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Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume V, Issue 27, July 6, 2015 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "Terú")  

Teru's Trash Talk

Dame Ellen MacArthur has a Toolkit for building the Circular Economy. First, the starting position: we determine our current status of turning waste back into goods instead of throwing our resources away. Next, we pick apart the paths and barriers, sector by sector, and jot down notes about needed fixes. Before we wrap up our initial take of the problem and roll up our sleeves, we have one more task: step back and remember that everything is connected to everything else, and figure out how our “improvements” will impact the surrounding community.

OK: Step One, Current Status. Uh - pretty pitiful. The EPA’s most recent Solid Waste Facts and Figures (they are up to counting 2013) says we dumped over half our trash, sent a bit for energy and managed a meager 34.3% recovery. Paper made up about half the materials recovered from the trash we generated; another a quarter was yard trimmings that probably went to composting. We grabbed metals off the conveyor lines, especially steel and aluminum, but still threw away more than half by weight. Then there’s Food Waste: we only recovered 5% of those sloppy discarded organics. Not surprising: we don’t separate the stuff as it is generated, we haven’t really figured out a way to collect and aggregate it effectively, and once it’s mixed in the trash, food waste is almost impossible to sort out and reclaim.

That’s a good place to go to Step Two: Paths and Barriers. We’ve got haulers and pick-apart stations, but they aren’t set up to collect all the wet organics. We’ve got the trucks,, but if we use as-is, the rich and gooey gets stirred into the dry and dirty. We can separate out a lot of goodies, but you have to do something with them if they are not simply going to end up in the landfill. We’ve got some markets for the separated stuff now, but those markets have notoriously slim margins and tend to dry up - then off to the dump we go, yet again. Even when there are recycling markets, things tend to get shipped half way around the world, stripping out our native resources and our jobs. We need local processing and remanufacturing.

(Big sigh) Step Three: Collateral Damage. We can unwrap our trash into usable raw materials, and we can rebuild the stuff we need from the parts we’ve been tossing - but what happens to the Economy as it becomes Circular? Think of it this way: roads are great to get us there, but they cost mightily to build in the first place. We are attempting to get somewhere, back to managing our own localized resources, but we generally lack the path that gets the waste back into goods. We lack infrastructure, and it's a big capital investment. It isn’t going to be as cheap as sending plastics to China and turning a blind eye on what happens next. We’ll have to actually LOOK at the mess as we make it, and at the industrial processes that tear things apart and put them back together again. I know: big Yuck Factor like lancing a boil, but we have to get better.

This Circular Economy business takes a lot of planning, a lot of money, and a lot of people to put it into place. It takes concerted collaboration between Industries, Agencies, and John Q. Public. Closing the gap by recovering and remaking new stuff from the old stuff we throw away, just makes sense. And the alternative to building out the Circular Economy? Sooner or later we will run out of raw materials. 

Hey Rube!

Not clear enough yet? Here’s a treat: Watch Dame Ellen present her Circular Economy concept in her March 2015 TED Talk, “The surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world.” Hint: it isn’t about sailing … 

This Week's Top Story

Food and Drink Waste Could Boost Scottish Economy by Up to £800M

Scotland's Food Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced that waste from the food and drink industry – specifically from the beer, whisky, and fish and shellfish sectors – could help the Scottish economy tap into an estimated £500 million to £803 million each year. 07/02/2015

The Week's News

NYC Mayor Proposes Organics Recycling for Large-Scale Food Establishments

New York City's (NYC) de Blasio administration has announced a proposal to require large-scale commercial food establishments to separate organic waste. 07/03/2015

Canada Fibers Announces Bold Solid Waste Recycling Initiatives

Canada Fibers Ltd has announced that it has taken steps towards the creation of superior value from municipal and commercial solid waste through solid waste recycling initiatives. 07/03/2015

Ellen MacArthur Foundation Launches Circular Economy Toolkit

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched the results of its latest research which provides, for the first time, an actionable toolkit for policymakers who wish to embark on a circular economy transition. 07/02/2015

ANDRITZ Supplies Power Boiler for South Korean Waste-to-Energy Plant

ANDRITZ has received an order from POSCO E&C to supply key equipment for a 50-megawatt bubbling fluidized bed boiler fired with refuse-derived fuel for the greenfield waste-to-energy plant in Pohang, South Korea. 07/02/2015

ADBA Releases UK Anaerobic Digestion Market Report

The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) has released its July 2015 Anaerobic Digestion Market Report on the occasion of Biogen's commissioning of the 400th ad plant in the United Kingdom (UK). 07/01/2015

Green3Power Wins Contract to Build Waste Gasification Facility in Florida

BioPower Operations Corporation has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Green3Power Operations Inc (G3P) has been awarded a contract to build a $175 million renewable energy facility which will convert waste into ultra-low sulfur synthetic green No. 2 diesel fuel. 07/01/2015

B&W Celebrates New Advanced Waste-to-Energy Plant in West Palm Beach

The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) has announced the grand opening of the Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility 2 (PBREF2) in Florida, the Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County’s new advanced waste-to-energy facility. 06/30/2015

Amyris and Total Proceed with Restructure of Jet Fuel Joint Venture

California company Amyris, Inc has announced its agreement on key business terms with Total Energies Nouvelles Activités USA (a wholly owned subsidiary of France based Total S.A.) (Total) for restructuring its fuels joint venture to open the way for proceeding with commercialization of its jet fuel technology over the coming years. 06/30/2015

United Airlines Invests $30M in Fulcrum BioEnergy

California based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc and United Airlines, Inc have announced that United Airlines has made a $30 million equity investment in Fulcrum and will have the option to directly participate in Fulcrum's waste-to-jet fuel plants across North America. 06/30/2015

McInnis Cement and ACF - St. Elzear Sign Biomass Cooperative Agreement

Quebec, Canada company McInnis Cement and the Forestry Cooperative Association - St. Elzear (ACF – St. Elzear) have announced the signing of a cooperative agreement to study the feasibility of using forest biomass as an auxiliary fuel for the cement plant under construction in Port-Daniel-Gascons. 06/29/2015

Oregon Enacts Law Exempting Biomass CO2 Emissions as Carbon Neutral

On the 18th of June Oregon's Governor Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill 752, which exempts carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion or decomposition of biomass under Oregon law, except where necessary for compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. 06/29/2015

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Recommended Reading:

Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis  
Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis


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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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