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Symposium 2014

Proposal - Integration and Experience Exchange of Resource Recovery System

The Challenge

Trying to put a value on the global waste market is difficult, but looking at one country can help to give a sense of scale: in India alone, waste is a two billion US dollars industry. The percentage ...

Trying to put a value on the global waste market is difficult, but looking at one country can help to give a sense of scale: in India alone, waste is a two billion US dollars industry. The percentage of waste recycled varies wildly from country to country and from region to region. The ability to recycle waste depends at the very least on political will, municipal financial ability, societal awareness, and the established infrastructure to support those efforts.

Global exchange of good practices for resource recovery based on local lifestyle, such as cascade usage, integrated green design, cross-boarder cooperation and properly designed indicators will bring us to a better sustainable material management world.

The resource recovery of post consumer goods had been elevated as one of the most important societal and economical issue in many countries after the global resource shortage and price skyrocketing for almost a decade. Meanwhile, the resource recovery policies implemented in EU and other countries since 1990 already provided us handful practical tools, such as policy guidelines, market practices, technology applications and channels for new applications of recycled materials. Unfortunately, the imbalance between economic effectiveness and environmental requirements still exist in most developing countries when resource recovery and utilization systems were established. We have to adopt systematic and innovative planning based on some existing good practices to jeopardize the synergy effect of resource recovery.

Problem faced
Usually, the successfulness and effectiveness of resource recovery system always hindered by some key problems and issues as the following:

  1. Most of the sources of recyclable subjects are geographically too scattering. Therefore, the resource recovery system has to be integrated with some other existing system, such as local garbage collection, in order to meet the minimum quantity for financially feasible operation.
  2. The value of some recyclable materials, such as packages for foods, is usually too low to be collected in a self-sustainable way. Therefore, the support of environmental consciousness from consumers and the enforcement of governmental policies are key success factors constantly. Usually, the system designed base on culture and local lifestyle will be sustained longer.
  3. The cross containments of recyclable materials is very difficult to be controlled and monitored. Usually, introducing 5% of polluted matters will ruin the whole recycling system. Therefore, the measures of pre-management and separation prior collection will enhance the efficiency of the recovery system.
  4. The basic properties of targets goods will affect the cost and designated usage of recycled material. For example, steel materials can be smelted and regenerated easily, while plastics have to be segregated into thermoplastic and thermosetting in order to decide the most proper way of regeneration and further usage.

 

Suggestions

  1. Promote the cascade usage of all materials. Many materials and components of consumer products are constrained by the purity and formulated blending in order to meet the suitable usage. Therefore, it is economical and societal viable way to build the CASCADE usage roadmap of some valuable materials to extend the life cycle benefits. For example, the plastic used in mobile phones can be recycled and used in general industrial products and further to be cascaded to next step of making plastic furniture.
  2. Integrate the product design with resource recycle. Proper industrial design will intensify the quality and quantity of resource recycle and regeneration ratio. For example, increasing the percentage of polypropylene (PP) used in cars, replacing the compound plastics with single plastics, will always increase the system efficiency of the resource recycle system. Therefore, “Extended Producer’s Responsibility” policies shall be promoted and creating the economical and social pressure to enable all producers to put more efforts on green design.
  3. Promote the international cooperation on recycle and regeneration. Usually, many recyclable products will need the volume from many countries to meet a threshold of large quantity (i.e., a market of more than 10 million people) to enable the installation of an efficient regeneration plant in an economical scale. (This is especially important for the recycle of precious metals.) However, the control of waste-dumping and the pollution abatement shall be treated as the highest priority before we can have some cross-border cooperation on recycling.
  4. The recovery ratio shall be used for the support of system efficiency instead of the sole management goal. The overemphasis on the resource recovery ratio in some industrialized countries has been the obstacles for the maximization of system efficiency. For example, the required 75% of recovery ratio of some ICT products in EU enforced the manual separation and recovery of many small components from mobile phones. This will increase the total cost dramatically comparing with the alternative way of co-generation of the valuable metals in copper smelters.

 

Conclusions
Recovery, regeneration and reuse are three most important pillars for the resource recovery efficiency. We shall collect and promote those innovative and successful systems developed in many countries in the past decade. The cooperative platform and experience exchange can bring us to the ultimate goals of global sustainable material management.

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