Sustainability

Wastes become energy

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A project for the environment and for the community, with high ecological and social value: it is called Iglo and it is a household and condominial dryer of organic wastes. It was born from the mind of a young designer recently graduated at Ferrara University and awarded with the Dyson Design Award Italia.

Barbara Merlo

In European Union Countries, every year we produce about 53 million tons of organic biodegradable wastes, both of alimentary origin and coming from parks and gardens. They represent 30-45% of solid urban wastes: more or less 95-115 kg of wastes per inhabitant every year. It is a notable quantity that, if stocked in dumps, becomes alarming because in the process of natural decomposition biodegradable wastes produce polluting substances both for the soil and for groundwater and emit great methane quantities that contribute in worsening the greenhouse effect on our Planet.
Luckily, we can report that the separate collection of the organic fraction of urban solid wastes in Italy grew by 43.9% from 2006 to 2010.

Iglo, domestic dryer of organic wastes devised by the designer Nicola Ferrari, winner of Dyson Design Award Italia
Iglo, domestic dryer of organic wastes devised by the designer Nicola Ferrari, winner of Dyson Design Award Italia

This context is the suitable frame for a green design project sprung from the inventiveness of Nicola Ferrari, young graduate in the Bachelor of Science in Industrial Product Design of the Architecture Department of Ferrara. The project is called Iglo and is a household dryer of organic wastes. Developed from 2012 to 2013 in the Laboratory of Final Synthesis and discussed as Degree Thesis (supervisor Giuseppe Mincolelli, co-examiner Davide Turrini), has won the Dyson Design Award Italia, design prize that celebrates, encourages and inspires the new generation of designers, managed by James Dyson Foundation.

The core of Iglo: the development is vertical. The drying tank is the only component coated by copper alloy, to facilitate the transmission of the heat produced by the resistors in its inside
The core of Iglo: the development is vertical. The drying tank is the only component coated by copper alloy, to facilitate the transmission of the heat produced by the resistors in its inside

Inspiration
The definition of domestic dryer of organic wastes conceived by Nicola Ferrari actually hides a whole system for the management of the urban organic fraction that gives prominence to the local reality and to society. The system, which is shared by private and public and can therefore leave the household reality and be integrated into the condominial and neighbourhood one, draws inspiration from the currently consolidated idea of Smart Cities, or Cities 2.0, where technology is meant to favour man and sustainability. The advantages provided by Iglo are not only energy-saving, because the object especially aims at recovering a concept of urban local community, favouring virtuous initiatives such as the correct waste management, the social cohesion, the active participation and the creation of green areas in cities.

The container for the separate collection of the two fractions of treated wastes, liquid or dry, in separate chambers and provided with handles
The container for the separate collection of the two fractions of treated wastes, liquid or dry, in separate chambers and provided with handles

Development
The project was preceded by an attentive and precise research phase to collect data and to identify the main problems. This phase was carried out in collaboration with the company that takes care of the waste management in the city of Ferrara. The finally project was instead developed starting from the first ideas and improving them, including from time to time key aspects like the relationship with users, energy consumptions, ergonomics etc.
“The thesis by Ferrari “Management system of the organic fraction of domestic wastes” – states Giuseppe Mincolelli, associate Professor of the Architecture Department of Ferrara University– draws inspiration from two realities: the constant rise of wastes produced in cities and the progressive importance assumed by biogas over the last few years, focusing the attention on the most virtuous European cases and on the analysis of the Ferrara territory. The research has allowed identifying he nodal points of the path travelled by the organic waste since when it is disposed at home until when it is collected in an eventual factory for the energy recovery of biogas, focusing the design activity on these issues: the organic basket, the public dumpster and the ecologic isle. The target is not the design of single objects but instead of a whole of mutually related elements forming a system able to modify, even slightly, people’s habits, making them more aware of the environment protection”.

A detail of the pushbutton panel: minimalist and intuitive design
A detail of the pushbutton panel: minimalist and intuitive design

The solution
Iglo is equipped with an innovative technology allowing it to dry most part of the organic domestic wastes and to transform them into energy resources for the community.
Each cycle can treat the organic substances produced in the arch of 7-10 complete meals, drawing from the original volume, 30% of dry residues and 70% of liquid residues, both 100% reusable as energy sources. An average cycle can last from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the mix of wastes to be treated.
The treatment consists in subjecting the organic material to high temperatures, in order to obtain the evaporation of the residual wetness that, through a system of fans, is sucked and conveyed into a condensation chamber where it returns to the liquid state and it is collected in the respective stocking unit. The solid fraction undergoes a similar treatment: devoid of humidity, it gets the same consistency of a soil and it is collected in the apposite unit. The container for the collection of the dry and of the liquid fraction is made of plastic and is formed by two separate chambers for the stocking of the two fractions. Besides, it is equipped with a handle to facilitate the transport and the delivery of residues.
The analysis of the latter has supplied results in conformity with law provisions.

