Just when you thought you?d seen it all? now they?ve stolen our name and put it on a big black box! The scary part is that I?ve always admired the German engineering savvy? but I guess it just goes to prove the old Eric Hoffer quote ?Beware the cold heart of the intellectual.? (I refer to ?heart? here because of my belief that the market forces and technology alone will never get to the roots of why we have a wasting society.) But we do need to take note of how this writer framed the opening? especially the statement that ??recycling initiatives still tackle only a minor proportion of global waste.? I like the use of the word ?still?? keeps the door open for a serious Zero Waste Path.
The world wants an ?easy? solution ? so we need to keep an eye on this kind of nonsense.
This from Forbes.com today?
Lionel Laurent, 06.18.08, 6:00 PM ET
From the piles of rotting garbage in the streets of Naples, Italy, to the landfills blotting the landscape of Dubai, the problem of how to deal with waste remains visibly unsolved. Incinerators don't solve the problem of potentially toxic ashes, landfills have limited growing space, and recycling initiatives still tackle only a minor proportion of global waste.
But now a new German technology known as "ecocycle" hopes to put a stop to all that, by offering to turn tons of household waste, toxic waste and industrial waste into clean and reusable materials. The distributors of the technology claim that the end product can be turned into bricks, cement, agricultural fertilizer or even chipboard.
"The technology is a huge machine. You can throw in whatever you like--a brick or half a bicycle," says Michael Engelhardt, who owns the distribution rights to the technology in the Middle East and Asia. He says the ecocycle process grinds trash down into tiny particles, mixes it with hazardous waste, locks it all together with an additive and pumps it out as very fine pellets of non-waste material with the purposefully bland name of "CM500."
"This CM500, according to European Union law, is no longer waste because it has no more waste properties," adds Engelhardt. He claims CM500 can be tailored to a variety of needs. Countries like Saudi Arabia could add it to desert soil as a sort of fertilizer. Singapore could use it as a sand substitute. Thailand could use it as a form of water-resistant chipboard.
Although the idea first sprang from the mind of scientist Franz Philip some 27 years ago, only now has the technology been perfected. A test plant with a daily capacity of 80 tons is finally up and running in Würzburg, Germany, after two years of tweaking. This summer, interested parties will finally be able to see whether ecocycle really does work.
The process certainly sounds appealing--if it works. But what's the catch? According to Arnold Black, of Britain's government-funded Resource Efficiency Knowledge Transfer Network, there could be some resistance from consumers if they realize that construction materials were partly made from recycled hazardous waste.
"There is a fairly high public relations mountain to climb," says Black, who works closely with the British government and the environmental sector on areas such as waste management. He warns that the climb could be made harder without extensive testing to satisfy strict government standards--and to bolster the claim that CM500 can be legally described as a "non-waste" material.
But Engelhardt insists that the ecocycle team has performed tests that prove the product's safety. He says the product has been successfully "aged" chemically by 50 years in tests, to determine whether there could be any leaking of waste over a long period of time.
The price of an ecocycle plant, Engelhardt claims, is up to 90% cheaper than an incinerator. This is not entirely surprising, given that it requires around one-tenth the temperature of incineration, or a mere 120 degrees Celsius. That's an energy savings plus, as long as the facility can handle comparable volumes of waste as incinerators.
Engelhardt says that the technology has already been sold to a handful of private waste-handling companies in Germany and that he's had nibbles from interested parties, including Asian and Middle Eastern governments and mining company BHP Billiton.
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