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Enviromental Themes

Introduction

The application of ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS (EE) to the cultivation  of plants, landscape design and construction, manufacturing and agricultural supply industry, is fundamental to the generation of innovative products and systems that contribute to the CIRCULAR ECONOMY. Indeed Environmental Ethics underpins and connects to almost all themes in this blog.

The way agricultural and horticultural crops are grown, processed, packed and distributed, the recycling of water and agrochemicals, the separation and recycling of waste, the acceptance of more ecological life-styles whenever convenient. Such innovation, especially in collecting and separating waste, prior to its treatment, holds huge potential to create new unspecialized jobs which are increasingly in demand throughout the world, not forgetting significant economic returns.

One of the principal problems is to separate organic material, including food, from containers and packaging, often made of plastics in combination with aluminium, card and paper. After separation, the waste then needs to be processed and transported to final destination, whether landfill sites, incenerators  or recycling plants.

An important example of applying EE is seen in the latest systems of recycling biomass to generate BIOGAS and subsequent electricity, heat energy and compost.  Much on the bi-line is the captivating CAPSULA MUNDI concept of recycling.  Finally, arguments that feature the MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY, crucial to the Earth System as we know it today and to the survival of humanity, taking cue from ex-situ plants collections in gene-banks, botanical gardens & theme parks.

This argument also considers the utilization of herbaceous WILDFLOWER SPECIES in urban landscaping and set-aside agricultural land, extending to the realization of artistic images and BOTANICAL COMPOSITIONS (Arte Botanica).

BIOMASS TO BIOGAS

Micro-Biogas is the technology currently under development by Future Power www.futurepowersrl.eu. (PT) These much smaller digesters are more suitable for small agricultural businesses, food distributors and the food industry and eventually groups of condominiums. A large range of some 80 diverse sources of biomass can be fed to the digesters simultaneously, providing great operational flexibility. See the detailed pdf proposal in Italian by Future Power Ltd  addressed to processing waste created by islands and small isolated villages Mini-Digester for Solid Fermentation in Biogas. A second proposal using this technology is addressed at organic waste created by supermarkets and similar business. They both use the Swiss Renegon technology.

Creating small biogas generating systems which are affordable and can be integrated into small farms, agricultural and horticultural production, blocks of condominiums, groups of supermarkets and restaurants etc, hold great possibilities for future innovation.

Biogas when virtuous: waste not want not!

This is about the production of energy in the form of biogas, not from biomass cultivated specifically but from organic waste. A big difference!

Q.1  How can companies, advisors and politicians maintain an objective neutrality in their decision making on Biogas?

This space is not only about innovative technology – that’s the simple part. Energy is politics, that’s the difficult part. How should we best approach the availability and spread of independently realized comparative data (if and when available!). This is crucial for advisors to companies and politicians, enabling them to make the best choice of alternative energy technology for a given situation. Part of the problem lies in strong political lobbying of vested interests;  powerful corporate interests in competing fields of alternative energy. It is important to accept that there are various technologies that deliver alternative energy, each with their own particular merits and disadvantages. The important aspect is to ensure that companies and policy makers decide to install the most advantageous technology or mix of technologies for each given opportunity

Q2. Where can decision makers go for independent information and comparative data on the latest Biogas technologies?

Large farms, food processors and retailers can individually gain advantage from a biogas plant fed by the organic waste they produce. One cattle farmer in Italy is happy to admit that he is now earning more money from the muck produced by the cows plus some other organic waste from the farm (€0.28* /kWh of electrical energy for the local grid) than from the production of milk with a market price of around €0.39/litre! *includes financial incentive by Italian government (historical data).

A major challenge in generating biogas from organic waste is the logistical coordination needed to bring to the digestors the right type of waste from different waste producers; from a cattle farm to a food processor, from a supermarket to the urban waste department of a local authority. This also requires collaboration between the public and private sectors.

These biogas plants generate not only electricty, but also hot water via heat exchangers, liquid fertilizer and solid compost, thereby turning organic waste into a valuable resource rather than a cost in terms of disposal and environmental pollution.

Q.3  Why then are so many companies still installing standard biogas technology that relies on the constant feeding to the digestors of huge quantities of biomas cultivated specifically for this end, often taking land and food away from the market and hiking up food prices in the process?

 Biogas – recycling of organic waste (Part II)

Q.4 General interest in biogas plants?

