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European eco-convention eyes Asian applications video

Billed as Europe's premier recycling and waste management event, exhibitors and attendees at this year's RWM had a keen eye on the emerging eco-markets across Asia as well as all the latest in innovative green technology.

Photo: On the road to the RWM: Dennis Eagle's Elite 6 Refuse Collection Vehicle.
On the road to the RWM: Dennis Eagle's Elite 6 Refuse Collection Vehicle.

It takes an ambitious programme to persuade eco-minded delegates from 66 countries (including China, Australia, the US, Canada, Brazil, Japan, India and Pakistan) that a flight to Birmingham truly merits enlarging their carbon footprints. The 2013 Resource Efficiency and Waste Management Solutions (RWM) event, held in the heart of the UK, must have been doing something right, however, as 14,000 green conventioneers signed up for the proceedings.

Billed as Europe's premier recycling and waste management event, the three-day symposium and trade show was held in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) RWM, and the Environmental Services Association (ESA), two of the UK trade bodies responsible for waste management and the promotion of environmentally friendly practices.

This year the event attracted more than 750 companies, with exhibitors sub-divided across The Energy Event, The Water Event and the newly-established Renewables Event depending on their specialisation. The Renewables Show was introduced to provide the UK's first showcase of on-site energy generation solutions for businesses and corporations.

The event attracted an eclectic range of headline speakers, including Lord Robert Winston (professor and TV personality); Dieter Helm (scientist and author); the Rt. Hon. Ed Davey MP (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change); and Andy Pag, an eco-adventurer who has travelled the world using only cooking oil for fuel.

The 2013 event took place in the shadow of one major question – how committed is the wider world to green policies and technologies? With global austerity measures now having an adverse impact on a range of costly, eco-friendly initiatives, is the sector now seen as an expensive luxury rather than a vital solution? Given the high levels of commitment and undying belief in their policies, products and services shown by many delegates at the event, though, it seems safe to assume that the green agenda, at least for the present, remains secure.

With the spectre of global warming one of the great drivers behind a substantial number of the products and services at the show, many attendees confessed themselves surprised at the increasingly cynical attitude to the issue being taken by the public. A recent report by John Cook, the Climate Communication Fellow at the Global Change Institute, part of the University of Queensland, maintained that the public perceive climate scientists as split 50/50 as to whether global warming is caused by human activity or not. Despite this, the report concluded, in reality 97% of climate scientists back the concept of man-made planet-wide warming. This misconception, he asserted, was because the media gives equal emphasis to both sides of the argument despite the scientific consensus.

Judging by the level of investment and innovation on display and the obvious belief in the future business opportunities in the sector, it was clear that the RWM exhibitors, at least, had come to their own conclusion – with many of them providing intriguing solutions to global problems. One that had a particular resonance with the UK contingent addressed the issue of water conservation.

Water stressed

Many highly populated parts of the UK are actually 'water stressed' – with some areas having less rainfall than far warmer countries. As a result, water authorities, businesses and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of water. Within a foreseeable period of time, the UK will have to look to reducing – rather than increasing – domestic water availability.

Fortunately, help might be at hand, with Methven, a New Zealand-based water technology company, showcasing its SatinJet shower head system during the event. The system works by colliding needle-fine water jets together at converging angles, creating up to 300,000 water droplets per second. The effect is said to flood the skin quickly, giving a fully-cleansing shower experience, but using only around half of the traditional level of water, while also incurring less heating energy waste.

Methven is now planning to target the 7.3 million room major hotel market with its water and energy saving technology. Addressing the system's prospects, Rick Fala, the group's chief executive, said: "We have already retrofitted 13,000 rooms in Australia and Asia with SatinJet as well as installing Jemflo in 60,000 rooms." The company has licensed Jemflo from its Australian manufacturer, with its temperature and pressure balance capacity said to ensure that less heated grey water vanishes down the plughole.

Less grey water waste, however, is not necessarily good news for everyone. One Scottish water recycling specialist, Reaqua, launched its proprietary grey-water recycling system in January 2013 and was heavily promoting it at the event. The system has been designed to reduce water consumption by 30% in homes, apartments and even multi-storey student accommodation.

The system is said to not only recycle wastewater, but can also 'steal' its heat and transfer it to the cold feed of boilers, further reducing energy costs. Stephen Bates, Reaqua's Chief Executive, said: "Importantly, our systems allows consumption to be cut without requiring a change in behaviour. We've already developed a business model that will allow our product to be licensed in a number of promising overseas markets, including China."

With conservation now becoming an issue in many developed countries, smart meters, capable of accurately measuring water usage, were featured widely at the event. With Hong Kong having limited water resources and one of the world's highest levels of per capita consumption, the city is seen as a prime target for this technology.

Meter, meter everywhere…

Energy Assets, a Scotland-based smart meter specialist, claims the UK leads the world in this field, with the company already looking at a number of opportunities in Australia and the Pacific Rim. With regards to China and the wider Asia market, though, it is waiting on announcements related to the mainland's carbon commitments and subsequent legislation. Its optimism, however, has been fuelled by the news that the mainland is already implementing smart electricity meter technology with its smart meter production set to reach 107.7 million units this year.