The condominial version of the system: it allows the conservation of the two parts processed by Iglo (liquid and dry fraction) and informs in real time all neighbouring the users about the energy progresses of the system
The condominial version of the system: it allows the conservation of the two parts processed by Iglo (liquid and dry fraction) and informs in real time all neighbouring the users about the energy progresses of the system
Also in the condominial version, the controls on the control panel are simple and intuitive. They are powered by solar energy
Also in the condominial version, the controls on the control panel are simple and intuitive. They are powered by solar energy

Seen from close up
The components of Iglo show a vertical development that follows hand in hand the evolution and the transformation of the waste into resource. The drying tank is the only component coated by copper alloy, in order to facilitate the transmission of the heat produced by the resistors in its inside. Simplicity and minimalism are instead the words that best express the design and the operation of the controls through which the user interacts with the dryer: on/off buttons, delay control and play/pause key.

From the house to the condominium
“Closed in the domestic and private environment, Iglo cannot demonstrate its complete real and effective potential”, explains its inventor Nicola Ferrari. “The object, with strong symbolic impact on users, if taken individually, shows null or even negative gain in the energy economy of the urban waste management. It is for this reason that it must be completed by a similar module, an “elder brother” that embodies all the meaning of the modern 2.0 thought to become social creature and instrument of communication-sharing among people”.
In this way it is conceived the condominial container of organic wastes: it permits the conservation of the two parts processed by Iglo (liquid and dry fraction) and informs in real time all neighbouring users about the energy progresses of the system. “It thus become the nerve centre of all the resources that the system can offer: from collection centre of the fertilizer for the condominial vegetable garden, to the computerized switchboard for the operator that must accomplish the collection procedures”, adds Ferrari.
The public collection module, to which the user confers the plastic container provided with the two housings, has two stocking compartments, even if that for liquid is directly connected to the condominium or neighbourhood sewage system. The stocking of the dry fraction uses instead a 50-litre stem, adaptable in case of major or minor need. It is sized to allow the collection once a week: a minor frequency than the current one related to the organic fraction, but not too delayed to risk that dry residues become chemically active again and then able to produce annoying odours. The control interface is self-powered by solar panels.

A model of condominial management of organic wastes in an “ideal” quarter of a Smart City (City 2.0)
A model of condominial management of organic wastes in an “ideal” quarter of a Smart City (City 2.0)

Advantages for the community
Iglo system offers several advantages to the community. The first are of sanitary type only: we eliminate bad odours and we improve hygiene. Besides, with Iglo the prolonged domestic stocking of organic wastes is no more necessary, considering that in Summer it can become unpleasant, and the eventual home collection of residues does not require particular commitment by users. The final product is chemically stable. From the economic point of view, it gives the possibility of reducing the tax on wastes and of obtaining incentives from the legislator. Nothing is thrown away: it is possible to exploit both residues as fertilizers for plans and for the private and public green areas. “Last but not least– underlines Ferrari –, I would not neglect the social value of the project: it is a boost for the birth of green spaces and common vegetable gardens managed by virtuous and ecologically aware citizens, and it can increase the social cohesion of a condominium or even of a neighbourhood”.

Advantages for the environment
The most evident is the elimination of the organic wastes not treated in dumps, responsible for the emissions of greenhouse gases. A direct consequence of this elimination is the possibility of freeing the spaces that were destined for the disposal of organic wastes and that can then be transformed into solar parks for the production of green energy.
From the point of view of the environmental pollution, the systematic use of Iglo limits the use of chemical fertilizers. But not only. Since it reduces the fleet of waste collection means and, consequently, the vehicle traffic, it contributes in decreasing CO2 emissions.
The system favours also the zone recovery because it enhances the public decorum.
Besides, a possible home collection would not require particular attentions in terms of frequency and, drastically decreasing the costs of the system, some economic resources to be dedicated to virtuous projects would be freed.
“Wastes – ends Nicola Ferrari – become resource in short time and they can generate sustainable businesses”.

WHERE DOES THE RESIDUE GO?
The liquid one has all the chemical characteristics that make it suitable for the discharge into sewer and for this reason it is mainly suitable for:
-power plants for the treatment and the energy recovery sewage sludge;
-plants for the production of fertilizers.
The dry one, due to its properties, it can be destined to:
-Power plants for the generation of energy from refuse derived fuel (RDF);
-Composting power plants;
-Plants for the production of fertilizers.

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