Environmental Impact

Environmental Consequences and Impacts

The planet is producing ever increasing volumes of waste and more than 10 million tons of end of life tyres and much of the plastic is used just once before it is either incinerated or land filled. Little effort is made to recycle and recover it or to reverse engineer the waste plastics to produce low sulphur fuel. So much of the plastic is discarded on open land and unregulated dumpsite or on riverbanks.


China is the biggest culprit for release of plastics into the ocean, the second is Indonesia and some 8,000,000 tonnes of plastic is currently estimated to be floating in the world’s oceans and resulting in most marine life ingesting plastics that seriously damage their health and impact on their life expectancy.


Unless the planet adopts mechanical treatment of municipal solid waste, there will be no space for landfills to accommodate the millions of tons of MSW. RCR’s suite of technologies contribute towards a 98% diversion from landfill and 100% recovery of valuable recyclables from the treated waste stream.


Incineration is not a solution. Waste is no longer an expensive disposal issue but a valuable resource that should be harvested, collected, treated, size reduced and sanitised to produce onsite valorised materials for which there are ready markets and premium prices due to the assured quality of the outputs.


Waste minimisation can only be a practical solution if consumers expectations are lowered and an acceptance of imperfect products due to reduced packaging as part of a waste minimisation strategy.  Incineration is promoted as a way to reduce the volume of waste and the justification falsely advanced is that this disposal route will generate electricity.


Plastics can be revered engineered to produce ultra low sulphur diesel (D2) that has a market value of more than $600 per tonne, whereas in some instances the Feed In Tariff for electricity generate from waste is measured in low single digits of US cents per kilowatt hour. Incineration is merely a 75% disposal solution with 25% ash content that is classified as hazardous or toxic waste and must be disposed of in controlled landfills at a considerable cost since the ash contains heavy metals and other pollutants including chlorine.   Much of the steel and aluminium found in bagged MSW is included within bags of waste that is incinerated and the metals once recovered from bottom ash has little commercial value and do not command one tenth of the sales value that RCR’s premium quality products can achieve.


Many if not all of the sectors in which RCR’s operates and delivers high value recyclables and bi products including fuels and carbon credits. Carbon allowance “credits”, called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) or Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) arising from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows countries to finance emission reduction projects.


Greenhouse Gas (GHG) mitigation is now an important factor involving the use of biomass to generate electricity, cogeneration, to replace fossil fuel for use in boilers or in the avoidance of dumping biomass in landfills. These credits can help to meet their GHG reduction targets and represent a means of acquiring additional revenue and making a significant and visible contribution to climate change.


Waste management has at least five types of impacts on climate change, attributable to:


  • Landfill methane emissions
  • Reduction in industrial energy use and emissions due to recycling and waste reduction,
  • Energy recovery from waste,
  • Carbon sequestration in forests due to decreased demand for virgin paper
  • Energy used in collection and transport of waste


A recent U.S. EPA study provides estimates of overall per-ton greenhouse gas reductions due to recycling. Calculations using these estimates suggest that the U.S. could realize substantial greenhouse gas reductions through increased recycling.


Every one-ton of organic MSW landfilled will generate one-ton equivalent of CO2. Therefore for every one-ton of MSW diverted from landfill then one-ton of CO2 is avoided.


In addition, each ton of HDPE plastics that is recovered and recycled from the MSW is estimated to save 1.5 tons equivalent CO2. Each recycled ton of LDPE plastics equates to 2.0 tons of CO2, and a ton of PET is equal to 2.5 tons of CO2. As the RCR STAG Recursive Recycling process recovers all available plastics, these environmental benefits are realized as a matter of course.


Substituting recycled paper for pulp from trees:


  • Reduces energy use by 23% to 74% – depending on paper grade
  • Reduces air pollution by 74%
  • Reduces water pollution by 35%


It should not be forgotten that in the conversion of bauxite to aluminum the energy needs are 20 times that of conversion of aluminum scrap into virgin aluminum product. Using recycled aluminium in place of virgin bauxite:


  • Reduces the energy used in production by 95%
  • Decreases air pollution by 95%
  • Decreases water pollution by 97%


According to US EPA on a life-cycle basis, 42% of the national GHG inventory is influenced by the energy and fuel consumed in the production, use and management of the materials that become waste!


The most obvious and well-documented contribution to GHG from the management of waste is from the uncaptured emissions of methane (land fill gas) from landfills – as organic material break down in a landfill’s anaerobic environment they generate methane, a GHG that is 23 times more potent and destructive than CO2.


US EPA estimates that, nationally, landfill methane emissions represent 1.8% of GHG emissions. The NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) state-wide GHG emissions for 2006 estimates that MSW contributes 9.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2E) to Earth’s atmosphere. This represents 3.8% of the states GHG emissions, second only to the consumption of fossil fuels as a single source of emissions.

Air Quality

All industrial processes, recycling and recovery with onsite valorization and potential conversion to a viable and saleable byproduct, for example, the depolymerisation of plastics to produce ultra low sulphur diesel (D2) or the deconstruction of end of life tires to produce the core elements of cleaned steel, hydrocarbon gas, ultra low sulphur diesel fuel and /or carbon black or activated carbon, each have different operating criteria and very different emissions.


RCR’s STAG process is guarantee to have no emissions to air nor to the ground or atmosphere and the combustion of refuse derived fuel is carbon neural since the organic fraction is classified as being both renewable and biodegradable and will displace the use of polluting fossil fuels..  Diversion from landfill will eliminate the greenhouse gasses that emit from an active landfill where methane or landfill gas is leaking continuously from the landfill site.


The STAG system can accept mined waste extracted from landfills to fill the autoclaves if there is an interruption in waste being delivered to site. This mining activity will reduce methan emission from the landfill and over time could remediate the whole landfill that not only improves air quality but ground water quality as well.


The generation of renewable electricity also has an effect on air quality since the use of renewable fuel does reduce or offset other carbon generating processes. The collection of municipal waste using fuel efficient and environmentally compliant trucks with electric compaction vehicles and hydrogen powered collection trucks are now a reality. RCR’s collection policy is to distribute self powered static compactor units that are local MSW drop off points that educe waste collection trucks movements by 67% and reduces as a consequence vehicle exhaust emissions, highway congestion, associated air quality degradation.


The conversion of carbon char from the vacuum chamber following decomposition of the rubber crumb from end of life tires into carbon black requires processing to micronise the char into very fine powder measured in microns. Full COSHE air quality standards are imposed and rigidly adhered to and ensures that air quality within the process plant is within Health and Safety in the Workplace standards.