical to making the legal framework effective.

The United Nations Environment Programme neatly summarised the issue in 2005:“… marine litter is not a problem which can be solved only by means of legislation, law enforcement and technical solutions. It is a social problem which requires efforts to change behaviours, attitudes, management approaches and multi-sectoral involvement.” 

The limitations of international legislation governing the case of marine litter disposed of at sea do need to be addressed; but unless legislation is accompanied by environmental education for seafarers, and improved monitoring, our attempts to tackle this source of marine litter will remain all at sea.

Note: The article has been republished with the permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original version of the article can be found at this link.

A Guide to Recycling Electronics: Everything You Need to Know

Did you know that electronic waste (ewaste) is the fastest-growing type of waste in the world? According to the United Nations, ewaste accounted for only 2% of global municipal solid waste in 2009. But this is estimated to grow to 12% by the end of 2022. That represents a lot of old electronics!

If you’re not sure what to do with your old electronics, don’t worry – Atech Recyclers explain everything, from finding an ewaste recycler to what happens to your electronics after recycling. Keep reading for more information!

Guide to Recycling Electronics

What is ewaste, and where does it come from?

Ewaste is short for electronic waste and refers to any electronic device or component that has been discarded and is no longer in use. This can include anything from old smartphones and laptops to TVs and gaming consoles.

Ewaste comes from a variety of sources. Consumers generate ewaste when they upgrade their electronic devices. Businesses create ewaste when they discard old equipment, and even governments contribute when they replace outdated technology systems.

Whatever the source, ewaste poses a significant environmental threat if not handled properly. That’s why it’s important to recycle your old electronics whenever possible!

How do we get rid of ewaste, and why is it a global problem?

Currently, we deal with ewaste in two ways:

  • by recycling ewaste into new products
  • by burning ewaste to extract metals and other materials

Both of these methods have serious drawbacks. Recycling is expensive and can be complicated to do correctly. Burning ewaste creates toxic fumes harmful to both people and the environment. That’s why we need to find better ways to deal with ewaste – and why recycling electronics is critical!

There are a few different ways to recycle electronics. You can take them to a local recycler, send them in for mail-in recycling, or drop them off at an e-cycling event.

Each method has its pros and cons, so it’s imperative to evaluate which recycling methods are effective and convenient. Local recyclers are a great option if you want to recycle a small number of items or if the recycling facility is close by. They can often handle a variety of materials, and many will accept ewaste for free. However, not all local recyclers have the ability to extract metals and other materials from electronics, so do your research first.

Mail-in recycling services are a good option if you have a large number of items to recycle or if the recycling facility is far away. These services usually charge a fee, but they often have a lower environmental impact than local recyclers. Many mail-in recyclers also offer rewards programs that give you money back for recycling ewaste.

Did you know that ewaste is one of the fastest-growing types of waste in the world?

It is a global problem because e-waste contains valuable materials that can be recycled and reused. When e-waste is dumped in landfills, the toxins it releases can leach into the soil and water supplies. Recycling e-waste helps mitigate these risks and keeps these valuable resources from being wasted.

A collaborative global solution needs to be found to prevent ewaste from getting out of control. More and more countries are struggling to deal with the influx of ewaste, and it’s becoming an increasingly pressing issue.

If this trend continues, by the end of 2022 we could be generating more than 52 million metric tonnes of ewaste each year. That’s enough waste to fill about 20 Sydney Opera Houses!

What are the effects of ewaste on the environment and human health?

Environmentally, ewaste can quickly become a problem. Toxic substances like lead, mercury, and arsenic can leach from ewaste into soil and water supplies. This can contaminate the environment and poison plants, animals, and people.

The effects of ewaste on human health are also a cause for concern. Many e-products contain harmful chemicals that can have adverse consequences if they come into contact with skin or are ingested. For example, cadmium is a toxic metal often found in electronics. It’s known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, and damage to the kidneys, lungs, and liver. It’s clear that we need to do something about ewaste – but what can we do?

How can we prevent ewaste from happening in the first place?

First, we need to be more mindful of how much electronic waste we produce. We can start by thinking more about the purchases we make – and only buying what we need.

We can also recycle our e-products properly. Many councils offer ewaste recycling services, so be sure to check with your local council to see if they offer this service. You can also take your ewaste to a recycler.

