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Teru Talk News

Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume III, Issue 2, January 14, 2013 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "Terú")  

Teru's Trash Talk

One of our News items this week is about the Ames Laboratory's new task of finding novel ways to solve the "rare earth metals" shortage, and it occurs to us that maybe it isn't really clear what this has to do with waste conversion. After all, those highly desirable metals we can't even pronounce (try Ytterbium, Praseodymium, Dysprosium, Neodymium) are a far cry from the grungy crud in the bottom of a trash can. It's not like they are worth their weight in gold or anything, right? Wrong, perhaps surprisingly.

The "rare earth" elements are really not so rare, just scattered. These things are hard to come by mostly because they are not often concentrated enough to make mining them economical. One part of their technical definition calls them "the fifteen elements of the lanthanide series" (plus a couple others) which fits, since that Greek word means "hidden." But why should we care and to our first question, what does this have to do with what we throw away? Consider this clue: China stopped export of electronics trash to Japan, as part of their nation-wide crack-down on rare earth mineral management.

Yup: almost every single thingie we use that is an "advanced electronic device" absolutely positively MUST have one or more of these rare earth elements in it somewhere to make it work. The more we seek "clean energy" technologies, the more important these rare earth materials become. And Yup, we just throw them away when they don't work anymore. In fact, we have big public-money supported programs that collect "electronic waste" just to help us get rid of all those smart phones, computers, TVs, button batteries, monitors, scanners, and fax machines as fast as we can. In 2010, Japanese researchers figured out that there were about 300,000 tons of rare earth elements in the waste electronics in their own country, and began setting up plants specializing in recovering those goodies from the plastics, glass, and "regular" metals. We're talking about stuff that is actually more valuable than gold by the ounce in some cases.

So now the US has a Critical Materials Strategy, finding at least five of the rare earth elements were so crucial that disruptions in their supply would seriously impact clean energy technology development. The report points right at the quantity of electronics we send to the landfill or sell as recyclables. And where in the world do we sell them? Oh, mostly to China …

Hey Rube!

SWACO (what a great acronym!) just OK'd a great project in central Ohio, growing up the idea of Materials Recovery to incorporate that last "reprocessing" step of recycling, all right on the same integrated "Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling" green industrial park. We're gonna see a lot more of this level of closing the Materials Management loop. In California, the City of Lancaster is headed right down the same path, and in Texas the City of Houston is only a step behind. Add into these intricately sensored waste separation facilities the capacity to reclaim rare earth elements from the gritty left-overs … gee; pretty soon there won't be anything left to go to the landfill. Darn.

The Week's News

Australia Approves $12.15MM Refund to Algae.Tec for Bioreactor Facilities

Australian based Algae.Tec has announced that the Australian government has approved a 45% refund on the company's proposed Australian and foreign project development expenditures that occur between June 30, 2012 and June 30, 2015. 01/12/2013

BioNitrogen Secures 600 Acres in Florida to Expand Biomass to Fertilizer Plant

BioNitrogen Corporation has announced acquisition of about 600 acres in Hardee County, Florida, for expanded development of its biomass to urea fertilizer thermal conversion facility. 01/12/2013

CalRecycle Posts CARE's Waste Carpet Handling Best Practice Guidelines

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has posted new handling guidelines developed by Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), meant to provide general guidance for the processing and storage of post-consumer carpet. 01/12/2013

IME Issues Global Food Waste Report: Up to 50% of Food Produced is Wasted

The United Kingdom (UK) based Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) has released a report, "Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not," that finds of an estimated four billion tonnes of food produced each year, from 30% to 50% "never reaches a human stomach." 01/10/2013

Team Gemini Selected for Ohio Recycling and Green Energy Industrial Park

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) has announced selection of Florida-based Team Gemini, LLC for development of a waste receiving and recycling center, and a green energy industrial park. 01/10/2013

DOE Launches Web Tool to Explore Clean Energy Economy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the release of a beta-version of an on-line interactive program to assist in determining options and effects of energy choices, including both fuel and electricity. 01/10/2013

Ames Laboratory to Lead Effort to Solve Rare Earth Metals Shortages

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a newly funded initiative led by Ames Laboratory to establish an Energy Innovation Hub focused on solutions for in-country shortages of rare earth and other critical metals. 01/10/2013

DECC Awards £292K to Entrepreneurs for Innovative Bioenergy Solutions

The United Kingdom (UK) Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced awards totally £292,000 to encourage innovation in bioenergy. 01/10/2013

VTT Begins Commercialization of Enzymes for Second Generation Biofuels

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has announced that cellulosic enzymatic development under the DISCO project has now reached sufficient advancement for full commercialization. 01/10/2013

Cranfield University Develops Tool to Determine Renewable Energy from Waste

Cranfield University in the United Kingdom (UK) has announced the development of a new approach for determining the renewable energy contained in the biogenic fraction of waste material, relying on imaging sensors and microwave analysis. 01/09/2013

American Biogas, US Composting Partner to Support Organics Recycling

The American Biogas Council and the US Composting Council have jointly announced signing a Memorandum of Understanding to "accelerate the growth of the organics recycling industry." 01/08/2013

LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute Opens Biofuels Pilot

The Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute has announced that a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be conducted on January 25, 2013 to inaugurate the completion of a pilot plant dedicated to the production of biofuels and biochemicals from agricultural crops and residues. 01/08/2013

UK Pledges £10MM into 7-Country EU Bioenergy Project Development Program

The United Kingdom (UK) Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has announced that the government has committed up to £10 million (€12.5 million or $16.1 million) as its share in a seven-nation effort to stimulate innovative bioenergy project development. 01/08/2013

US Energy Initiatives to Deploy Methes Biodiesel Technology in California

Methes Energies International Ltd. has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Methes Energies Canada Inc., has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with U.S. Energy Initiatives Corp. of Santa Clarita, California for them to form a joint venture to set up small-scale biodiesel plants in California. 01/08/2013

Polish 200MWe CFB Biomass Power Plant Is Now Fully Operational

Swiss based power engineering company Foster Wheeler AG has announced that the 200 megawatt electric (MWe) bioenergy plant in Polaniec, Poland is now fully operational. 01/07/2013

The Week's Action Items

Due 02/01/2013: Comments to CEC on Proposed Biofuels Production Grants

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has announced a public workshop for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), to be held January 11, 2013 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and is seeking comments on the proposed solicitation. 01/07/2013

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Recommended Reading:

"Waste-to-Energy, Second Edition: Technologies
and Project Implementation" by Marc J Rogoff and Francois Screve

Municipal Solid Waste to Energy Conversion Processes: Economic, Technical, and Renewable Comparisons by Gary C Young

"Municipal Solid Waste to Energy Conversion Processes: Economic, Technical, and Renewable Comparisons" by Gary C Young


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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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