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Monday, 27 August 2012 15:08

ORBIT 2012: Anne Trémier's inside view

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ORBIT 2012:  Anne Trémier is talking to D-Waste about hosting the event and its outcomes

Organic waste management is one of the issues that concern more and more the waste management world. One of the most important conferences, which is organized every year in different parts of the globe, is the “Orbit Conference”. This June, the Orbit Conference has took place in Rennes, France, gathering hundreds of experts and professionals from all over the planet.

Anne Trémier, Research Engineer of Irstea – UR GERE Rennes, which hosted the Conference this year, gives an interview to D-waste regarding this event.
Indeed the Orbit Conference is one of the most important of its kind. Can you give us a brief description of it in numbers? (number of participants, from how many countries, the number of speeches, etc.)

The 8th International Conference ORBIT 2012 “Global assessment for organic resources and waste management” was held in Rennes, France, from June 12th to June 14th 2012. The Conference was organised by the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea, formerly Cemagref) and the European Compost Network (ECN), with the financial support of Suez Environment, Novamont, Veolia Environment, Idex, Rennes Metropole and the Brittany Region.

About 260 delegates – academics, researchers, professionals and students – travelled to France, from 36 countries, to attend this international conference. During the three core days of the Conference, the delegates had the opportunity to learn about the latest research and policy developments on all aspects of organic resources and waste management, in over 190 oral and poster presentations.
What were the main outcomes of the Conference?

Following the ORBIT conferences tradition, ORBIT2012 dealt with all aspects of organic resources and waste management with a special focus on the assessment of technologies with environmental, social and economical points of view. A large place was given to climate change and decision making tools between waste management options. Traditional themes as energy recovery, biological treatments and also mechanical biological treatment still remain central issues that had to be discussed in order to improve technologies and product quality, especially for land application. More local approaches such as home and community composting were also discussed as they may represent solutions that have to be considered in an integrated organic waste management plan which includes prevention. Special emphasis was also laid to EU policies and strategies for sustainable management of organic resources and waste.
What are the main outcomes concerning the organic resource management?

Energy recovery remains one of the main issues when considering valorization of organic resources. Scientific works about anaerobic digestion are thus numerous.
The best mixture of waste in order to optimize biogas yield is a key issue as well as the way to choose the best location for a centralized treatment plant on a territory.
Nevertheless even considering first the question of energy recovery, the final valorization of organic resources through organic matter and nutrients return to soil keeps crucial for environment and agriculture. As a consequence number of communication dealt with compost and digestate quality and use. The European question of end-of-waste criteria was largely debated along the conference. Moreover examples of quality assurance systems for the production of composts and digestates were presented. Considering the agronomic use of these products, interesting scientific communication were given concerning the behavior of organic matter and nitrogen in soil after their spreading. The knowledge of these behaviors could lead the way to manage biological treatment in order to produce organic amendment and fertilizers that correspond to specific agronomic needs.
Lastly the environmental impacts of biological treatment were largely discussed. A first issue concerns the way to assess these impacts. If Life cycle analysis seems to be a promising tool for environmental assessment of organic waste management system, lack of data, such as gaseous emissions fluxes, limits its reliable use as decision tool. Thus a lot of work, especially concerning composting, are centered on environmental date measurement (GHG, odors measurement, etc) and emissions minimization.
What are the main points that emerged concerning the global issue of food waste management?
Studies of the amount of food wastage are emerging in a lot of countries, particularly in Europe but also in large developed cities as Hong-Kong. It appears, as an example in Germany and UK, that households are responsible of more than 50 % of the millions of tons of Food waste (around 11 MT par year in Germany and 16 MT in UK). This issue of households food wastage has to be carefully addressed through prevention incentive actions. Examples of minimization plan through households education have been exposed during the conference. It appears that in a lot of cases 50 % of households food wastage in developed countries could be avoided. Concerning the part of food waste that cannot be avoided (food preparation waste, collective canteens, etc.), research focuses on the best way to collect and treat them with centralized or decentralized processes.
What is expected to be the future of composting in developing countries?
In developing countries, composting still represents a way to valorize waste organic matter with simple and cost effective process. Example of eco-plants in Philippines have been given during the conference. In these areas the eco-plants is a sustainable project that gives work to inhabitants, enables them to sort and recycle a large part of the MSW components, avoids a large quantity of waste in landfill and produces a compost that inhabitants can use for agriculture. As discussed during the conference composting as still to be promoted in developing countries as it is a robust and easy to handle process by local populations.
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