By James Lawrence - Knowledge - 4 months ago

Blockchain Waste Management

When thinking of blockchain and dumps simultaneously my mind tends to jump to that unfortuitous fellow that threw away his hard drive with the key to his wallet containing several thousand bitcoins and now spends his days trawling piles of garbage in search of his lost millions. More recently though I have been considering blockchain applications to the problems I see around myself, and sadly within Georgia it is hard not to be confronted with rubbish on the daily basis. As much of Georgian geography is shaped by water waste seems to be in constant moving flux, becoming more or less apparent with rain or floating down the Mtkvarze River that divides Tbilisi in two. Unlike Sweden, who not only has achieved near 100% levels of household recycling and is now importing waste to their own profit, Georgia not only has poor recycling levels but many of its landfills are in violation of European environmental regulations as well as health and safety regulations.

A prevailing issue in Georgian waste management is a paucity of safe dumps. Currently there are 56 operational landfill sites in Georgia, all apart from three were built in Soviet times. These sites no longer meet international standards, and are well past reasonable termination dates. The vast majority of these sites are extremely dangerous, damaging the environment, contaminating water supplies and spewing poisonous chemicals into the air.

Lilo dump is one of the three landfill sites not built in the Soviet era, but still fails to meet international regulations. Built in 2010 and in use from 2011, Lilo has such a serious methane gas problem that local residents cannot open their windows. The landfill also violates international aviation standards, that state a waste site can be no closer than 13 kilometres from an airport, Lilo is only 7.5 kilometres from the Tbilisi Airport. In 2015 report from the State Audit Office reported "The birds, which are attracted to the dump, are dangerous for the planes and they might cause damage or lead to a catastrophe". Georgia is currently in the process of waste management reform, with the closing of 20 dumps and regeneration of 30 to be regulation compliant within the next couple of years.

Our current model of waste management is centralization, into dumps, producing methane, as mentioned above, as a by product. Recent research has shown methane is 21x more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (think greenhouse effect). Decentralizing waste would result in quicker decomposition and less methane production. Decentralizing waste requires an efficient system of recycling, Plastic Bank is a global recycling venture utilizing blockchain. Plastic Bank is a plastic offset program, creating cryptocurrency for the world's poor in exchange for collected plastic. Plastic collected in Haiti, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines, with plans to extend this year, is sent to recycling centres and sold to corporate clients, at a premium, that allows Plastic Bank to give collectors higher rates of exchange. Blockchain enables corporate clients to see where investments go while implementing an environmentally friendly ecosystem for the poor that anyone can participate in. Plastic Bank have partnered with IMB to build a blockchain based recycling solution that is globally scalable. Plastic Bank are challenging the status quo of recycling, incentivizing the poor to protect the environment while providing sponsors and governments with complete transparency, and as scaled would begin not only to save money but create profit. A veritable win-win-win has arrived and is waiting for adoption.

This year Georgia has begun to implement more progressive policies in waste management. Tbilisi Major Kakhi Kaladze has dedicated 17 million GEL to the renovation of Lilo landfill, installing groundwater filtration and gas purification infrastructure by the end of the year. Additionally the government has begun to attack waste at the source with plans to ban plastic bags within the country from September. In an idea similar to Plastic Bank, bottle-recycling machines, that will reward collectors with cash for deposited bottles, will be installed around Tbilisi by the end of the year.

Traditional waste management in Georgia and globally is at the brink (arguably well past the brink) and according to the World Bank municipal solid waste is set to almost double by 2025 - coupled together, our earth is on a collision course. Blockchain technologies can provide a plethora of better waste management techniques and will play an important role in achieving better standards. Ultimately though, attitudes toward our waste and our planet near to be radically shifted. A global mindshift coupled with blockchain could provide a solution in time to avoid apocalyptic ends.