What are some solutions to the global ewaste crisis?

Various solutions have been tried, such as e-waste bans and e-waste recycling targets, but more needs to be done. Some of the solutions that have been proposed include:

  • Improving e-waste collection and recycling infrastructure globally
  • Developing global standards for e-waste management
  • Encouraging manufacturers to design products that are easier to recycle
  • Promoting sustainable consumption practices

The main issue is the exponential increase in the volume of ewaste, so more concerted and collaborative efforts are needed to address this growing crisis.

Everyone must do what they can

We can all play our part in helping to address the global ewaste crisis. By being more mindful of how much electronic waste we produce, recycling our e-products, and encouraging others to do the same, we can make a difference. Together, we can create a world where electronics are recycled and reused instead of ending up in landfills.

ewaste lifecycle

Ewaste has become a global problem, and it’s time we take action before our landfills overflow. There are several ways in which we can prevent ewaste from occurring in the first place. So try to purchase refurbished goods instead of new ones. Avoid buying products online that need to be shipped across oceans on planes full of plastics. And use green energy sources for charging devices at home and avoid having them plugged into outlets all day long.

Waste Disposal Methods: Perspectives for Africa

Waste disposal methods vary from city to city, state to state and region to region. It equally depends on the kind and type of waste generated. In determining the disposal method that a city or nation should adopt, some factors like type, kind, quantity, frequency, and forms of waste need to be considered.

For the purpose of this article, we will look at the three common waste disposal methods in Africa and the kind of waste they accept.

Open Dumping/Burning

This is the crudest means of disposing of waste and it is mostly practiced in rural areas, semi-urban settlements, and undeveloped urban areas. For open dumping or open burning, every type and form of waste (including household waste, hazardous wastes, tires, batteries, chemicals) is dumped in an open area within a community or outside different homes in a community and same being set on fire after a number of days or when the waste generator or community feels it should be burnt.

There is no gainsaying that the negative health and environmental impact of such practice are huge only if the propagators know better.

Controlled Dumping

This is apparent in most States in Nigeria, if not all and some cities in Africa like Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, to mention but a few. It is a method of disposing of all kinds of waste in a designated area of land by waste collectors and it is usually controlled by the State or City Government.

Controlled dumps are commonly found in urban areas and because they are managed by the government, some dumps do have certain features of a landfill like tenure of usage, basic record keeping, waste covering, etc. Many cities in Nigeria confuse the practice of controlled dumping as landfilling but this not so because a landfill involves engineering design, planning, and operation.

Sanitary Landfill

A sanitary landfill is arguably the most desired waste management option in reducing or eliminating public health hazards and environmental pollution. The landfill is the final disposal site for all forms and types of waste after the recyclable materials must have been separated for other usages and other biodegradables have been extracted from the waste for use as compost, heat, or energy; or after incineration. These extractions can be done at household level or Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) operated by the government or private individuals.

As desirable as a landfill is, so many factors need to be put into consideration in its siting and operation plus it requires a huge investment in construction and operation. Some of these factors include but not limited to distance from the residential area, proximity to water bodies, water-table level of the area the landfill is to be sited, earth material availability, and access road.

6 Strategies To Improve Aerospace Waste Management

The aerospace industry has numerous waste streams that can produce enough waste to disrupt the world. This is mainly from the manufacture of aircraft, engines, and parts. However, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) confirms that the industry is doing its best to prioritize waste management.

In fact, the association feels that the industry is making good strides toward ensuring that the natural environment is protected. But there’s always room for improvement as waste management and environmental protection are continuous processes. For many players in the aviation industry, waste reduction and management are the most significant hurdles to overcome.

This article looks at six strategies aerospace companies can employ to help improve waste management.

Strategies To Improve Aerospace Waste Management

1. Waste Prevention

The best way to manage waste is to prevent its production in the first place. That’s why waste production prevention is usually a top goal in any industry looking to manage waste effectively. If the aerospace industry can eliminate the production of some of its waste materials, it’ll be able to make significant progress in waste management.

There are numerous and technologies that the industry can utilize throughout the product cycles to help steer clear of waste. For example, aerospace precision machining companies like Moseys Productions use certain techniques that are meant to reduce manufacturing waste. This creates a chain reaction where there’s waste prevention in the rest of the stages in the product cycle.

