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Articles - Waste Management

Waste management

Waste has existed since the beginning of life. In the beginning, and for less evolved forms of life, waste was basically the metabolism’s waste products: excrement. Nowadays, and for the more evolved forms of life, the waste from individuals' activities must be added; in the case of human society, urban waste, waste from building and industrial waste.

Many species of animals, particularly humans, instinctively tend to get rid of their own waste “in the best possible way”, trying to avoid any subsequent contact with it by throwing it away in the environment.

This behaviour is the main reason for lack of progress in the field of waste disposal techniques (for example in the building and management of tips). In addition, particularly in the past, and to a certain extent even today, this traditional behaviour led to increased discrimination against the social classes who had anything to do with waste: there is no


doubt that, even in our highly evolved society, economists, lawyers, doctors, specialists in electronics, architects, planners, etc. are more highly respected by the population in general than those involved in the correct disposal of waste. Despite this, the role of the latter is decisive to ensure the survival of the former and of future generations.

In 1854, Seattle, an Indian chief, in a speech he is said to have given before the Congress of the United States, addressing the emergent white population, said the following:

“…White people will disappear too; maybe even before all of the other tribes. Infect your beds and one night you shall drown in your waste…It is the end of life and the beginning of survival”.

Let’s make sure that this speech helps us to open our eyes and that it is not a prophesy of our future.

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Pomace for fuel cells

The European wine industry produces 300 million tonnes of biomass per year. To recycle this waste, the European research project EESD (Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development) has developed a process of supercritical water gasification. If this initiative bears fruit, it could be rapidly extended to other types of waste and residues.

The process involves passing the waste through a heat exchanger at 30 MPa and then through a 15-metre long coiled tubular reactor in which the mixture of water and waste is heated to 600°. During this process the organic constituents are transformed into a hydrogen-rich gas which


– after chemical washing to remove CO2 – can be used for fuel cells and other industrial applications.

The process looks like a promising solution, especially as conventional methods of treating agricultural waste are hampered by the presence of pesticides and additives such as those from the fruit and vegetable processing industries, as well as paper mills and sewage treatment.


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