Energising domestic waste
A new approach to waste has long been needed. Collecting it, transporting it and disposing of the waste is an inefficient process. When you take into account the costs involved it is an expensive one as well. With the industry under pressure to reduce costs and the recent volatility and changes in the recycling markets now is the ideal time to look at turning the waste problem into an energy solution.
The concept is simple, the engineering solution less so. How can we process domestic waste at home, simply and cleanly and harvest the energy to power our homes?
Nik Spencer has an enviable track record and reputation in the waste and recycling industry, with an unnatural knack in commercial timing, he takes up the story.
‘We started this project to look at waste as a valuable resource, but the inherent costs involved in turning the waste into an energy source were huge. Then we had our light bulb moment, we know advanced thermal treatment works in principal but scaling the technology up to a commercial size was technically challenging. So we looked at it from the other end of the telescope, what if we made the technology smaller, so it could easily be fitted into homes, reducing the need to collect the waste in the first place?’
From this beginning the HERU™ (Home Energy Recovery Unit) was born. Essentially it is a small-scale pyrolysis reactor that combusts the waste in the absence of oxygen. This is connected to a catalyst to clean the gasses off so they can be vented and the heat generated through the process that utilises patented heat pipe technology to generate hot water that can then be simply plumbed into the existing heating and hot water system.
Partnered by Brunel University London the HERU™ truly has ‘Game Changer’ written all over it. The HERU™ is the size of a dishwasher and just requires connections to water, electricity and the sewer.
Dr Hussam Jouhara of the University is The Head of Technical Development for the HERU™ project.
“The project is tasked with developing the globally patented technology that will see domestic waste being treated to generate energy to heat hot water and produce electricity. This technology will deliver an end to fuel poverty, a significant reduction in carbon and greenhouse gasses and substantial savings for local Government”.
The HERU™ is an internationally patented UK invention with global possibilities, whereas the UK produces 30m tonnes of domestic waste per year, this number is dwarfed by the amount of waste generated in the world. The world’s cities currently generate around 1.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste a year, or 1.2kg per city-dweller per day, nearly half of which comes from OECD countries. That is predicted to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, or 1.4kg per person. Further, it is estimated that China’s urbanites will throw away 1.4 billion tonnes in 2025, up from 520m tonnes today. America’s rubbish pile will also increase from 620m tonnes to 700m tonnes.
Nik Spencer comments
‘We now have a real alternative to change the way we look at waste forever. Energy costs are rising, fuel poverty is rising and yet we are still producing waste that can alleviate the situation. Working with Brunel University on the technical challenges has produced an outcome, which will set the way the globe looks at waste. Local Authorities are also under incredible pressure to reduce service costs. The HERU™ solves a lot of global issues.’