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Recovering Energy from Waste Qualitative Research

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Updated: Jun 22nd, 2019

Background

Waste management is one of the fundamental issues that are raising concern among the policy makers within the Victorian State in Australia. According to Parkinson (2007, p. 85), the amount of waste materials produced by households and companies in Australia has been consistently on the rise over the past few decades due to the increasing population in this country.

In the past, the Victorian government did not see the relevance of enacting strict policies to help in the management of waste because it never considered it a major issue. However, the events that have taken place in the last thirty years or so have forced this government to redefine its focus towards waste management. It realized that this issue could no longer be ignored anymore.

Action had to be taken to protect the environment in order to achieve sustainability. Some of the approaches that were used before in managing wastes could no longer be used because they were unsustainable. For this reason, the government has enacted a number of legislation and policies to help define the approach that should be taken to manage wastes within this country. Recovering of energy from waste materials has been seen as the best alternative to managing waste other than disposing them to landfills.

The Victorian Organic Resource Recovery Strategy is one of the initiatives by the Victorian Government that focuses on how to recover energy from waste materials. In this essay, the researcher will focus on discussing how energy recovery from wastes is more beneficial than disposal in the landfills within the Victorian state.

Aim of the study

Waste management is a global issue that is causing concern in various parts of the world. Here in Australia, the government has been trying to find the best solution to this problem. The Victorian government has been keen on developing policies, which may be of help in waste management. In this essay, the researcher aims at identifying how wastes can be turned into energy as a way of addressing this problem.

Analysis of the Issues

According to Smith

(2010, p. 45), managing of wastes in the modern world is taking a new approach. In the past few years, some of the developed countries considered sending waste materials overseas to the developing nations for recycling. However, the issue of waste management in these developing countries is a concern, and this means that countries have to find a local solution to this local problem.

The Victorian government has taken the initiative of finding a local solution to this local problem. Over the past decade, government has been pushing a number of agendas on waste management that can be summarized in the diagram below.

Figure 1: Waste Management Initiatives

Waste Management Initiatives

Source (Roberts 2014, p. 84)

As shown above, the government has been pushing for reduction in the production of waste materials as the best solution in managing this problem. It is the first step towards having an environment that is free from pollution. However, it is a fact that the society cannot avoid producing waste in totality.

In this case, the second policy of re-use becomes very useful. In this area, the government is creating awareness among the populace that it is environmentally beneficial to reuse some of the wastes as plastic bags instead of disposing them soon after they are used for the first time. This will help in minimizing wastes in the environment.

When the product can no longer be re-used anymore, the next step would be to recycle the material instead of letting it go into waste. Recycling increases the usefulness of these products before they can be disposed. It reduces the amount of domestic and industrial wastes. When recycling is no longer a viable option, then energy recovery comes in as an alternative to disposing the material.

It is important to note that the recovery involves tapping of energy from the material that has been considered completely non-useful. This will be the focus of this study. The last stage that the whole system is trying to avoid is the disposal into the landfill because of the obvious health hazards.

Policies Enacted By the Government to Promote Resource Recovery

The Environment Protection Act 1970 is seen by many as the basis of all other government policies on managing wastes in this country (Hinrichs 2014, p. 72). Under section 50 CA, the Victorian government provides policies on how various stakeholders can participate in waste management and resource recovery in order to reduce the burden of wastes on the environment.

Nee and Ong (2013, p. 119) say, “The Victorian Waste and Resource Recovery Policy remains one of the best government-led initiatives in combating wastes.” This policy seeks to find a way of turning waste materials into resources that can be used to drive the economy. The government- through various departments- has been struggling with the impacts of waste materials on the society.

These wastes are a serious threat to public health, besides the negative consequences they have in the environment. This ambitious government policy focuses on turning the problem into a solution. According to Shrivastava (2003, p. 58), waste materials have the potential of producing energy that can be used to run engines, provide lighting, and many other benefits if the tapping is done appropriately.

According to Plitch (2008, p. 51), the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste) Act 1985 was enacted as an amendment to the 1970 laws on environment to bring more focus on waste management using local solutions. This Act specifically focused on the management of industrial wastes.

It promoted the idea of large industries using their wastes to harness energy instead of releasing it to the environment. According to Hinrichs (2014, p. 89), it is through this policy that many manufacturers of sugar realized that they can produce enough energy to run their engines by using energy recovered from their waste products.

