This is a post prepared by Paul Frith. Initially it was published in his LinkedIn account and I found it pretty good and asked him to post it on my blog. Paul lives and works at Wolverhampton, United Kingdom and he runs Frith Resource Management consulting firm. One of the key-products Paul has developed is the reporting system Credibly Green. Credibly Green provides an independent environmental monitoring and reporting service focused on insuring that all clients have the information to develop and improve environmental performance, leading to a competitive edge with Corporate Social Responsibility and environmental credentials. Enjoy his post.
“The first question being, what is the largest recycling system in the world? Not the EU instigated producer responsibility (packaging) system implemented by member states, although collectively this is substantial, nor the informal sector recycling taking place across India (who knows how much recycling actually takes place via that route?).
The largest recycling system actually takes place beneath our feet, via plate tectonics and natural cycles. What does this system do? It melts the earth’s crust at plate boundaries transforming all its constituent elements, and recasts them as new rock, reformed, renewing the earth’s surface layer – interestingly ours is the only planet in the solar system that does this.
Where are the parallels with waste management systems? Well this is old rock for new rock, a closed loop process. But not without rejects. The melting process (seen at destructive plate margins) results in volcanoes, issuing substantial emissions of volatiles and other gaseous outputs with harmful environmental effects. The ‘recasting’ effect however also concentrates certain elements within the crust either through intrusions, mineral veins and other deposits, allowing us to benefit from separated resources.
We utilise physical properties in our industry to separate materials (in waste treatment processes) such as through windshifters, magnetic separators and density separation. The rich deposits of minerals in the newly formed crust are interspersed by a mixture of low value materials (igneous rocks), this has limited value – ‘rubbish in rubbish’ out applies to the crust conveyor belt as much as the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) conveyor belt.
Taking a mixed input and delivering value from the output, takes energy – from the householder, from technology, or both. In the world’s biggest recycling scheme this is driven by energy within the mantle of the earth, a remnant from the molten past, but eventually this energy will disappear and the process will cease. No energy lasts in the same form and amount forever. But with the resources we manage through our industry we can choose to stop the conveyor belt, or we can devote our energies to preserving the cycle through our activities in separation, efficient infrastructure to collect and sort waste, saving both energy and materials, to keep valuable resources for the next generation, the essence of sustainability and the circular economy.
This approach to waste management and materials flows is what we do best at FRM (www.frithrm.com ) and by viewing resources in a holistic manner this helps individuals to think about a systems approach where everything is connected and intricate feedback loops exist, with only a certain amount of sources and sinks.
We are currently working on projects in four different tectonic plates (African plate, Eurasian plate, Indian plate and Australian plate)! Waste strategy and technology work is a specialism for both private and public sector waste management clients and we also provide carbon reports for companies and other institutions (www.crediblygreen.com).”