Environmental Walk of Shame

Three times a year, I have to declare defeat.

As much as I try, I am unable to avoid disposing another bag of trash that can neither be reduced, nor reused, nor recycled at this time.

In order to become more aware of my personal impact on the environment, I tried to follow my own garbage from the source (that´s me) to the ocean (I sure hope not!).

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Waste management facility Plaun Grond near Ilanz (photo credit: Recicladi Surselva)

From the regional waste management facility, the garbage is hauled by train. Household waste is no longer deposited in a landfill.

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The Raetian Railway doing the dirty deed (photo credit: Herbert Graf)

I suspect that most of my trash will end up in this waste-to-energy plant:

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GEVAG waste-to-energy plant, Trimmis, Switzerland (photo credit: Herbert Graf)

This GEVAG promotional video explains how the household and commercial trash is being used to produce district heat, power, as well as some recyclable materials. I am glad to know that most of the materials I cannot avoid trashing at this time are at least a valuable resource for the waste to energy plant. Most consumer plastics are energy dense. They produce heat and power. GEVAG claims that a 35 litre bag of trash contains an equivalent of 1.5 litres of heating fuel. Therefore, my annual trash would be worth an imperial gallon (or 4.5 l) of diesel!

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(photo credit: greenliving.lovetoknow.com)

Browsing through the annual reports of GEVAG, I find that it produced and sold in 2014 about 113 MWh of energy in form of steam, heat, and electricity. My three bags, therefore, would have yielded 0.014 kWh of useable energy! This would light up a 14 W light bulb for a full hour. WOW!

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(photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Unfortunately, some residue from the incinerator, as well as from the filtering process of the fumes and the water used in the processing, will end up in a landfill for decades to come. What a shame.

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The landfill for industrial slag near Unterrealta (photo credit: http://www.suedostschweiz.ch)

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