See some case studies from UK The European Commission is encouraging Member States to implement existing waste legislation more effectively. Waste management and recycling industries in the EU had a turnover of € 145 billion as long ago as 2008, representing around 2 million jobs.  See the article in Italian in publication BioEcoGeo oct/nov 2015 by Claudia Berrini interview of Ing. Marco Baudino, MD of Future Power Ltd. Consult EU SEBE Project and the Summary Report from the EU Cordis Project Valorgas. In order to reach the EU target of producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources, the generation of biogas is considered an important technology. The EU project SEBE (Sustainable and Innovative European Biogas Environment) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the main target countries, including: Italy, Germany, Austria andvarious Central European countries. The project is being coordinated by ICS Steiermark, Austria. Of particular interest is the creation of national centres of knowledge, competence and research in the field of small local biogas networks. http://www.central2013.eu/nc/projects-2007-2013/approved-projects/funded-projects/?tx_fundedprojects_pi1[project]=64

Biogas from supermarket waste. Kroger is the largest supermarket chain in the U.S Kroger supermarket chain. Food waste will help power its 6 ha Ralphs/Food-4-Less distribution center. An anaerobic digester will process more than 55,000 tons of waste a year, providing 20% of the facility’s energy. The system also will reduce lorry trips by more than 500,000 miles each year – the same lorries that deliver food to supermarkets from the distribution center will make their return trip with food waste from supermarkets. This biogas system is designed and operated by FEED Resource Recovery, Inc. Pay-back is said to be 5 years translating to an 18.5% return. Summary from an article in Sustainable Business News, May 21, 2013. Sustainable Business News

Q.5  Most food products are wrapped, contained and presented in plastic and other materials that are not biodegradable. What must be done?

Today, these industries, wholesale and retail operations have to separate non biodegradable containers and packaging from the organic resource. The cost of separation has to be substracted from the value of the energy generated from the organic fraction. As a result, new biodegradable materials will be realized and the cost of separation greatly reduced since in many cases, foodstuff, containers and packaging can all be thrown together into the digester at the same time. The other requirement is the need to gather, compact and store the organic waste resources in a place on-site until they can be collected or delivered to the nearby biogas plant. This will be considered later.

 Q.6 What Biogas technologies are the best?

Depends on each given circumstance. However, the anaerobic digestion technology developed by the Swiss (PT) Renergon company is advantageous due the small, flexible (modular) yet intensive functioning of its biogas installations. The digesters are relatively small and can be added to as the sources of organic waste increase either on the one location where the plant is constructed or from various external sources.  This fact eases some of the potential problems associated with larger operational designs where balancing the supply and demand for a constant feed of large quantities of biomass (organic waste) becomes much more critical. Other important biogas technologies are on the market or under development. See: Weltec Biopower and Clarke Energy.

Q.7 What can we put into the ‘Risotto’ that goes into the digesters?

A wide range of different organic waste resource can be used in the same digester. A certain percentage of the material fed to he digestor must be in a liquid form, for example, animal/sewage slurry or alternatively, dry organic waste can be first liquified.  At all events, the dry component of this  ‘risotto’ should not exceed 12-13% of the total. Waste plant material, for example: grass cuttings, soft prunings, unsold flowers and plants, vegetables and fruit are ideal because they contain only very low levels of lignin. Other plant waste that include woody materials, for example: old leaves, small branches etc, is first treated to separate out the woody fraction.

A typical 100 Kw plant from one Company with a digester of 1200m2 has a payback period of 5-6 years. This takes into account the production of about 732,000 Kwh/year of electricity and 488,000 Kwh/year of disposable heat energy, the latter being sufficient to heat 20 appartments for a year. A larger 190 Kw plant, will generate 30% more energy and provide a shorter payback period of 3-4 years. To these details, government economic incentives need to be considered. This provides an economic and flexible solution to the generation of alternative energy, one that operates 24 hours round the clock and is not dependent on the presence of  sun, wind or water. www.futurepowersrl.eu

Q.8 What comes out at the other end of the digesters?

1  Electricity A little of the electricity generated is used to operate the plant itself, some can be used to meet the needs of the farm and living quarters on the site of construction, given that the income per unit of energy obtained from selling it to the national or local grid is greater than the cost of the ordinary supply. The majority of the electricity generated is supplied to the national or local grid at a previously agreed fixed price.