2. Waste Reduction

The first strategy mentioned would be the best and only one needed for aerospace waste management in an ideal world. However, zero waste production isn’t always possible for various reasons, such as the steps followed in the manufacturing process. But there are other things the industry can do to ensure that there’s minimal waste production.

In waste reduction, the industry will need to look at all of the processes that lead to waste production. This may include changing the design of the products or the way they’re manufactured to ensure that the least amount of waste is generated. The industry can take the same steps to ensure that the waste produced isn’t as toxic or harmful to the environment.

For the aerospace industry to get the most out of waste reduction, it needs to identify areas with high waste production. The necessary changes have to be carried out in a way that won’t compromise the quality of the final products. Pinpointing such areas is the key to the success of this strategy. Precision machining can also be applied in this waste minimization strategy.

sustainability practices in aerospace industry

3. Sustainable Material Use

Apart from making efforts to eliminate or reduce waste, the industry would do well to use sustainable materials. These are materials that the industry can have produced in precise volumes. This would help make sure that there’s no disruption of the established environmental balance or depletion of nonrenewable resources.

The beneficial result is ensuring that waste is cut right at the production of raw materials so there isn’t much to waste in the manufacturing process. The focus here is on what materials the industry purchases and their quantities. Waste management is possible when it starts from the very beginning of the product cycle—at the sourcing of raw materials.

4. Recycling And Reuse

Even in the aerospace industry, materials such as wood, paper, glass, and plastics can be used to fabricate fresh products. When more materials are recycled and reused, the need for new ones is significantly reduced. In addition, it allows for the recovery and use of materials that would’ve otherwise gone to waste.

Having a waste material recycling strategy is essential in aerospace waste management. Not only would it help conserve energy and reduce emissions in raw material extraction, but it’s also an excellent way of keeping waste to a minimum.

5. Technology And Waste Processing

Successful waste management in the aerospace industry lies in effectively making waste easy to handle. Fortunately, technological advancement has continued to make waste processing simpler and more efficient. By reducing waste materials at the front-end processing system, there are added benefits such as:

  • Reducing the number of times a company needs to dispose of waste from manufacturing plants
  • Producing better recyclable waste

Properly handling aerospace waste processing goes a long way in improving waste management in the long run. The latest technologies include those used in the briquetter systems, ultrafiltration systems, and coolant recycling systems.

6. Joint Waste Management

It’s good for the industry to open up and embrace partnership initiatives with other entities both public and private. This would result in the accumulation of ideas that can help make waste management more accessible.

Taking a collective approach can benefit the industry as it’ll bring in players who may help with many functions of waste management. For example, having a partner who recycles metal, plastic, or wood waste would make it possible to dispose of such directly and sustainably. It may also help in overcoming some barriers the industry may be facing with waste disposal and management.

Conclusion

Waste management is crucial in the aerospace industry given that it’s a huge waste producer. Having clear strategies for the prevention, reduction, and disposal of waste would go a long way in making sure that aerospace companies achieve their environmental goals.

Solid Waste Management in Morocco

Solid waste management is one of the major environmental problems threatening the Kingdom of Morocco. More than 5 million tons of solid waste is generated across the country with annual waste generation growth rate touching 3 percent. The proper disposal of municipal solid waste in Morocco is exemplified by major deficiencies such as lack of proper infrastructure and suitable funding in areas outside of major cities.

solid_waste_morocco

According to the World Bank, it was reported that before a recent reform in 2008 “only 70 percent of urban wastes was collected and less than 10 percent of collected waste was being disposed of in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. There were 300 uncontrolled dumpsites, and about 3,500 waste-pickers, of which 10 percent were children, were living on and around these open dumpsites.”

It is not uncommon to see trash burning as a means of solid waste disposal in Morocco.  Currently, the municipal waste stream, including hazardous wastes, is disposed of in a reckless and unsustainable manner which has major effects on public health and the environment.  The lack of waste management infrastructure leads to burning of trash as a form of inexpensive waste disposal.  Unfortunately, the major health effects of burning trash are either widely unknown or grossly under-estimated to the vast majority of the population in Morocco.

The good news about the future of Morocco’s MSW management is that the World Bank has allocated $271.3 million to the Moroccan government to develop a municipal waste management plan.  The plan’s details include restoring around 80 landfill sites, improving trash pickup services, and increasing recycling by 20%, all by the year 2020. While this reform is expected to do wonders for the urban population one can only hope the benefits of this reform trickle down to the 43% of the Moroccan population living in rural areas, like those who are living in my village.

