Global warming: a public threat?

Contribution by George Sbokos (info@ecothesis.gr)

Dear Antonis,

thanks for delivering the ISWA White Paper Summary on Waste and Climate Change. I hope your message will be a part of the decision making proccess in Copenhagen. On the same day, the 7th of Dec. “…an important piece of news came from the U.S.: the Environmental Protection Agency found that the gases contributing to global warming threaten public health and opens the way for establishment of standards regardless of developments in Congress…”. So I first had to ask myself, how tight could the american evaluation range of the importance of global warming be, in order to be understood and manageable only as a "public threat".

Then I questioned if is it not a matter of a tight evaluation range. The Irak and Afganistan issue had to be labeled as a “terrorist threat” in order to legalize the bombardments, the H1N1 had to be upgraded to a “pandemie” in order to forward the use of untested vaccines. I came up to the conclusion that Bureaucracy and laws have to be neutralized, in order to move on with some political issues. In that meaning, “public threat” might be the key word to put the U.S. Congress off.

Even if so, that might be a "CHANGE WE CAN". I mean, till now we were only common to the famous words of President George Bush senior "the American lifestyle is non-negotiable", delivered to justify its refusal to participate in the first World Summit on Environment in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Or the words of the George Bush junior administration in 2002, which refused to sign the Kyoto agreement on climate change and reiterated its refusal to the G8 Summit in July 2005, arguing that “the U.S. economy will be destroyed if we try to reduce emissions from industry to the levels indicated the Kyoto agreement”.

Consider, the world would only need 66,7 billions per anno to apply the goals against global warming. Consider, this amount is 12 times less than the money given to the banks last year. Consider, it represents the 2/3 of the annual worldwide military spending. Consider it is the ½ of the money given to advertisement (Le Monde, 6.12.2009).

Wish the best and raise your voice to an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen!


'Intelligent' waste collection system trialled in Shanghai

This is from "Science for Environment Policy / Issue 176" (service from the European Commission)

New research has developed a system to monitor municipal waste. It uses sensors to calculate the weight, volume and, potentially, type of waste, identify hazardous waste and optimise the routes of waste collection trucks.

The EU's Sixth Environment Action Programme identifies waste prevention and management as one of four top priorities1. In the EU, approximately 3562 million tons of waste are thrown away every day. The research, funded by Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea and partly funded by the EU-China Energy and Environment Programme2, developed an early detection system in Shanghai, China for monitoring the content of waste containers that could help manage the waste situation. The Pudong area in Shanghai generates about 2820 tons a day and this figure is set to increase.
In the past, such systems have only been able to monitor the level of content within the container, but this study investigated other properties. The system consists of a set of sensors and a camera mounted onto the containers to estimate the weight of the waste, its volume and the type. The sensors could also measure the temperature inside the container and liquid levels. Geographic data on the location of the container was also recorded. After significant development in the laboratory, two fully equipped prototypes were tested in the Pudong area in real conditions.

The system successfully measured weight and volume of waste, providing a means to monitor the overall amount of waste. Another goal of the system was to detect materials that could be a potential risk for the incineration plant, such as bricks or concrete. This could be done by calculating the density using weight and volume data. From this, the researchers could calculate a density threshold over which the content might be considered risky. This was estimated at 1kg per litre over more than 1000 trials during field tests.

The second objective of the system was to devise the most efficient route for the waste collection trucks. Again, this used measurements of waste weight and volume. Assuming that a truck can only hold a certain amount of waste and must serve a certain number of waste collection points, routes were identified to make collection as efficient as possible, specifying the location and order of collection points. This led to reduced traffic emissions and costs and helped prevent and manage problems with collecting waste.

The researchers suggest that most issues related to municipal waste (monitoring, sorting, accounting, reduction policies, pollution surveys) could benefit from gathering data at each single production point to be sent wirelessly over the town. As well as developing this data-collecting capacity, the researchers intend to assess the economic impact of fitting the equipment on standard waste containers.

Source: Rovetta, A., Xiumin, F., Vicentini, F. et al. (2009). Early detection and evaluation of waste through sensorized containers for a collection monitoring application. Waste Management. 29:2939-2949