Ecuador, Waste Composition Analysis

By Lucie Pecinkova

Waste composition analysis

To be able to handle any problem you have and deal with it in a proper way, and first you need to understand your problem well. You need to know what exactly are you dealing with. Right?! The same applies for handling the municipal waste. First you need to know more details about your waste, such as the volume produced per capita, volume produced in total, and also the composition of the waste. All these data you can reach through the waste composition analysis.

In Puyo we have done the analysis in August 2018 in coordination with the municipality and also 10 students from the University of Puyo. For the analysis we have chosen one of the collecting routes that includes 5 neighborhoods.  We have sampled waste from 34 houses, which represents 1% of the households. The sampling process was rather challenging from logistic point of view. We wanted to estimate production of waste from one week. In Puyo the waste collection service is on daily bases. That is why we needed to come to each house to receive the samples every day during one week. Samples from every house has been scaled and recorded. In the end of every day we have done the waste analysis, where we examined the volume of each fraction represented. In total we sorted almost 540 kg of mixed waste within the 7 days. To do the waste analysis is not very pleasant work, as you basically go through garbage of other people and try to sort it out. However, this effort has been rewarded with very interesting data, that we have retrieved.

As per our analysis the daily production of waste in Puyo is 0.55 kg per person. About 46% is recyclable organic waste that can be used for composting, and 17% is non-recyclable organic waste. 14% is inorganic recyclable material such as plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, etc.; and another 23% is non-recyclable inorganic waste. These are very interesting numbers, because it has revealed, that 60% of the waste that is currently brought to the sanitary landfill could be actually recycled. Thus, if currently 35 t of waste are brought to the landfill every day, we could decrease this amount to only 14 t of waste; and the other 21 t could be used for production of compost and recycled as a secondary material resource. This would prolong the life time of the sanitary cell from the current 4 up to 10 years. Also it would save to the municipality about $ 750,000 USD. Recycling not only save costs but also it creates revenues for people who are involved in the recycling activities. At the moment there are about 80 informal recyclers working in the streets of the city and at the municipal landfill. Collecting and selling the recyclable material is their livelihood. There are also 15 community composting sites processing organic waste to compost, that returns necessary nutrients back to the soil. The soil that is acid, and has very poor condition due to intensive agriculture and intense precipitation typical for Amazonian region.

The data we have received from the waste composition analysis has proven, that the little effort that separation of waste means, could bring huge benefits to everyone. There are environmental benefits such as saving the primary natural resources and decreasing contamination of the environment by waste. And there are economic benefits represented by saving the municipal budget and improving the daily incomes of people, who are involved in the recycling activities.

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