18 May 2016
Smarter Recycling and Greater Reliability Prove Key for Eco Industry
While many of the concerns remain the same – carbon footprints, clean energy, maximising recycling and sustainable development – several green businesses are offering increasingly sophisticated solutions to the world's eco-challenges.
As with its previous incarnations, the most recent Eco Expo Asia drew together an impressive cross-section of the world's leading players in the green energy and recycling sectors. The diverse eco-solutions on offer ranged from IT and heavy plant applications through to machinery and power generation.
One exhibitor attracting particular attention was Japan's Kayama Kogyo. The company reclaims waste, plastic, wood chip, paper and textiles, which are then used in the manufacture of refuse paper and plastic fuel (RPF). As RPF is not a fossil fuel, comparatively it has a far lower carbon footprint. The company claims that its disposal technology not only reduces the need for wasteful landfill, but also reduces carbon consumption by substituting RPF for primary hydrocarbon sources.
Another company looking to make better use of the waste material otherwise destined for landfill was Hong Kong's Carbotopia, this year showcasing its carbon re-using waste management system. Critical of the waste-as-fuel approach adopted by a number of other businesses, Stefan Petters, Carbotopia's Chairman, said: "Traditional – so-called 'zero waste management' – systems transfer the carbon content of waste stored as ambient matter, usually landfill waste, into the atmosphere through burning. Not only is this an un-ecologically friendly solution, it is a waste of social capital, as resources are spent extracting material already available in the form of waste."
Carbotopia refines hydrocarbons directly from trash, converting them into virgin plastics that can then be used for a variety of packaging solutions. The company believes that ambient hydrocarbon residues, including moisture, provide a better hydrogen to carbon ratio than even crude oil, rendering such residues as prime candidates for refining. A clear example here is polyethylene, a material used in some 85% of packaging. Strikingly, the waste from polyethylene transformation has as little as 10% of the carbon footprint of polyethylene manufactured directly from crude oil.
The ways in which waste material is stored for collection, as well as how it is processed post-collection, has a decided impact on the environment, particularly at the local level. Aiming to tackle this particular problem, Molok, a Finnish company, produces waste containers that are built into the ground, thus reducing their environmental impact. Only 40% of the container is visible above ground, while the remainder is concealed below the surface. In practice, this means that conventional containers with a similar capacity to Molok's look much bigger and take up more ground space.
Molok containers use a vertical, semi-underground design and this, together with the use of the company's residual compaction process, means its containers are less visually intrusive, while still offering five times greater capacity waste storage per area compared to surface containers. As waste is emptied through the bottom of the reusable lifting liner – instead of requiring the bin to be tipped over – its lid and immediate surroundings stay clean, reducing local environmental contamination.
Preventing waste, rather than what to do with it once it has been created, was the focus of a number of other exhibitors. France's Delabie, for instance, had on offer its new automatic water-saving system. This is said to increase the efficiency of water consumption by employing a split delivery and utilising an automatic shut-off, both designed to reduce waste due to user negligence. The volume of water is restricted to the exact amount required, thus ensuring significant water and energy savings, without reducing effectiveness.
According to a company spokesman, all of Delabie's electronic fittings – mains or battery-operated – require very low energy levels to operate. Overall, battery models have an average lifespan of between three to six years and all use recyclable cells.
Aside from showcasing products, a number of prospective green projects were also highlighted as part of the event. One such project was Baroque on Lamma (BOL), an ambitious building plan set on the coast of Hong Kong's Lamma Island. Designed as a green project from the ground up, sustainability has been integral to the project, with the BOL team carefully undertaking detailed assessments of the ecological value of the site in order to retain the environment's 'green' integrity.
The project's planners claim that residential, terraced properties have been selected that will minimise the artificial look of the project. This has principally been achieved at the design stage, with all care taken to ensure the properties blend seamlessly into the existing environment.
Most of the BOL buildings have been designed to be indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. From the outset, the project's green goal has been maintained by 'passive' design principles, all aimed at reducing energy consumption during construction.
The development also features a number of other notable environmental features, including organic waste systems that convert waste to fertiliser, the despatch of inorganic waste for recycling, and the collection of cooking oil for conversion to bio-diesel. The project's management team has aimed to demonstrate just how a developer can substantially reduce the carbon footprint of a project, while in no way downgrading the quality of life of the residents.
Not without its critics, the project has once again been submitted for approval, but still faces an uphill struggle, with many Lamma residents objecting to the whole scheme.
Reducing carbon footprints was also the priority for Big Ass Fans, a Kentucky-based manufacturer of environmentally friendly cooling systems. The brand's distinctive large fan blades gently and efficiently circulate a large volume of air throughout rooms, without the need for any duct work. The aerodynamic shape of the fans means they consume less electricity, while their large size extends their area of effectiveness.
For Zigor Solar, the focus was more on generating clean energy. The Hong Kong-based company's latest model – the CTR3 – is one of its range of power plants designed for improved solar generation efficiency. The system has been designed to tackle the problem of solar energy supply interruptions at night or in cloudy conditions. It achieves this by storing and releasing energy in a controlled and reliable flow, an innovation said to make solar energy viable across a range of previously unsuitable applications.
One example of such an application would be in any developing economy with electricity supply blackout problems. A reliable solar energy source would remove the reliance on conventional power sources, while the lack of energy fluctuations would not compromise essential services, such as hospitals.
Marvin Wallace, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong