1000 Solutions - March 26, 2019
Our world is choking in trash. With an impressive population growth, globalization and rapid urbanization, the amount of waste generated has skyrocketed. According to a 2016 study by the World Bank, we throw approximately 2 billion tonnes of rubbish, also known as municipal solid waste, every year. Without any measures taken, this figure is set to increase by 70% by 2050 and could reach 3.4 billion tonnes.
As stated in the World Bank’s report, “those most affected by the negative impacts of poorly managed waste are largely society’s most vulnerable—losing their lives and homes from landslides of waste dumps, working in unsafe waste-picking conditions, and suffering profound health repercussions”. Although dramatic, that is far from being the only issue. Waste, which is mainly disposed in landfills - In low-income countries over 90% ends there - contributes massively to greenhouse gas emissions. When trash decomposes, it releases methane, which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. According to the World Bank, solid waste management generated 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2016, accounting for 5% of global GHG emissions. “Without improvements in the sector, solid waste–related emissions are anticipated to increase to 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2050”.
Wagabox, a Solar Impulse Efficient Solution developed by WAGA-ENERGY, turns this pollution into energy. Their technological breakthrough transforms the landfill waste biogas into biomethane.
Because of many impurities, landfill gas is unusable for traditional uses such as heating, cooking or transport. Wagabox, a basketball-size plant, separates the methane from impurities through a membrane. It then extracts biomethane by a process of cryogenic distillation, thus creating a 98% pure methane which is compatible with gas distribution networks at a competitive cost compared to fossil equivalent.
Regarding the environmental impact of this solution, Wagabox teamed up with French firm Veolia to produce biomethane from a landfill in the French Pyrenees. The unit supplies 3000 households with clean, local and renewable energy, avoiding 4000 tonnes of CO2 eq. emission per year.
In an interview, Mathieu Lefebvre, cofounder of WAGA ENERGY, declared
"We are very proud of this first collaboration with Veolia, a global leader in optimized resource management. The highly innovative project that we carried out together in Saint-Palais marks a step further toward fighting climate change”.