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EcoTech Complex: Using Microalgae to Reshape Waste Management For a Cleaner Future

Source: The TerraMar Project - February 7, 2018 in Featured, TMP

EcoTech Complex: Using Microalgae to Reshape Waste Management For a Cleaner Future
Photo: Peter Chamberlain/Unsplash

We live in a world today where mankind’s footprint on nature is becoming ever-more documented.

The stage is set for things to only get worse, with the human population destined to skyrocket from 7.6 billion people in 2018 to 9.7 billion by 2050.

This MASSIVE change is less than 30 years away.

But fear not, there lies a remedy to our sick planet. It’s called the Circular Economy.

Accomplishing Zero Waste: The EcoTech Complex

The concept of a circular economy is grounded on one goal: attaining zero waste.

The future of our world will rely on our ability to take the systems we depend on now, and change them so that we can meet this goal.

One company, Brisa International has developed a way to achieve this, by enlisting the help of microalgae.

Incredible as it seems microalgae could pave the way to zero waste. That’s right, really really small algae can help save the world. Sometimes solutions to the biggest problems lie in the smallest forms.

Image: Brisa International

Brisa’s EcoTech Complex works in a unique manner: taking advantage of the rapid growth-rates of micro-algae, and their ability to:

  1. Treat wastewater
  2. Provide a clean energy source (biofuel) and other useful by-products
  3. Mitigate carbon emissions
EcoTech Complex

Image: Brisa International

What this means is that we have a viable option to upgrade from the outdated systems that we currently use today.

In major cities around the world, combined sewage systems leak a cocktail of human waste, industrial waste, and runoff into our waterways (known as a combined sewage overflow). Not to mention that outdated septic systems aren’t much better, leaking into underground water supplies and washing out into the ocean in many coastal areas. And the kicker, current waste management requires a large amount of energy to run, releasing more of that harmful CO2 into the Atmosphere.

Case Study: The Philippines

Background

The Philippines requires a new way of dealing with its waste. Like many other countries it faces a cocktail of problems.

Wastewater Management

The population is experiencing incredibly rapid growth (has grown by 33% since the year 2000), leading to a huge problem with wastewater management. Only 5% of the population is connected to a sewage system, and 85% of Philippine people rely on septic tanks to dispose of waste (these tanks provide only about 10% treatment, and many leak).

The results: 58% of groundwater is contaminated and 67% of river systems are not suitable for public water supply.

The environmental problems resulting from this poorly managed system are compounding. Waste leaking into the environment is causing serious algal blooms and hypoxia in Manila Bay due to untreated wastewater and nutrient loading.

Solid Waste

The Philippines produces 40,000 tons of garbage per day, and have a growing plastic epidemic. Metro Manila alone generates 10,000 tons per day of solid waste. And nearly all goes to open dumps, leading to contaminants in the groundwater, and the landfills generate methane. The four major dump sites are actually deemed ‘unsanitary’.

“If we will not change our way of life, we will run out of land to dump the waste and we will soon be walking on streets full of garbage.” Emelita S. Aguinaldo, Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

Eco-Tech to Save the Day

The beautiful thing about using a green technology like Brisa’s microalgae-driven system is that it not only fights pollution, but most importantly it’s also affordable.

The EcoTech Complex has the ability to fully treat wastewater and remove nutrients at about 1/4 the cost of a standard wastewater treatment plant (or less). They are able to do this because:

  • Algae are much more effective at nutrient removal at low cost.
  • Polluting Power Plants will be saved from shutdown by emissions mitigation, lowering power costs by creating more supply without building new plants. This can save billions of dollars.
  • Reclaimed highly treated wastewater can be used in secondary applications to completely solve the local area water shortage.
  • The emissions and wastewater carbon and other contaminants will be turned into zero carbon biofuels.
EcoTech Complex

Image: Brisa International

This type of system can produce power from waste, removing CO2 and using it to produce low-cost fuel.

The future has the potential to be a beautiful world, driven by technology and a mission to abolish wasteful practices.

No longer do we need to think in the mindset that cutting costs needs to result in environmental degradation. In this case, cutting costs actually coincides hand-in-hand with protecting the value of our natural world.

The circular economy is entirely within our reach, and The Philippines are only the first stepping stone in the path towards sustainability on our Blue Planet. Brisa International plans to expand this system to India, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the United States. 

Let’s leave the world a better place than we were given. And to do so, we as society need to take advantage of new technologies that can help us accomplish a circular economy.

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