2 Heat Waste heat from the cogeneration motor (as much as 30% of the energy generated by internal combustion engines is lost as heat) is transferred via a heat exchanger to piped hot water. Some of this can be used to maintain the necessary temperatures in the biogas digester; 35°C in the case of mesophyll bacteria, 55°C for thermophyll bacteria. The rest is available as piped hot water to heat  farm buildings, greenhouses, and living quarters.  The piped hot water can be considered a feasible source of heating for greenhouses within a radius of about 1 km from the biogas installation.

3 Compost The liquid sludge that exits from the biogas digester after the anaerobic digestion, is collected.  It is then passed through a centifugal separator that fractionates the sludge into solids that can be bagged and used as a general compost. The liquid fraction can be used as a field dressing or in fertirrigation. In both cases the principale nutritive elements NPK are not affected and the product is totally safe to use in organic production of vegetable and fruit. An added bonus is the total lack of unpleasant ammonia smells.

4  Disposal Biogas installations provide a service to the environment and to society by removing organic waste and turning it into energy. The traditional disposal of organic waste in landfill sites adds to the carbon footprint by burning of fossil fuels in its transport, often hundreds of miles from its origin. This costs money! Waste in landfill sites causes pollution if  it drains into underlying acquifers or by releasing methane gas to the atmosphere. The leaching of these organic substances into neighbouring fields is damaging to plant diversity.

Here are the url’s for some other interesting examples and information on biogas generation in agriculture. See File pdf and below the individual links. Branston potatoes (UK), ETAMAX (D), National Grid report (US), Seacliff Energy greenhouse waste (CA), seacliffe energy (leamington grower) Plant Chicago Urban farming (USA)  and video.

BIODIVERSITY & CONSERVATION

I heartily recommend a great video called HOME (in various languages) as an introduction to biodiversity. You may disagree with the conclusion but at all events it puts climate change and biodiversity beautifully into context. Climate change is the biggest challenge to the conservation of plant biodiversity. www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU

Capsula Mundi. This is the provocative and innovative recycling idea from designers Anna Citeli and Roul Bretzel. Bodies, in the foetal position, are put into BIODEGRADABLE EGG-SHAPED PODS (coffins), interred together with a young plant of a tree species closen by the deceased. Successively, the growing tree acts as a memorial to be looked after by members of the the family. Cemeteries will develop into woods to the benefit of the future environment. While the designers are working on its manufacture, much smaller egg-shaped biodegradable urns are already available for sale to contain the ashes post-cremation. Made from biopolymers (bioplastics) the period needed to biodegrade in bery variable according to climate and soil conditions. (PT) For further information, also in italian.

BOTANICAL PARKS & GARDENS

Many species of plants that are potentially at risk of extinction are held ex-situ in botanical gardens round the world. The conservation of biodiversity requires education and a spirit or culture of conservation (or management) from all individuals. One particular approach has been to emphasize the use of plants to our lives in given ecological and environmental (climatic) conditions. In this page some major botanical theme parks are illustrated.

Eden Project (Retro) in Corwall, England.  Expertise gained in its construction, maintenance and marketing has provided advisory work in other parts of the world. In 2015 a project was signed for the creation of the botanical theme park project in Qingdao on the East Cost of China.

The King Abdullah International Gardens (KAIG) in the Riyadh Municipality of Saudia Arabia were conceived in 2007/8.  There are few botanical gardens in the Middle East due to extremes of temperature and low humidity and only those plants that have adapted over thouands of years have managed to surivive in the area.  KAIG has taken on major studies of climatic change and the dry  climate. See Omrania. The project is being undertaken by a joint venture between UK company Barton Willmore (video 2015) and Buro Happold: Emergy, Eden Project, Cornwall – UK,  and the Natural History Museum are the appointed advisors. See Link (PT) to Paghera, Italian garden and landscape architects (info also in Italian language) that were involved in the landscaping, together with some other aspects of the project, in its final stages of definition

The followowing is a ‘retro’ historical account of early developments at the (PT) Eden Project. (video) At that time the Project was naturally infused with a far more scientific interest and responsibility to ensure the best possible planting and care of the plants in the individual biomes. It was also a moment of uncertainty about marketing and how to attract sufficient visitors to cover a substantial part of the running costs. Today it has developed into a much wider more holistic genere – some might say too much a heavily marketed theme park where the level of information does not do justice to the environmemntal and plant sciences contained. But it still remains a very important education venue for schools, other educational institutions and the general public. www.edenproject.com

