February 22, 2011 | General

Global Roundup

BioCycle February 2011, Vol. 52, No. 2, p. 43

United Kingdom
Synthetic natural gas could be more cost-effective than electricity for reducing transportation carbon emissions, a recent study suggests. Research by National Grid, the North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) and Centrica report that the lifecycle carbon dioxide savings of syngas compared with fossil fuel alternatives to be 90 percent, similar to direct biomass combustion. “The technologies that will bring about a low-carbon future will be many and varied,” said Dr. Stan Higgins, chief executive of NEPIC. “Bio syngas as a transport fuel and for both industrial and domestic applications offers a significant opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint.” The study also found that synthetic natural gas could be used for domestic heating, delivered via the gas grid, as it is more cost-effective than heat pumps or biomass heating systems. The syngas is formed during the conversion of thermally-derived synthetic gas into methane. The process can make use of woody biomass and wastes that are not broken down in traditional anaerobic digester plants.
The Gambia, West Africa
While the coast of The Gambia is a popular and economically thriving tourist destination for European vacationers, the inland portion of the country provides little means for young men to make a living. Many leave their villages in hopes of making more money in urban areas. This economic disparity coupled with the region’s agricultural potential inspired Sandy Martin to found the Home Farm Project in 2004. The project works with rural communities to establish the basic training, tools and other resources needed to build a productive and income-generating farm and gives young men from the area a reason to stay.
The Home Farm Project works with villages to break up community land and gives it to those who have expressed interest in farming. The organization builds wells and provides pumps to make water more accessible for irrigation. It promotes use of drought-tolerant plants and trees, such as moringa in order to diversify crops, create a year-round harvest and provide resistance to the arid climate. These plants and shrubs provide additional benefits – such as fodder for livestock – and help sequester carbon and provide nutrients to the soil.
The ultimate goal is to help farmers build businesses and, as much as possible, source materials locally. For example, two farmers in the Kunkoto district, have established a nursery to provide other local farmers with seeds and seedlings.
“This isn’t about a hand out,” Martin told the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing The Planet. “It’s so important for these projects to become self-sustaining because that is what will provide food and income over the long run – and what will strengthen the community.”
Padova, Italy
The 13th Sardinia Symposium will be held October 3-7, 2011 in S. Margherita di Pula (Cagliari), on the island of Sardinia. The Symposium will focus on innovative aspects of waste management, presenting new technologies, describing the state of the art and related case studies, discussing the main controversial subjects, sharing experiences among different countries and evaluating social and economical balances. The symposium will include oral presentations, poster sessions, specialized sessions and specific workshops. Training courses will be offered by International Waste Working Group before the main event gets underway. Questions should be addressed to the organizing secretariat at EuroWaste Srl Via Beato Pellegrino, 23 – 35137 Padova (Italy); 39.049.8726986; Learn more at
South Australia
A consumer watchdog has won a legal battle against a company it accused of engaging in deceptive marketing of plastic shopping bags in South Australia. The Federal Court in Adelaide has declared that Goody Environment Pty Ltd engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false representations about Goody branded plastic bags. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) case against Goody was that the company falsely claimed its Goody branded plastic bags were biodegradable and compostable and could be legally supplied in South Australia. The ACCC – similar to a Better Business Bureau – said this was not the case because the bags contained the heavy metal molybdenum in amounts that exceeded the maximum concentration prescribed by the Australian standard and did not adequately biodegrade, disintegrate or compost. Acting ACCC chairman Michael Schaper said businesses must ensure biodegradable or recyclable claims can be substantiated and are appropriately qualified so as not to mislead consumers. According to published reports, Goody Environment remains puzzled by the outcome, saying its product was launched only after it had been certified to meet all Australian standards for composting by Zero Waste SA and independent tests by Flinders University.
Hellendoorn, Netherlands
Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Holland will be able to generate 40 percent of its green energy requirements after a biodigester, currently under construction, goes online in mid-2011. After a successful test period, Unilever has opted for a new type of biodigester from Paques, the BIOPAQ AFR, which purifies wastewater by converting waste products from ice cream production (e.g., milk, cream, proteins, syrups and pieces of fruit) into biogas. Wastewater streams that contain fat and oil are treated/digested in one compact reactor, together with degradable particles, whereas in most conventional systems this is only possible by going through a number of processing stages, according to Paques. Construction of the biodigester began in fall 2010. Unilever is one of the first companies worldwide to install this technology.
Greater Great Britain
A recent survey conducted by The Independent newspaper revealed that thousands of tons of food waste are being needlessly buried or burned as councils across the United Kingdom fail to follow recommendations on how to deal with organic residuals. The survey revealed that while the majority of municipalities pick up garden waste for composting, less than half collect food waste separate from residential garbage. As a result, a January 2 article on the survey states, food waste that could be used for composting or generating power through anaerobic digestion is landfilled or incinerated. However, the newspaper reports a growing opposition to incinerators, even as the incinerator operators try to keep one step ahead of that opposition with more than 80 sites planned as a so-called “dash for ash.” This could mean a doubling of the amount of household waste – including food waste – currently incinerated in the UK. Current European Union guidelines require countries to reduce the amount of trash they generate as a top priority of waste management, followed by preparing material for reuse or other recovery such as composting and energy production. “We would urge the government to fully enforce the hierarchy so that councils have to recycle food waste,” Michael Warhurst of Friends of the Earth told The Independent.

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