Land-full of opportunity

The pressure to recover more materials is greater than ever. But with waste already dumped in landfills, Ivor Parry looks at what enitial is doing to make sure these sites are successfully monitored and maintained

With ever-increasing environmental regulation of the waste industry, there is a genuine need for environmental monitoring specialists to develop and change with the industry to ensure environmental obligations are met.

Technological advances are becoming more and more important as businesses strive to be more efficient and effective. They are demanding more efficient processes – to save time, to save money and to minimise errors. In particular, improvements in both products and the technology have been instrumental in the development of more successful approaches to landfill management.

For a long time, environmental monitoring of landfill sites has been a paper-based process and it’s only now that this electronic field data collection has developed to a point where monitoring using mobile technology is both practical and affordable.

This demand to capture data electronically has been growing in recent years. Waste management companies and local authorities are beginning to see the benefit of such a system and are now starting to specify electronic field data capture in their briefs. In response, we have developed a PDA-based data collection system called enidata which does just that.

Because it replaces paper-based data recording, electronic field data software improves efficiency, eliminating the possibility of transcription errors and reducing inaccurate readings. What’s more, its self-validation functionality allows technicians to check environmental data against historic trends and thresholds on-site to ensure inaccurate readings are minimised.

The PDA-based system is already being used by enitial technicians for several data collection and audit applications on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council and waste management company Viridor to monitor some of their closed landfill sites. It is now being rolled out to all our technicians across the country.

As well as reducing the possibility of inaccurate readings, the system also speeds up the job of data management and the production of reports. It provides traceability by automatically recording date, time and location by GPS for all sampling and monitoring activities and enables the user to record photographic evidence if necessary. This data can be populated into Google Earth software to show the locations of the monitoring as well as allowing the technician to pinpoint any issues of environmental concern.

Data is streamed directly to the company’s central server within minutes of completion and produces bespoke data reports within one hour of completing the monitoring.

Another area where technological advances are improving landfill monitoring is with landfill gas control. As landfill sites age and the material decomposes, methane is produced. Flare stacks are used to reduce the one million tonnes of methane gas produced by these sites every year.

Currently, if the concentration of methane in the air emitted from landfill drops below 20% many conventional flare stacks fail to operate.

However, technology has developed significantly to overcome this shortcoming. For some time, several landfill operators have added in support fuel (from the mains) to resolve this problem and bring gas concentrations back above 20%. The problem with this approach is that it is expensive and increases the level of CO2.

We have been working on developing a solution that will enable the flare stacks to operate even when the concentrations drop below 20%, without supplementing it with other support fuel. The new range of ‘Low Cal’ (LC) flares that have been designed specifically to operate with low levels of methane are still able to operate efficiently with concentrations down to just 13%.

This system improves efficiency and environmental control. The design of the flare enables a highly efficient operation and reduces the size of plant, the operating costs and the energy requirements.

Thanks to the LC flares’ reduced energy consumption the impact over its 20-year lifecycle is significantly less compared to a conventional flare. The cost to maintain the flare is also less because there is no additional cost in terms of the support fuel.

For decades society has been dumping waste into landfill. While in recent years, there has been a shift in behaviour and a realisation that more material needs to be recycled and recovered, waste that has been left in landfill sites is still producing greenhouse gases, odour, and leachate. Managing the problems that this waste creates is a real challenge for the industry.

Fortunately, the development of new technology is improving the efficiency, effectiveness, cost and environmental impact.

Ivor Parry is business development director for enitial

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