When you’ve grown so used to tossing all manner of garbage into the trash bin, without giving a second thought to whether it is organic or non-organic waste, it’s easy to not care where your garbage ultimately ends up. But the reality is that, in Indonesia, your garbage gets mixed together with the garbage of millions of households, creating mountains of toxic waste too large to contain in municipal landfills.
As experts in the field would vehemently argue, solid waste management is not the sole responsibility of a municipal government, but a collective one. As populations grow and consumption patterns increase, more and more solid waste is created– and landfills can only take so much waste!
So what to do? The World Bank in Indonesia is currently exploring how to improve solid waste management, and scaling up ‘waste banks’ is one option. Recently I went on mission with the Solid Waste team to see these waste banks at work.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… Recover. As the population in large cities worldwide grows, waste management becomes an even bigger challenge. Recycling programs can divert large amounts of materials from landfills but some garbage still needs to be disposed of in landfills or Energy From Waste (EFW) sites. EFW facilities are capable of recovering energy from garbage that would otherwise be unused in landfills.
EFW and landfill gas capture systems operate on similar principles: produce steam to turn a turbine which generates electricity. The difference is the fuel used to produce the steam. Landfill gas based electricity generation relies on methane from the decomposition of organic material, while EFW facilities combust the solid waste. Both are good options as they prevent methane gas from escaping into the atmosphere. Methane has a global warming potential 72 times that of carbon dioxide. Both options sound good, so which is better? The better question is: ‘How much land and money do you have’?
The plight of refugees is in the news all the time, mostly as a result of war. But recently, I saw a post in Dot Earth, a New York Times blog, about a documentary called Climate Refugees. It suggests that climate change will lead to massive refugee problems, mainly as a result of flooding. Disasters in New Orleans, Bangladesh and Myanmar offer a glimpse of what might come.