When it comes to managing large-scale energy demand, Energy Assets says its Z-LYNK system even 'out-smarts smart meters'. Alan Jones, Energy Assets' Director of Technology and Product Development, said that with the UK's spare energy capacity likely to drop from 14% last year to 2% in the near future – demand management technology would become a priority for many suppliers. 

Photo: Dulevo: dust busting.
Dulevo: dust busting.
Photo: Virtual shredding from Untha.
Virtual shredding from Untha.

Fuelling controversy

Over in the Leaders Arena, one climate change sceptic, Benny Peiser, social anthropologist and director of The Global Warming Policy Foundation, opened a set of back-to-back talks focussing on energy security and carbon emissions. Controversially, Peiser saw no problem with increasing the levels of fossil fuels being burnt.

He said 500 years' worth of European fossil fuel resources cannot be left in the ground at a risk of further decline in the continent's industrial growth.  This was particularly important, he maintained, in the light of the US – and, in the near future, China – prospering by burning their vast domestic shale-gas reserves unhindered by their comparatively relaxed climate change policies.

Predictably, not everyone shared his view. Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford's New College and author of The Carbon Crunch, clearly didn't. Addressing the likelihood of human-induced global warming, he said: "Things are going very, very badly due to the expansion of coal burn."

Helm's main concerns, however, regarded Europe's energy security and spiking energy prices as the supply and demand margin edged ever closer together. Helm argued that, in the case of the UK at least, there is an energy policy that is gambling on the future high price of fossil fuels and even on future weather conditions being ideal for cheaper, solar and wind energy generation solutions. Contrary to this, Helm said, prices are not rising, with fossil fuels set become more abundant and, as a result, cheaper. All of this, he maintained, was bad news for the development of current and future renewable technologies in Europe, as well as for the global climate.

The Rt. Hon. Ed Davey MP, the UK's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, took a less controversial stance on energy efficiency. Championing greater consumer awareness, Davey said, "At least 200 tw hours, saved from energy efficiency in the UK alone, could be tapped into by 2020 – that's the equivalent of the output of 22 medium power plants".

Davey also announced that the UK government had launched a new energy efficiency policy. This will see the lifetime running costs of white goods listed on their labels, allowing consumers to understand exactly how much money they could save in energy costs by opting for different appliances.

Shredded evidence

On the show floor, at least one company was keen to prove its green credentials through its exhibition policy. Rather than shipping its 28 tonne Waste to Energy (WTE) XR pre-shredder to Birmingham, Untha, a German industrial equipment manufacturer, opted to showcase its massive machine through the use of augmented reality techniques.

This allowed interested buyers to closely and safely inspect the system's mighty cutters while at the same time allowing the company to reduce its freighting carbon footprint. The fact that it probably saved some money, too, was surely incidental.

Across the way, Nippon Steel and Sumikin Engineering showcased its gasification and melting technology – the Direct Melting System (DMS) – using more conventional techniques. As with China's Circulating Fluidised Bed (CFB) reactors, now an increasingly popular alternative to landfills, the DMS capitalises on its ability to recover indigenous energy.

A number of solutions to other environmental issues troubling the increasingly green-conscious mainland were also at hand. With NOx and dioxin emissions from municipal waste burning contributing to China's tropospheric NO2 problems, W. L. Gore, the Newark-based technology company, saw itself offering one particular answer.

Gore, previously best-known for the Gore-Tex rainproof clothing range, is now offering a series of solutions aimed at combatting acid rain through its newly introduced DeNox Filter technology. In essence, this is a catalytically active textile filter that prevents the finest particulate matter – NOx and dioxin compounds – from entering the atmosphere.

In comparison with other state-of-the-art technologies, such as Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (tail end mode) (SCR), the DeNox system is said to deliver higher NOx reduction efficiency. Gore says its filter system also lowers operational costs, when compared to SNCR. While demonstrating a similar high-end performance to SCR techniques, it benefits from both lower capital investment and lower operational costs.

One Italian company, Dulevo, chose the event to showcase another system that just might boost the quality of living in some of the mainland's murkier metropolises. The company's filter system ensures that any disturbed fine dust that is drawn into its mechanised street sweepers is not then pumped back out of the sweeper's system and into the faces of passers-by, thus reducing the chances of any subsequent respiratory problems.

Based on this year's RWM, it would seem that waste management and the associated resource efficiency issues remain both global priorities and lucrative business sectors, representing a rare combination of social responsibility and potential profit.

Photo: RWM 2013: Tidy profits from saving the world.
RWM 2013: Tidy profits from saving the world.

The 2013 Resource Efficiency and Waste Management Solutions (RWM) was held at Birmingham's NEC from 10-12 September. The event attracted 750 exhibitors and 14,000 attendees.

Steve Daniels, Special Correspondent, Flint

Eco Expo Asia, Hong Kong's own International Environmental Protection Trade Fair, takes place between 28-31 October this year. To see the highlights of last year's event, please click on the video below:

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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