Seventh Resource: Recycling

Of the earth’s natural resources, we tend to think of six as the most important – water, air, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals. These resources represent the foundation of our very existence. All our food, all our sustenance, all our belongings ultimately come from these six elements. Today, humanity can’t survive without them.

However, these resources are finite and rapidly running out. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. We are carelessly using the earth’s natural resources without thinking about what will replace them, while billions of tons of waste pour into landfill sites every year.

The simple solution to this is recycling – the ‘Seventh Resource’, which can be used again and again. Recycling helps to:

Combat climate change
• Each and every year, the Seventh Resource (recyclables) saves over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions
• The Seventh Resource offsets all CO2 emissions generated by the aviation industry annually

Boosts local employment around the world
• Approximately 1.6 million people worldwide are employed in processing recyclables
• The annual contribution of the recycling industry towards the global GDP is projected to exceed $400 billion in the next 10 years
• $20 million dollars is invested each year by the industry into job creation, improving recycling efficiency and environmental impact.

Conserve the earth’s six precious primary resources
• Humans have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than in all previous history
• The Seventh Resource (recycled materials) supplies 40% of the world’s raw material needs

*Based on a study conducted by the Bureau of International Recycling

For more information see the report: Recycling: The Seventh Resource Manifesto.

 

‘We definitely have a long way to go as a society before we reach sustainability, but projects like this give hope that with human creativity anything is possible,’ said Alderman Twigg.

Cape Town Waste to Energy Project on Track

The City of Cape Town is nearing the production of electricity from landfill gas – a project known as “Waste to Energy”. Although only a small amount of electricity will be produced at this stage, the successful implementation of this project is an important milestone in the journey towards overall sustainability.

Engines have been delivered to site, and are currently in the process of being connected to the landfill gas extraction system that has been operational since March 2018. It is expected that the project will generate approximately 2MW that will be added to the City’s grid.

2MW is only a very small fraction of the City’s total demand, hence this is unlikely to provide extra protection from load-shedding or enable a reduction in tariffs. It is however an important step forward in the City’s mission to reduce reliance on the state power utility and meeting emission reduction targets over time.

The project works on the combustion of landfill gas, which is primarily made up of methane. which has a global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. Perforated pipes or “wells” are dug into the landfill site to extract the gas. The wells are then connected to the flare compound where it is combusted or diverted to a gas engine to generate electricity. If gas is not used in the engine, it will be flared. Read the full press release here.

 

Recycling rare metals from our waste could help us to reduce extractive mining. But urban mining's value depends on how it’s done

What Role Can Urban Mining Play to Save the Planet?

Open Democracy reports: ” We live in an era of mass overproduction. Offices, apartments, cars, ships, aeroplanes, mobile phones, laptops, batteries, televisions, furniture, air fryers, hot tubs, elevators and escalators. A countless multitude of objects that belong to the anthroposphere – a term for everything that people have made and how it all interacts with the planet.

Many of these products end up as waste, buried in landfill, incinerated or dumped – with catastrophic environmental consequences. At the same time, mining companies continue to pollute the planet, exploit local communities and produce huge CO2 emissions in the drive to make more products.

But what if there was a way to use what we already have, instead of mining for more raw materials? Could this alternative system reduce the need for ore, while avoiding the extractivist violence and exploitation that characterise the mining industry?

“When we talk about urban mining, we’re talking about mining what we have already made and brought into an urban context,” explains Jessika Richter, a researcher at Lund University, Sweden. “We can mine many of these same materials out of our products, so not all of them end up in landfill.”

A recent report shows the huge potential of the global urban mine, which includes all products that are in use, classified as waste or buried in landfill. These existing materials could be reused as raw materials, and any future waste anticipated and utilised. It is a field that, according to experts, can contribute to long-term environmental protection and resource conservation, as well as providing economic benefits.” Read more here.