The operation of Eden relies on academic and scientific staff. Hidden from the eye of the visitors, is the immense day-to-day work of maintaining the site, that from above gives the impression of a lunar University campus. Eden employs a team of curators and horticultural scientists to assure the correct environmental conditions in the Biomes (during opening hours, a compromise is made in the Humid Tropics Biome between what the plants need and what the visitors can support) and healthy plants in terms of growth and nutrition and freedom of insect pests and diseases. In such large structures, this is complicated pioneering work that requires a high level of knowledge, skill and determination There is also the work of indoor and outdoor landscape design, transportation and planting. New plants are sourced from abroad and acclimatized in the Project’s Watering Lane Nursery before being planted in the biomes. Other plants are raised from seed or grown on from cuttings. Scientists are also involved in data processing and taxonomic identification (Eden belongs to ‘PlantNet’ that connects Botanical Institutes throughout the world). On-going research also concerns temporary exhibits, domesticated crops and their stories. The attitudes of scientists and other professionals toward how the Eden Project should undertake its mission might well differ from those who are more involved in presenting Eden to the general public; a botanist might assert that Eden is a place to showcase plants not art! But in reality the display features are complementary; one side highlights the other and both can learn from one another.

Collaborative Partnerships. Many changes have taken place since this article was written, on the basis of a number of visits and interviews.  Grateful thanks to members of The Eden Project staff.  Edward Bent July 2003.

EDEN PROJECT PART I  (Environmental considerations).pdf English; EDEN PROJECT PART II (Greenhouses with a difference) pdf English; EDEN PROJECT PART III (Sourcing plants and looking after them) pdf English; EDEN PROJECT PART IV (Phase 4 and the Dry Tropics Biome) pdf English.

IL PROGETTO EDEN I (Il Perché?) pdf Italiano; IL PROGETTO EDEN II (Serre con una differenza) pdf Italiano; IL PROGETTO EDEN III (Approvvigionamento e cura delle piante) pdf Italiano; Il PROGETTO EDEN IV (Fase 4 e il Biome Tropicale Secco – non costruito) pdf Italiano.

Geothermal Energy.  An geothermal plant (EGS) has been constructed on one of the car parks of the Eden Project. Up to 4MW of electricity will be generated to power the Eden Project and its various biomes, the surplus going to the National Grid. The project is a partnership Eden Project and EGS Energy. www.egs-energy.com (Site being renewed) www.edenproject.com

WILD FLOWERS

Visitors are invited to see this very special video Supra Omnia Natura by Mario Costa that takes a close up view of wild flowers and insects more from their sense perceptions than from ours. Together with the accompagning music leave the video leaves a lasting impression.

Enjoying plant diversity. The vegetation that arises from sowing wild herbaceous plants helps to regenerate and requalify the environment. It improves the ability of soil to resist erosion, drought and other climatic extremes. It is suitable for parks and gardens, urban greenery, roadside margins and set-aside land unsuitable for other amenity use or for agriculture. The market continues to expand and the annual production of wild flower seed in England, including grass seed in the mixtures, is estimated at between 35 and 50kg, enough to sow an area of 1000ha.

Q.1  Why is the sowing of wild flower seed, plugs or wild flower turf such an attractive alternative?

In the first place, semi-natural vegetation greatly increases biodiversity not only of plant species but of insects such as butterflies and bees, birds, small reptiles and mammals. It is a whole semi-natural ecosystem that we can observe, rather than just focusing on individual characteristics of one or other species. For on-going project in Italy, see: www.wildflowers.itWildflowers

Certain wild flower species, such as Papaver (Poppy), Centaurea (Cornflower), Daisies and Primula (Primrose) are iconic in European cultures. It feels good to have some of these plants, some may say ‘weeds’, around the patio or in the garden. An important impulse market has been recognized by nurserymen, now growing them for direct sale to the public as mature flowering pot plants. Poppy plants grown in pots and presented for sale at the right stage (a tuft of plants, few flowers and lots of buds) are highly attractive.

Q.2 What are your feelings about creating a semi-natural community of herbaceous perennials as opposed to sowing (or planting) just 3 or 4 species to add that extra colour?

