Why should we separate urban solid waste?

Why should we separate urban solid waste?

The enormous problem of the proper handling and management of urban solid waste in Mexico City finally begins to be solved 20 years after the publication of the official Mexican standard NOM-083-ECOL-1996 (which establishes the conditions that the designated sites must meet to the final disposal of municipal solid waste) and subsequently, its update as NOM-083-SEMARNAT-2003 (which regulates the environmental protection specifications, for site selection, design, construction, operation, monitoring, closure and complementary works of a final disposal site for urban solid waste and special management). Unfortunately, few cities in our country fully comply with it. We know that there are more than 1,500 open-air dumpsites, which daily are generating serious damage and environmental impacts to the soil, subsoil, surface aquifers, and bodies of water, generating organoleptic contamination that affects the health of tens of thousands of Mexicans. Currently I can assure that we are dumping more than 28 million tons per year of urban solid waste and another 25 million tons per year are in controlled sites that do not comply with the referred standard.

To fulfill our commitments offered in the Paris Agreement -to reduce approximately 14 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030-. We must carry out modern management of urban solid waste that allows us to stop emitting the biogas generated by these sites into the ambient air, which contains CO2 and methane, both greenhouse gases that heat the planet.

The management model of sending mixed urban solid waste to be buried in a "sanitary landfill" is simply wrong. The organic and inorganic waste that we generate in our homes are natural resources that have already had environmental impacts in their production and manufacturing, such as the generation of greenhouse gases, in addition to the consumption of water and energy. This bad habit is opposed to the goals of the National Program for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste (2009-2012), issued by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, which contains 13 policy principles, including two principles. fundamental that are the safe and environmentally sound management, and its use and valorization. Mexico lags about 30 years compared to what is practiced in Europe, Asia and North America.

That is why the decision of the government of Mexico City, headed by Miguel Ángel Mancera, is momentous. 8,677 tons of urban solid waste will be sent daily (of the 13,500 tons / day collected in the megacity) to be buried in La Cañada and El Milagro, private final disposal sites located in the State of Mexico and another in the State from Morelos. These wastes will be given a better final destination for their energy use, I mean those of non-recyclable inorganic waste by using the technology called Thermovaluation to generate enough electrical energy to move the twelve lines of the Metro Collective Transportation System.

Thermovaluation plants are practically thermoelectric plants that instead of burning fossil fuels take advantage of the calorific value of the waste by means of a controlled combustion (in a closed system) where the emissions are chemically treated. The removal of nitrogen oxides (NOx) is carried out by reaction with 24% strength ammonia water, which generates molecular nitrogen and water vapor. Dry gas scrubbing is also carried out by neutralizing acids (HCL, HF and SO2) with lime (CaOH) and adsorbing heavy metals and dioxins and furans on activated carbon. Bag filters are used for the separation of solids from the combustion gas, eliminating the products of the reactions and suspended particles. The ashes that are captured in the bag filters and the slags that are generated in the process will be handled according to our current environmental regulations.
The combustion temperature above 850 degrees Celsius for more than 2 seconds, prevents the formation of dioxins and furans. The boiler uses this heat to evaporate water and the steam is in turn used to move a turbine and generate electrical energy. It is subsequently cooled by air condensation and allows the water to recycle. These plants have a continuous measurement system of emissions per line and measure in real time the concentration of the components of the combustion gases (particles, H2O, O2, CO, HCl, SO2, NOx, CO2, NH3) in each chimney . They include data processing systems that can be transmitted "online" and in a transparent way for the environmental authority and the general public. Dioxins, furans and heavy metals are periodically sampled according to the European IED 2010/75 standard and operate under systems that meet the world's most advanced quality standards: EN-14181.

This technology is widely used in Japan, with 1,210 plants, Germany with 99 plants, France with 126 plants, the rest of Europe and Russia with 276 plants, China with 225 plants, the rest of Asia with 62 plants and the United States of America where 99 operate. Thermovaluation or Waste to Energy (WTE) plants valuing 240 million tons of non-recyclable waste per year to produce electrical energy.

There is no epidemiological study linking these plants to health damage from dioxins and furans, since they are minimal. There are more dioxins generated by steel mills, power plants, cement kilns, diesel vehicles, buses, home fireplaces, bonfires, barbecues, jet engines, or forest fires. Studies carried out by the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the University of Lisbon, the UK Committee for Cancerology, the Scientific Advisory Board of the Federal Medical Association of Germany, the Heidelberg Institute for Energy Research (IFEU), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the Fourth Report (20146) of the British Society of Ecological Medicine on the 'Health Effects of Waste Incinerators' and the PHE (Public Health England) report that the possible health impacts , they are very small and not detectable.

The government of Mexico City held a public tender and announced its ruling on April 18, 2017 in favor of the French Veolia consortium with its subsidiary company Proactiva Medio Ambiente, S.A. de C.V. of a contract whose figure is called Project of Provision of Services to 33 years where the French company (160 years old and with sales of more than 26,000 million euros in 2016, which currently operates 63 thermovaluation plants around the world ) commits to generate 965,000 megawatts / hour / year treating 4,500 tons / day of non-recyclable urban solid waste in a plant whose cost will be around 600 MDD and will be installed on federal land in Bordo Poniente, once it complies with the corresponding authorizations .

That is why the separation of urban solid waste ordered by the NADF-024 standard (whose new update is effective as of July 8) is essential so that in this new vision and modern management of urban solid waste, we can not only take advantage of the calorific value of non-recyclable waste, but soon the government of Mexico City will tender a contract for the treatment of 2,000 tons / day of organic waste using anaerobic biodigestion technology, which will also allow us to generate electrical energy with the burning of biogas.

Now we can talk about zero waste, not because in the future we will stop generating waste, but because with this new management of separation of recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste and organic waste, in addition to separating bulky ones such as stoves, refrigerators, mattresses, furniture, etc .; we can abandon the wrong habit of burying them. In this way we will enter what Europeans call the "circular economy" which is nothing more than the reuse of all the waste we generate at home. The countries that use thermovaluation increase their recycling.

Mexico City with these important actions will help our country, not only to comply with the Paris Agreements, but will also comply with the Energy Transition Law that requires us to use clean energy by 25% in 2018, 30% in 2020 and 35% in 2025. Welcome the Thermovaluation to Mexico City promoted by the Head of Government Miguel Angel Mancera Espinoza and Jaime Slomianski Aguilar, City Manager of the new Urban Management Agency.

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