Needless to say, even with Morocco’s movement toward a safer and more environmentally friendly MSW management system there is still an enormous population of people including children and the elderly who this reform will overlook.  Until more is done, including funding initiatives and an increase in education, these people will continue to be exposed to hazardous living conditions because of unsuitable funding, infrastructure, policies and education.

Environmental Costs of Glitter

While there are no clear estimates of the amount of glitter sold each year, its distinctive ability to disperse makes it a disproportionate contributor to environmental problems. Glitter particles are easily transferred through the air or by touch, clinging to skin and clothes. Its ability to spread is so notorious that there are companies that will ‘ship your enemies glitter’ that is guaranteed to infest every corner of their home.

Glitter has even been used in forensic science to show that a suspect has been at a crime scene. This characteristic, and the plastics it contains, makes it something of an environmental peril. It causes problems for paper recyclers: glitter on cards and gift wrap can foul up the reprocessing equipment, and even contaminate the recycled pulp.

Glitter is a Growing Problem

Most glitter is cut from multi-layered sheets, combining plastic, colouring, and a reflective material such as aluminium, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, or bismuth oxychloride. It therefore contributes to the more than 12.2 millions of tonnes of plastic that enters the ocean each year – not least when people wear it and then wash it off. Worse still, glitter is a microplastic, and there are growing concerns about these tiny pieces of material entering the marine food chain and harming marine life.

The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is often used in glitter is thought to leach out endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which, when eaten by marine creatures, can adversely affect development, reproduction, neurology and the immune system. According to Evol Power, PET can also attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants and pathogens, adding an extra layer of contamination.

When molluscs, sea snails, marine worms, and plankton eat pathogen or pollutant-carrying particles of glitter, they can concentrate the toxins; and this concentration effect can continue as they in turn are eaten by creatures further up the food chain, all the way to our dinner plates.

Time for Action

As consciousness of the environmental damage caused by glitter increases, some are taking drastic action. In November 2017 Tops Days Nurseries a group of English nurseries banned glitter for its contribution to the plastic pollution problem. But our attraction to sparkly things is literally age old, and won’t be given up easily.

Research has demonstrated that humans are attracted to shiny, sparkly things, which is thought to stem from our evolutionary instinct to seek out shimmering bodies of water. As early as 30,000 years ago, mica flakes were used to give cave paintings a glittering appearance, while the ancient Egyptians produced glittering cosmetics from the iridescent shells of beetles as well as finely ground green malachite crystal. Green glitter fans might well wonder if environmentally friendly glitter is available, and there is in fact a growing market of products that claim eco credentials.

Shining examples

British scientist Stephen Cotton helped develop ‘eco-glitter’ made from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminium. This appears to be sold by companies like EcoStarDust, whose short list of materials included only ‘non-GMO eucalyptus trees’. Their website explains if you leave your glitter in a warm, moist and oxygenated environment then it will begin to biodegrade, with the rate depending on the mixture of these factors. However, it is not clear that a product that may release aluminium into the environment deserves a green vote of confidence.

Wild Glitter another company also explains their sparkles are made from natural plant based materials but they don’t a lot of detail about how they’re made and what happens to them once used. Other brands, such as EcoGlitterFunBioGlitz and Festival Face, offer biodegradable glitter made from a certified compostable film.

Awareness about the environmental damage caused by glitter is steadily increasing

However, it is difficult for a consumer to be sure, without a good deal of research, that such products will break down quickly and harmlessly in the natural environment – or whether they require specific industrial composting processes.

Other manufacturers are turning instead to natural ingredients that add shine and sparkle; environmentally conscious cosmetic brand LUSH uses ground nut shells and aduki beans in its products. They also started using inert mica to create sparkly things, like the cave painters from millennia ago. Unfortunately, this meant trading an environmental problem for a human rights one: difficulties with the natural mica supply chain made it impossible to guarantee that the process was free from child labour, prompting a forthcoming switch to synthetic mica.

Parting Shot

There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to choosing greener glitter, and little objective evidence available regarding the environmental impacts of the different alternatives. I’ve seen little sign, for example, of a glitter product that claims to be compatible with paper and card recycling processes. But it’s crystal clear that, with enormous variety of options available, it should be possible do without glitter made from PET – even at Christmas.

 

Note: The article has been republished with the permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original version of the article can be found at this link

Properties and Uses of POME

Palm Oil processing gives rise to highly polluting wastewater, known as Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME), which is often discarded in disposal ponds, resulting in the leaching of contaminants that pollute the groundwater and soil, and in the release of methane gas into the atmosphere. POME is an oily wastewater generated by palm oil processing mills and consists of various suspended components. This liquid waste combined with the wastes from steriliser condensate and cooling water is called palm oil mill effluent.

POME

On average, for each ton of FFB (fresh fruit bunches) processed, a standard palm oil mill generate about 1 tonne of liquid waste with biochemical oxygen demand 27 kg, chemical oxygen demand 62 kg, suspended solids (SS) 35 kg and oil and grease 6 kg. POME has a very high BOD and COD, which is 100 times more than the municipal sewage.

POME is a non-toxic waste, as no chemical is added during the oil extraction process, but will pose environmental issues due to large oxygen depleting capability in aquatic system due to organic and nutrient contents. The high organic matter is due to the presence of different sugars such as arabinose, xylose, glucose, galactose and manose. The suspended solids in the POME are mainly oil-bearing cellulosic materials from the fruits. Since the POME is non-toxic as no chemical is added in the oil extraction process, it is a good source of nutrients for microorganisms.

Biogas Potential of POME

POME is always regarded as a highly polluting wastewater generated from palm oil mills. However, reutilization of POME to generate renewable energies in commercial scale has great potential. Anaerobic digestion is widely adopted in the industry as a primary treatment for POME. Biogas is produced in the process in the amount of 20 mper ton FFB. This effluent could be used for biogas production through anaerobic digestion. At many palm oil mills this process is already in place to meet water quality standards for industrial effluent. The gas, however, is flared off.

Palm oil mills, being one of the largest industries in Malaysia and Indonesia, effluents from these mills can be anaerobically converted into biogas which in turn can be used to generate power through CHP systems such as gas turbines or gas-fired engines. A cost effective way to recover biogas from POME is to replace the existing ponding/lagoon system with a closed digester system which can be achieved by installing floating plastic membranes on the open ponds.

As per conservative estimates, potential POME produced from all Palm Oil Mills in Indonesia and Malaysia is more than 50 million m3 each year which is equivalent to power generation capacity of more than 800 GW.

New Trends

Recovery of organic-based product is a new approach in managing POME which is aimed at getting by-products such as volatile fatty acid, biogas and poly-hydroxyalkanoates to promote sustainability of the palm oil industry.  It is envisaged that POME can be sustainably reused as a fermentation substrate in production of various metabolites through biotechnological advances. In addition, POME consists of high organic acids and is suitable to be used as a carbon source.

POME has emerged as an alternative option as a chemical remediation to grow microalgae for biomass production and simultaneously act as part of wastewater treatment process. POME contains hemicelluloses and lignocelluloses material (complex carbohydrate polymers) which result in high COD value (15,000–100,000 mg/L).

POME-Biogas

Utilizing POME as nutrients source to culture microalgae is not a new scenario, especially in Malaysia. Most palm oil millers favor the culture of microalgae as a tertiary treatment before POME is discharged due to practically low cost and high efficiency. Therefore, most of the nutrients such as nitrate and ortho-phosphate that are not removed during anaerobic digestion will be further treated in a microalgae pond. Consequently, the cultured microalgae will be used as a diet supplement for live feed culture.

In recent years, POME is also gaining prominence as a feedstock for biodiesel production, especially in the European Union. The use of POME as a feedstock in biodiesel plants requires that the plant has an esterification unit in the back-end to prepare the feedstock and to breakdown the FFA. In recent years, biomethane production from POME is also getting traction in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Why Does Waste Matter in the Gaia Theory?

Do you know where your food comes from and where the uneaten leftovers go after you’ve thrown them away?

Whether you’re thinking about it or not, every action you take has some effect on the world around you. A chemist named James Lovelock hypothesized that living organisms interact with their surroundings to maintain a livable environment.

Today, this is known as the Gaia Theory.

Why Waste Matter in the Gaia Theory

The Gaia Theory

One of the defining points of the gaia theory is that organisms live synergistically with the Earth. All plants, animals, and people contribute to a stable environment simply by living in it.