The costs of sowing (or planting) wild herbaceous species is relatively low, maintenance costs are almost zero. Wild flower and grass seed is available from a variety of distributors either in wholesale quantities and mixes destined for professional use (and for those with large private properties, gardens or set-aside land) or as small retail packets for the ordinary consumer. These packets usually contain individual species – mostly wild flower species, and a few mixtures.

Q.3 Have you had difficulty in finding suppliers of wild flowers seeds that meet your requirements and interests?

From the production point of view, experience in commercial scale cultivation of wild flower seed seems a better starting point than research undertaken by public institutes to select suitable species. Often such selection does not take into account relative yields and difficulties in cultivating certain species. One is driven by commercial success the other by academic research. Research also tends to focus on characteristics of individual species rather than the dynamics in the growth and development of a given type of vegetation.

Packet seeds of wild flowers. Seeds of wild herbaceous plants are (wild flower and grass seed) made available in various formulations in small packets for purchase by amateur, hobby gardeners. Part of the blog’s interest is to promote the creation of natural landsapes and growing flowering pot plants from wild herbaceous species. www.wildseed.co.uk

Q.4 Do you favour using seed, young plants or wild flower turf to obtain a semi-natural vegetation?

The germination time of seed varies considerably between species and a period of up to 3 years can be expected before a fully ‘mature’ semi-natural vegetation is achieved. This time factor and uncertainty is far too long for developers who want a more immediate and guaranteed coverage. To help resolve this problem, at a considerable higher cost, some nurseries specialize in supplying the developers with young plants (plugs). Another recent development is the supply of wild flower turf in rolls that can be laid as ordinary turf, the plants already growing in amongst the grass and ready to root into the underlying soil together with the grass. A pioneer in this field is www.wildflowerturf.co.uk Alternatively, seed or plugs can be introduced into existing areas of grass rather than on a prepared soil bed.

Q.5 Are you a developer or a botanical ‘purist’?

Those developers that wish to create impressive colour effects with wild flowers, resort to more artificial mixtures of seed sourced in different countries, further afield, in order to guarantee a uniformly high percentage germination and a long flowering period from the early summer through to late autumn. This is not as easy as it sounds abd through research and experimentation staff at Sheffield University (UK) put together the Pictotrial Meadows seed mixture, centered initially on creating the 3ha wild flower meadows at the London Olympics 2012. Sheffield University www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk The aim was to create mixtures from seed that has reliable germination and plants that flower for a long period creating a strong yet harmonious display of colour to replace areas down to grass and formal beds and other plantings typical of urban gardens, parks, roadside margins and similar. These mixtures are not designed to create semi-natural vegetation but to create a ‘wild flower look’ while serving to increase biodiversity. They have met with considerable success also in Spain, France and Scandinavia. Original article Science Daily

RHS Wisley Gardens.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has opened a new controlled-environment scientific research facility dedicated to specialist garden-based research. The innovative technology used in the glasshouse building  allows scientists to research into pests and diseases of garden plants and provide gardeners with support also in determining environmentally and wildlife-friendly gardening practices and understanding the environmental costs and benefits. www.rhs.org.uk

Green Estate Ltd www.greenestate.org.uk offers a range of commercial services for landscape consultancy, design, construction and management for urban areas. They also sell ‘Manor Oaks Wild flower mixes’ that will provide a more natural community of wild flower and grass species.

Greenery for town squares. The annual International Landscape and Garden Meeting  (I Maestri del Paesaggio) takes place in Città Alta, Bergamo, Italy, in the month of September. The event includes seminars and workshops with international speakers but most evident was the decking out of the famous Piazza Vecchia with greenery. The scenery was made up predominantly of easy to maintain herbaceous perennials with a few trees and climbers, and raised beds for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. below. This annual event is organized by Arketipos (PT) www.arketipos.org a non-profit association founded by Maurizio Vegini of Studio GPT.  Amongst the eight founders is Renzo Crescini of Vivaio Valfredda one of the largest growers of herbaceous perennials in Italy (PT) www.vivaiovalfredda.it  One of the regular visitors to the event was Dott.ssa Elisa Resegotti, curator of the Pianamola Gardens near Viterbo, where the argument of natural planting with wild flowers and grasses joins a series of projects that aim to bring Nature and Art closer together. www.pianamola.org

See: Why sow wild flower seeds (pdf) In Italian Vedere: Perché si coltivano le erbacee spontanee (pdf)

©2013/2019 | HORTCOM

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