At the end of the production chain, waste processors are constantly looking for smart ways to create value from waste. That's why Meerlanden, a waste processor in the Netherlands, has developed a plant where organic waste is being processed into useful products, such as green gas for vehicles and heat for horticulture.
From waste to useful products
In a circular economy the whole concept of waste should be obsolete. Since 2011 Meerlanden, from the town Rijsenhout in the province of North-Holland, has been using a new plant that processes organic waste into useful products, such as green gas for vehicles; heat, CO2 and compost for horticulture and water for street sweeper cars. “This is the first ever plant globally, where five new products are being made from organic waste,” Tanja van Dijk of Meerlanden mentions proudly.
The Green Energy Factory
Previously, organic waste was only used to produce compost. The agricultural industry around Meerlanden is a grateful buyer of nutritious compost. But the plant in Rijsenhout ferments the waste before it is processed into compost. As with the fast-growing fermenting of manure in the livestock industry, this produces a lot of biogas – especially methane. This gas is split into CO2 for horticulture and green gas. This green gas is of equal quality to natural gas and can be supplied straight to the gas grid and to Meerlanden’s garbage trucks. The gas production is sufficient to operate all Meerlanden’s garbage trucks carbon neutrally and to supply gas to third parties; so much that Meerlanden baptised the new plant The Green Energy Factory.
A brewing greenhouse heater
After two weeks of fermenting in a closed silo, all that is left is a wet and stinky mush. Mixed with fresh organic waste, this mush goes into the composting tunnels, where it transforms into environmentally friendly organic manure for agriculture. Things are brewing in the composting tunnels where temperatures easily reach 70 degrees C. Meerlanden has started utilising this compost heat to warm up water that is used for heating the neighbouring greenhouses of Arendshoeve.
Summer waste and winter heating
For the very first time compost heat is being utilised and Meerlanden is determined to optimise the process: “In summer people deliver more garden waste to us and we can generate more heat,” Van Dijk explains, “but the demand for heating is much higher in winter. We are now studying if we can store that summer heat in the ground, so we can use it in winter.”
Sweeping with compost water
Finally, the composting process still generates much water. Meerlanden uses this water as spraying water for their sweeper cars that clean the neighbourhood. The water is also used to make salt water for sprinkling to prevent slippery roads in winter. As many residual streams as possible are thus used as a base for new products.
The entire project results in an enormous CO2-reduction. Meerlanden emits 3,5 million kilos CO2. The Green Energy Factory and its subsequent plants save 16 million kilos CO2-emissions in total. Therefore, the company may not only call itself carbon neutral, the waste processor is also able to assist other companies and municipalities to achieve reductions in their CO2-emissions.
For more information see the movie and infographic (in Dutch):
This item is a translation of the Dutch article Afvalverwerker Meerlanden introduceert de GFT-Energiefabriek published on Futureproof