Unfortunately, wasteful habits by people do the opposite. Actions that harm entire populations of organisms will have a waterfall effect that harms the environment. An example of this is found in trees.

Wood is a necessary product in day-to-day life. However, harvesting too much wood without a replacement plan or not fully utilizing the wood harvested decimates the tree populations. Trees pull carbon, the most common greenhouse gas, from the air and replace it with oxygen. If the number of trees decreases, the mass of carbon increases, which encourages the onset of global warming.

Global warming then weakens populations of other organisms, which in turn further worsens the environment. Every living thing depends on one another.

Global Warming

The Earth is no stranger to mass extinction events. Throughout history, incredible incidents such as meteors, continent-wide wildfires, and volcanoes have directly caused global warming and cooling. Surviving plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms all contributed to the Earth’s recovery from such events.

Scientists are currently theorizing that we are in the middle of yet another mass extinction event, due to pollution, overdevelopment, and waste. During the worst-case scenario, the Earth will recover from this, but only after millions of years.

The more biodiversity is lost, the longer the environment will take to recover. More must be done to protect and preserve what is left to keep the Earth habitable for as long as possible.

Waste Not, Want Not

National Geographic outlines the harmful effects of plastic waste that hasn’t been properly disposed of or recycled. This plastic primarily ends up in the oceans, which impedes life even at the microscopic level.

Plastic takes centuries to decompose but will still break down into “microplastics” that have infected every water system in the world. This is not only toxic for animals, but people as well. Every creature can be harmed by the ingestion of plastic, contributing to mass extinctions, and further jeopardizing the livability of the Earth.

plastic waste

The main culprit is single-use plastic, which accounts for 40 percent of the plastics produced yearly. This includes plastic grocery bags and packaging.

Plastic production and use are increasing exponentially, with no real change in how plastics are disposed of. To protect our environment, this must change.

The Best Time to Start is Now

Waste may be an unavoidable part of life, but it can still be managed. The worse global warming gets, the more resources will be needed to combat it, and the more impact waste has on all of us. The complex system that is the Earth can only self-regulate if we allow it to.

You can do your part today to minimize your own waste. Taking the advice of professionals and being mindful of how you interact with the environment you live in are important steps.

Remember, we all live on this Earth together, and must do our best to take care of it.

The UK’s E-Waste Problem

There’s no doubt that the UK is in the midst of an electronic waste crisis with more than two thirds of households sitting on old phone chargers, along with other items. A study by OKdo shows exactly how big our e-waste problem is, why it’s an issue and how we can dispose of electronic items safely and responsibly.

Here we’ll take a look at the key findings and help you get clued up on what to do with your old electronic items without adding to the UK’s landfill.

e-waste crisis in united kingdom

The UK produces some of the biggest e-waste

With an average of 23.9kg of e-waste per person, the UK is one of the top e-waste producers in the world. Shockingly, during the first six months of 2021, the country produced an amount of electronic waste equivalent to 15 Eiffel Towers.

Cables seem to be a huge contributing factor with 140 million being stored in homes up and down the country. Not only this, households have up to 60 items of old electronics that are left unused in drawers and cupboards.

Why is there such a big e-waste problem?

The main issue appears to be that people simply don’t know how to recycle their old technology with 38% of people aged 45-54 having never done it and are unsure how to. The younger Millennials are more clued up with 31% knowing how to recycle their e-waste.

With electronic products increasing every year and the demand for more digital technology due to remote working, the problem of electronic waste is only going to get worse. Add to this our culture’s obsession with having the latest gadgets and brand-new phones and smart devices, and it’s not difficult to see we’re heading for a serious landfill and environmental issue.

How can we dispose of e-waste safely?

Donating to charity is one way to dispose of unused tech without clogging up landfill. Charities will often donate such technology to communities where items are needed so you’ll be helping others too.

electrical-waste-uk

There are also many company initiatives and services which encourage the recycling of old items, often rewarding you for doing so in the form of vouchers or money off a new tech device.

Council collections or recycling centres are another option if you’re looking for a local site to take your old items to. It’s worth checking your local council to make sure your device can be recycled.

By raising awareness of the e-waste problem and making sure we know how to recycle our old technology, we can contribute to a safer and greener environment and possibly help other communities along the way.