Imagine what Uber and Careem did for taxis being applied to local waste collectors and traders.
PKONWEB/BE2C2 Report: Stephen Peters, the Senior Energy Specialist at the Asian Development Bank suggests Eco parks and digital technologies as channels for an approach to handling waste, which by its nature, is considered someone else’s problem. Sounds familiar? Yes. Karachi and Lahore to name as two of our major cities where this mindset prevails the most–Karachi produces 12,000 tons of solid waste every day, and almost an equal amount Lahore produces daily.
Major portion of these cities waste comprises plastic, a worst enemy for the rivers in Punjab and the Arabian sea life in the port city considered Pakistan’s economic powerhouse.
The challenge is to transition from our energy intensive, throw-away civilization to a circular economy where resource conservation and effective waste disposal are top priorities. The aim should be to recover, recycle and reuse as much waste as possible.
Here’s how Peters sees the waste problem and suggests solutions. Our major cities could be a perfect ground zero for such an idea backed by the ADB:
By STEPHEN PETERS — Waste is a problem that isn’t going away. Over two-thirds of humanity is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. The challenge is to transition from our energy intensive, throw-away civilization to a circular economy where resource conservation and effective waste disposal are top priorities.
To start, we need to admit that not all waste can be recycled. Some waste has an “end of life” at which point its disposal becomes urgent. Today, we have the technology not just to dispose of waste with minimal environmental impact, but to convert it into energy and other resources. By the 2000s, many countries had opted for landfills with varying degrees of environmental controls. Recycling often involved burning plastics in uncontrolled conditions similar to old incinerators.
Today, the aim is to recover, recycle and reuse as much waste as possible. Most waste can be recycled if properly separated. The rest can be treated using new technology with air emissions 25,000 times less toxic than old incinerators. Most importantly, ash is captured, locked up and the pollutants stopped from entering waterways and oceans.
Japan is a world leader in waste-to-energy technology. These modern facilities emit just 20% of the current stringent Japanese emission standard. This technology has been implemented in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with ADB support over the last five years.
Modern waste-to-energy mechanisms raise all sorts of possibilities. Eco parks—industrial parks where businesses cooperate to reduce waste and turn byproducts into resources like energy—are transforming waste management.
Electricity, heat and steam can be shared among ecopark tenants to maximize resource recovery.Food waste, grey water, human septage, construction debris, medical and other waste can all be treated at ecoparks. We are supporting technologies to lock up pollutants and residues safely, stopping them reaching our oceans.
Eco parks can shape consumer preferences for redesigned products and recyclable materials. Community based facilities in Spittelau, Austria and Ningbo in the PRC allow the public to see what happens to their waste. Manufacturers will respond to consumer preferences, especially as single use items attract more scrutiny.
As cities grow and recycling improves, smaller satellite eco parks can treat organic materials and food waste, thereby curbing transport costs while keeping benefits like energy within the local area.
Digitization of waste
The waste revolution isn’t confined to ecoparks. Digital technologies now allow trading apps to link with geographic information systems to provide big data opportunities to reduce collection costs and aggregate specific wastes for recyclers.
Imagine what Uber did for taxis being applied to local waste collectors and traders. ADB is engaging with apps like www.soluhq.com where consumers can segregate and sell their waste. The lending institution is exploring linking such apps to its GIS platform. As well as promoting better environmental services, this creates opportunities for unbanked people to access online services like banking and insurance.
Digitized waste collection can also boost government finances. Resource recovery charges can be levied on products based on their “end of life” costs. Companies will redesign their products and packaging to avoid these costs, while further cutting waste generation and sparing our oceans.
Eco parks and digital technologies also open channels for a regional approach to waste. Strategically located eco parks at ports on busy sea-lanes, like the Enerkem facility in Rotterdam, can shorten supply chains for tradable waste products.
Asia’s waste crisis is a chance to reframe the region’s growth. With the latest technologies and bold thinking, we can transition to a circular economy and save our oceans.