Efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle slow the growth of waste streams, but three forces - population growth, economic growth, and urbanization - have overwhelmed efforts to reduce waste. The huge rise in waste issues flows from the fact that these three forces are at their strongest in the developing regions of the world where waste disposal is at its weakest.
Most of the world’s waste is disposed of in ways that are wasteful, unsanitary, or both. Many wealthy countries incinerate waste, a process designed primarily to destroy waste that produces energy as a by-product. Examples are found in northern Europe, Japan, and Singapore.
Other wealthy countries send most of their residual waste to sanitary landfills. Not to be confused with ordinary “open landfills”, these require large investments to reduce their inevitable leakage of methane into the atmosphere (sometimes producing a little energy), prevent leachate (contaminated water) from leaking into the water table, and contain litter. This approach is dominant in the USA, for example.
Either approach--incineration or sanitary landfill—is expensive, and inefficient at realizing all of the latent value of the waste. Since energy is merely a by-product of each—if it’s produced at all—each requires a high disposal or “tip” fee for each tonne of waste received.
In less developed countries, open landfills or uncontrolled burning are the norm, for tip fees are generally far too low to pay for sanitary disposal. Moreover, raising tip fees is usually not an option. The struggles of day-to-day living take priority over the price required for sanitary waste disposal, and raising tip fees can drive locals toward more illegal dumping or open burning. This situation is most prominent in the countries experiencing the greatest pressure from the forces that drive growth in waste: population growth, economic growth, and urbanization.
The bottom line? We need new, more affordable sanitary ways to dispose of residual waste. We achieve this by extracting more value from the waste.
Top 10 Sources of Ocean's Plastic Waste(2010, in millions of tons)
The top sources of plastic in our oceans are developing economies, with the biggest polluters concentrated in Asia. Although many of these populations rely on the health of the sea and waterways for their survival, sanitary disposal costs typically exceed their civil budgets.
Open landfills are the norm. Plastic, other solid waste, and leachate migrate out with rainfall, wind, birds, or vermin. Informal recycling addresses some of the plastic—entire micro-economies evolve around picking—but fugitive plastic bags and other trash escape from collection and open landfills. This makes ridding our oceans of plastic a major challenge.
Waste does not escape from the Synova system. Once collected, it enters a system that converts it so that it never has a chance to become ocean plastic, helping to save our oceans while providing clean, local energy.
Synova addresses the residual waste that does not get recycled - the fraction that conventional “cherry-picked” recycling leaves behind.
Recycling is part of the culture in both developed and developing countries. Formal systems like curbside segregation and recycling, or public composting, are expensive, but they are the norm in developed countries. Informal systems—pickers who make their livelihood from scavenging waste—are the norm in much of the developing world.
Synova fully supports and encourages recycling. We believe wholeheartedly in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra. We have no desire to disrupt formal or informal recycling operations, but the majority of waste is typically not considered valuable enough to merit “recycling” in the conventional sense.
The Synova solution recycles collected waste passed over by conventional recycling, turning it into chemical energy or power, and thereby fully recycling a typical municipal waste stream.