Better BTU is a small group of industry experts who monitor and evaluate trends in an effort to forward the development of the biomass industry. Made up primarily of engineers, project developers and businessmen, we use our connections with others in the business (consulting firms, lawyers, financiers, etc.) to bring objective and informative blog posts.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Getting the Facts on Garbage
Photo: The Wall Street Journal
Did you know that every
year we throw out enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas? Or
that the widely accepted E.P.A. figure of 4.4 lbs. of trash per person per day
has actually been upped to 7 lbs. as a result of more recent survey by Columbia
These tidbits and more
can be found in last Saturday’s edition of The
Wall Street Journal. In Edward Humes’ “Grappling With a Garbage Glut,”
Better BTU was thrilled to find an article that was comprehensible for the everyday
reader and the expert alike.
professionals, we’ve heard the figures designed to jolt consumers into the
reality of how wasteful our society has become. We skim over facts about how
many football fields our trash can fill up without batting an eye. So often we
discuss waste in terms of billions of tons that it begins to lose its effect on
us. That’s why it’s best for even the most advanced to go back to the basics
every once in awhile and Humes’ article helps us do just that.
In 2009, a team of
researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to track its
garbage the way other scientists follow migrating birds. After attaching
electronic chips to its garbage, the team followed the trash trail as it
traversed the continent on the road to recycling or an out-of-state landfill.
The U.S. has seen its
number of landfills shrink from 18,500 to 1,900 in the past 30 years. While that
is generally considered a good thing, most of us don’t think about how that
increases the cost of transporting trash. The state of New York spent more than
$300 million last year trucking its waste to out-of-state landfills, up to 300
miles away. It’s also worth noting that trash is now the number one export for
America. While China’s leading export to the U.S. is computers, we fill up
cargo containers with scrap cardboard for the return trip East.
Book Release Date: Apr. 19, 2012
But it doesn’t have to
be like this. While our industry is working hard on making waste-to-energy
technology more cost-effective, dramatic efforts have been made overseas to cut
down on the amount of product packaging, which accounts for almost one-third of
U.S. waste. European countries charge manufacturers, not taxpayers, for package
waste and it’s made a difference.
different waste-to-energy projects and philosophies on both sides of the
Atlantic and examines Waste Management’s experiment using S4 Energy Solutions’
plasma gasifier in conjunction with its landfill in Arlington, Ore. His book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash
hits bookstores on Apr. 19th and we can assure you that there will
be a copy on the shelves at Better BTU.