This policy was enacted after a review conducted by the government agencies confirmed that industrial wastes were posing serious environmental threats and urgent measures were necessary to help address the problem. The Environment Protection Act 2002 was enacted to give Environmental Protection Authority the mandate to develop policies on waste management (Roberts 2014, p. 67).

This new law was enacted after it became apparent that the issue of waste management was dynamic in nature. Addressing it through Acts of parliament was not a viable process. The Victorian government, therefore, considered it necessary to hand over this responsibility to an authority that can be in the best position to develop policies at regular intervals in line with the dynamic forces in the environment.

This law allows the authority full mandate to define all the policies that should be followed by the industrial sector in order to ensure that wastes are recycled. It also allows this authority to create an enabling environment where private-public partnerships can be used to spur growth of energy production from waste materials. According to Hinrichs (2014, p. 137), the Victorian government has been using this authority to identify companies that have done exceptionally well in converting their wastes into energy that is useful to them and to the society.

The government always rewards these companies through material and non-material initiatives. The companies, which are able to produce more energy than they require for their local consumption can, sell the excess energy to the national grid through direct help from the government.

More recently, the Victorian government enacted Environment Protection Regulations 2009 to improve on the laws that existed on industrial waste resource management (Roberts 2014, p. 125). The Act is a deliberate effort by the government to convince the industrial sector to change their perception towards wastes. Under this Act, the scope of industrial wastes goes beyond the wastes produced within a given company.

It extends to wastes from consumers buying products from a given company. For instance, Coca Cola Company uses plastic bottles to sell their drinks. The plastic wastes (the used bottles) that are thrown by the consumers become a responsibility of this company. This means that the company will find a way of making its consumers use the material responsibly. The law encourages the need to find a communal solution to this problem.

Importance of Energy Recovery from Wastes

The global society is struggling with the problem of pollution as its effect begins to weigh heavily in some parts of the world. According to Hinrichs (2014, p. 43), major cities in China such as Shanghai and Beijing are so polluted that sometimes it forces the elderly and young individuals to stay indoors because of their vulnerability. People develop strange diseases because of the toxic substances within the environment they stay.

This clearly demonstrates some of the possible consequences of pollution that this society may face. On the other hand, the cost of fuel continues to rise. Australia is forced to import oil from other countries such as Saudi Arabia at very high costs. Converting of wastes into energy is the solution to these two problems. This explains why the government has enacted several laws to guide this process.

It will help the Victorian community eliminate all the health hazards from organic wastes and instead, tap energy that can be used to spur economic growth in the society. To the industrial sector, this initiative can eliminate the cost of buying energy to run their engines. To individual families, the initiative will help them generate their own power that can be used domestically or even commercially by selling excess power to the government.

The process can be done safely and in a manner, that minimizes air pollution as much as possible. The figure below shows a waste-to-energy plant and the process involved.

Figure 2: Waste-to-Energy Plant

Waste-to-Energy Plant

Source (Roberts 2014, p. 64)

As shown in the above diagram, the energy from this plant- in the form of electric energy- is then supplied to the national grid.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, it is clear that we should recover energy from wastes rather than using the landfills. This initiative helps in addressing the problem of environmental pollution, besides creating additional energy to be used for domestic and industrial use. The Victorian govern has enacted laws to help govern this process.

List of References

Hinrichs, R 2014, Sustainable Energy Policies for Europe: Towards 100% Renewable Energy, CRC Press, Melbourne.

Lawrence, W 2004, Plitch Retail Wheeling: A Paradigm Shift for Waste-to-Energy and Other Renewable Energy Facilities, Natural Resources & Environment, vol. 9. no. 2, pp. 27-29.

Nee, A & Ong, S 2013, Re-engineering manufacturing for sustainability: Proceedings of the 20th CIRP International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering, Springer, London.

Parkinson, A 2007, Maralinga: Australia’s nuclear waste cover-up, ABC Books, Sydney.

Roberts, B 2014, Australian Environmental Planning: Challenges and Future Prospects, ABC Books, Sidney.

Shrivastava, A 2003, Wealth from waste, McMillan, London.

Smith, J 2010, Renewables information: 2010, with 2009 data, OECD/IEA, Melbourne.

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