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Can Danish Enzyme Technology Help Alleviate Asia’s Waste Problems?

Image credit: DONG Energy

Today, large quantities of CO2 are emitted when we extract raw materials for the production of consumer goods. After use, most of these products end up in landfills as wasted resources. Among other drawbacks, this linear, take-make-waste system harms local environments and economies, and exacerbates climate change. 

An enzyme-based technology called REnescience extracts valuable resources from waste, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. The Danish company behind the invention, DONG Energy, is sending a mobile test plant to Malaysia to examine the potential of the technology to help solve the country’s waste challenges. 

According to the World Bank, waste volumes worldwide will have increased by 70 percent in 2025 compared to 2012. This increase will be significant in countries such as Malaysia, where the capacity to handle waste is already limited. The REnescience technology is able to sort waste for recycling, thereby turning a problem into a resource. 

That is why DONG Energy sees a large potential for the technology in Malaysia, as well as in other Asian countries.

Thomas Dalsgaard, EVP at DONG Energy, says: "Malaysia is a very interesting market for our technology as there’s a growing need for exploiting the resources in the increasing waste volumes.”

A valuable carton of juice

DONG Energy

When we recycle materials for use in the production of new goods, we decrease the demand for raw materials and the accumulation of waste in landfills. By treating the unsorted waste with enzymes, REnescience ensures a more efficient waste sorting than what is currently possible with manual sorting. This is good news for the environment as more efficient sorting increases the potential for recycling. 

Take an empty carton of orange juice, for example. This packaging contains several materials: paper on the outside, foil on the inside, orange pulp leftovers and maybe a plastic screw cap. When you sort this for recycling, the best you can do is to screw off the plastic cap for recycling and make sure to empty and clean the carton as much as possible. But the fact is that some orange pulp leftovers will go to waste, and the paper and the foil cannot be separated. However, at a REnescience plant, the enzymes separate the waste effectively so the materials can be recycled; the orange pulp leftovers and the paper become biogas, the plastic cap is used for the production of new plastic items, and the foil is burned in a waste incinerator, generating new energy. 

Next stop, Malaysia

The content of waste differs considerably from country to country, and even from city to city. For this reason, it is important to test the REnescience technology locally before making decisions about investments in larger plants. This is exactly what the mobile test plant is for, and why it is now on its way to Malaysia. DONG Energy has just entered into a cooperation agreement with Cenviro, one of Malaysia's largest players within waste management. At first, in close cooperation, the two companies will test the waste in various local communities in Malaysia. Household waste in Malaysia has a high share of organic components, making it a good potential source of biogas. 

Sponsored by DONG Energy.

DONG Energy is also planning to send the mobile plant to other Asian countries to test REnescience’s potential in various contexts. In Denmark and the UK, the technology has already been tested, and DONG Energy is currently constructing the first full-scale REnescience plant near Manchester in the UK. This plant will be capable of handling waste from the equivalent of almost 110,000 households, and is expected to go into operation by early 2017. The future will show whether similar full-scale plants will turn waste into resources in Malaysia and other Asian countries. 

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