A Small Island with Big Ideas

Due to dangerously high temperatures in NYC this past weekend, Brooklyn Grange decided to cancel the work day. So, this week we will take a break from the rooftop farm posts and talk about how Singapore disposes of its trash.

Simply put, Singapore is a small island with a large population. And along with this large population comes a large amount of garbage.

Back in the 1970’s, Singapore’s scientists and government officials realized that if they didn’t quickly come up with an innovative solution to the trash problem, soon the island would become one large landfill.

And so, one of the most advance garbage disposal systems on the planet was born, the Waste to Energy (WTE) System. Here’s how it works:

  1. Garbage trucks collect garbage all across the island and then deliver it to a designated incineration plant. There is a total of four incineration plants in Singapore.
  2. Machines are used to crush and break down large pieces of garbage so that all the trash is small enough for incineration.
  3. The garbage is then placed in the incinerator which burns at temperatures ranging from 850-1000 degrees Celsius. The heat given off by the burning trash is used to create steam, steam that will drive turbogenerators that produce electricity. Meanwhile, the smoke and gas emissions from the burning garbage is funneled into 150-meter-high chimneys, where it is thoroughly cleaned and filtered. After this process is complete, the garbage will have been reduced to 10% of its original volume.
  4. Next the remaining ash needs to be filtered and sifted through. Metals are unable to be reduced to ash during the incineration process and need to be transported to steel mills where they can be recycled.
  5. The ash is then brought to the Semakau Landfill, where it can finally be disposed of. The landfill is a 7-kilometer stone perimeter that encloses part of the sea off the coast of Singapore. The stone membrane is lined with an impenetrable layer of marine clay that prevent any toxins from seeping into the ocean.

Even with this advanced waste disposal system, Singapore still faces challenges given its rapidly increasing population and fixed amount of land.

Hopefully, in the future we can discover ways to live waste free by changing our consumer habits and using 100% recycled materials. We should continue to follow Singapore’s example by implementing innovative systems that help reduce our footprint.

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