Yesterday, October 4th, marked the first day of the 2018 EEC/WTERS Bi-Annual Conference at City College, New York. The conference saw a number of speakers presenting new and radical ideas for revolutionizing the way we think about waste-to-energy solutions. In a circular economy, products are designed and manufactured with their end-of-life in mind. This presents a number of opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of the product we use on a daily basis.
Circular Vs Linear Economies
Henrietta Goddard, a research analyst working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, began her presentation by outlining the guiding principles of a circular economy. In a circular economy, product designers consider the environmental impact of the materials they use from the very beginning of the design process.
By making this a consideration from the very beginning, it is possible to significantly reduce waste and pollution.Thinking about product design in this way also encourages designers to aim to produce products that can be kept circulating and in-use for a longer time.
Goddard also highlighted food waste as a current area of concern, especially for big cities. She highlighted that bread was particularly pervasive in food waste, despite the fact that there are a number of ways of reusing and recycling it. For example, recycled bread could be used in the beer brewing process, or to create fuel.
Public Engagement and Perception
Paul Davidson works for the UK-based Proteus Communications Group, and his passion is encouraging others to take a greater interest in waste and the role it plays in our lives and environments. While he is supportive of Goddard’s idea of the circular economy, he also encouraged attendees not to use the term with the public. He feels that using such esoteric and unrecognizable terms stifles the public’s engagement with waste management issues.
Davidson pointed out three areas of disconnect between the public and the waste management industry:
- People view waste management as being someone else’s problem, despite the waste they produce being their own.
- The focus on recycling over the last couple of decades has come at the expense of non-recyclable waste disposal.
- While we are developing more sophisticated engineering for managing waste disposal, we have neglected to think about the way we explain important terms to the public.
Opportunities for Change
GPB capital is a New York-based asset management firm. Under the guidance of their director of waste strategy, Rod Proto, GPB has expanded its waste management portfolio. This portfolio includes Buckeye Water Service LLC, who offer a package of transportation, testing, and disposal services to the oil and gas industry. They provide testing and disposal methods for liquid and solid waste that GPB is hoping to apply to other waste management issues in New York.
New York’s waste management problem is nothing new, but many of the solutions now being proposed are revolutionary. Not only this, but many of these innovative solutions can also be applied to other parts of the US where waste management is an issue. Businesses like GPB are only going to become more important to this process as time goes on.