Waste Treatment Systems for Areas Affected by Natural Disasters

September 25, 2019 by Frank Raschke

With hurricanes causing destruction, with the massive fires in the Amazon, Indonesia and Siberia, plus other natural catastrophes around the corner, it is worth highlighting the importance of having waste systems that are mobile and can offer fast help in different ways. Any natural disaster will leave a lot of debris and waste.

Below we are trying to outline the benefits a suitable waste system can have for different natural catastrophes.

Waste is a massive and time sensitive problem, as it provides ideal breeding ground for diseases and hinders any proper clean-up operation. You do not have to look far into history to see the effect of clean-up operations that did not go well. Puerto Rico, Haiti, Pakistan’s earthquakes, the list is extensive.

So, what is the problem?

  1. Any system needs to be small enough that it can be transported and set up in a relatively short time period at almost any location.
  2. To enable any system to accept a large variety of waste, temperatures need to be high enough. Wood, C&D, plastics, organic waste, textiles and other which also contain different moisture levels.
  3. It needs to be running clean with emissions meeting strict emission standards. They may not be enforced in some countries, but there is no excuse for short cuts.
  4. The technology has to be able to be operated by anyone without an engineering degree with minimal training.
  5. It needs to run at low cost. Most systems require high amount of energy to get and keep the much needed operating temperature.
  6. Treat sufficient amount of waste to make an impact without being too large that it becomes permanent.

If a system can produce any type of electricity and heat, it is a bonus as long as the connection to use the power is available. Diesel generators are expensive to run.

Most systems we have come across will not meet at least one of the 6 requirements. Most systems require continuous external heat, which results in spiralling operating costs.

To 1: We believe the size needs to fit in a 40ft container and is designed to be transported on a trailer and can be set up in 24 hours.

To 2: The operating temperature needs to be high enough, allowing for a lot of different types of waste to be treated. Depending on the feedstock, temperatures can be higher. The system also needs to be able to accept waste with a relatively high moisture (35%). Any pre-treatment that can be avoided, reduces cost.

To 3: With in-build cyclones, scrubbers and baghouse filters, any technology can accept all MSW including most Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste, while keeping control on emissions.

To 4: Simple training is enough. It helps if bulky inert materials are removed. Rocks, ceramic, glass and metals, all of which do not pose a health threat to society, should be removed as good as possible.

To 5: After the initial start-up phase, systems should be running powered by itself – be self-sufficient. This helps again to keep operating costs low.

To 6: Traditionally, waste treatment systems are fixed installations. They lack the flexibility needed in affected areas, where a waste system should be able to be moved to where it is needed.

Added bonus: Waste management systems tend to produce plenty of heat. This can and will be converted to electricity if there can be a connection for off-take

With the region returning back to normal, the mobile system will be moved, where is it most needed.

Frank Raschke is a partner at Frontline Waste


Cover photo: Damage caused by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, on September 4, 2019 | Photo by Scott Olson / Getty for The Atlantic

Post photo: Beach-front home damaged by Hurricane Dennis in 2005 | cc FEMA Photo by Leif Skoogfors