Over the next few months I’m working part-time as a process engineer on a different kind of project. We’re building a plant that will turn unsorted municipal waste into energy. The energy produced will not only power the plant but also feed the grid. The process, which involves mechanical sorting of recyclables, bacterial digestion of organic matter, and incineration, is now profitable in Europe due to advances in technology and steep taxes on landfills. The plant will process 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The waste-to-energy process ultimately helps the oceans in major ways, which of course makes me happy. It will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas methane released into the atmosphere from landfills (in the U.S. landfills are the largest anthropogenic emitters of methane) and will reduce CO2 emission. Both of these are major drivers of climate change and ocean acidification.
Special thanks to the commissioning team at Interserve for welcoming me on the project. I’m learning a lot and enjoying the experience working on a large-scale engineering project for industry.
More information on the project here.
Grace Young is an MIT ocean engineer, aquanaut, and scientist/engineer with Cousteau's Mission 31. She's currently a PhD student at University of Oxford, chief scientist for the Pisces VI deepsea submarine, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.