A Thought for World Environment Day

Well, with World Environment Day approaching, I decided I really should poke my head above the parapet. As an environmental engineer it behooves me to add my bit about waste.

Let me explain where I fit in. I work in the oil and gas business (boooo I hear you say). Well that aside, someone needs to work there to keep them as clean as possible! My forte is waste and water management and zero waste is the target.

Most of the environment and waste blogs I have been avidly reading lately relate to urban domestic homes in the main, so I thought to move your eyes over the map of the world to less populated areas. Let us start with the middle of the Sahara desert, where I have been working.

Starting work on a greenfield site—or yellow in my case—with no infrastructure, no waste collections, and 1,000 miles away from real 'civilization' (such as a bar), we found the issues were somewhat daunting. The realization quickly dawned that if we were going to manage waste in a sustainable way, we were going to have to treat it all ourselves, there and then.

With "zero waste to landfill" as a target, we set about getting budgets and writing procedures that I won’t bore you with here.

The crux of it was that we wanted to build a waste management centre without resorting to landfill. We did build a landfill, I was forced into that one, but I’m happy to say that the only thing that went in to it was the ash from the incinerator on site.

So, from a vast expanse of nothing we built a recycling centre and storage for anything that could be reused or recycled. That was plastic bottles, paper, card, metals, car batteries, oil, food, drink cans, good tine, wood, mixed plastics, tires, glass and so on. Now all this is very interesting, but what is the relevance to the rest of us I hear you wondering.

Well the message I would like people to think about in the run-up to World Environment Day, is that…

"All waste can and should be processed at the source."

It’s as simple as that. We took out a mobile Materials Recycling Facility and were ready to sort and minimize waste on Day 1. The unit contained balers, drum crushers, can crushers, aerosol piercers, oil tanks, and bulb and glass crushers.

And I got to wondering why isn’t there one of these in every village? Instead of waste vehicles transporting largely air, they should be transporting baled and crushed recyclates.

Food is a classic example of on-site waste treatment. A waste food processor that feeds directly into a composter saves a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

If an oil and gas industry giant can do its bit for the environment, at least at the "upstream" end, it begs the question; what will we do at the consumer end?

Andy Ive