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The Importance of Waste Management with a Growing Urban Landscape

29 April 2020

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With growing populations and urbanisation comes increased consumption of resources, and inevitably, ‘waste’. Our Business Development Director, Darren Eastwood explores the challenges faced with the management of waste and how to overcome them.

Since 2007 more people have lived in urban areas than rural ones, according to the UN. That year marked the first time this had happened, but the trend is only going to continue. More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban areas – increasingly in highly dense cities – and it is predicted that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the global population will be town and city dwellers.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

As we continue to build and develop urban areas across the world, it is important to ensure we are doing so with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in mind. We think the need to ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation’ (SDG 9), ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ (SDG 11) and ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ (SDG 12) are particularly relevant.

A key part of this approach is the proper management of ‘waste’ products, and it should start at the beginning with the by-products of excavations, including those created by hydro excavation.

Hydro excavation has many alternative names, including daylighting, trenchless digging, and non-destructive digging, and involves the use of pressurised water to move or remove soil and heavy debris. It is reliable, accurate, and widely practised.

The process results in a slurry, made up of 60% water and 40% solids. Using traditional methods, it is difficult, and potentially expensive, to deal with due to its mixed state and weight. An additional issue is that these wastes are highly variable, meaning the contractor never knows quite what they’ll be dealing with, making planning ahead difficult.

There are also other economic and environmental considerations as hydrovac trucks usually must drive miles to find legal dump sites so they can dispose of the waste. Adding expensive commodities like sawdust in the hydrovac waste to solidify it is inefficient and unsustainable.

Tightening environmental laws also have a part to play in the management of these by-products, with contractors facing growing hurdles when it comes to disposing of waste from their projects.

So what’s the answer?

Treatment and resource recovery offer a viable, sustainable, and cost-effective alternative to dumping. Systems can now be set up close to excavations, even in urban locations. These systems receive the slurry direct from trucks and recover a variety of materials, including sand, stone, and clay, which can then be sold by the contractor, reducing the need to extract virgin materials.

Sometimes the sand can be sold back to the site being excavated, a truly effective form of recycling! The remaining water can also be returned to an industry-compliant, reusable state.

Our tailored bespoke reception centres for hydro excavation waste and dewatering solutions allow up to 85% of the material from the muds to be recovered. The technology can cope with the variability of the material and produce clean and compliant recycled outputs. This removes a lot of the risk that waste handlers are exposed to today.

If the hydrovac waste is heavily contaminated, it still doesn’t have to be dumped. Further processing can remove heavy metals and hydrocarbons from the wastewater stream. This enables a wider range of more difficult (and therefore potentially more lucrative) waste streams to be processed.

Treating the waste in this manner and extracting and reusing as much material as possible will help put building in urban areas on a firm, sustainable foundation. An important step as the world becomes increasingly urban.

Get in touch with our team today to discuss your hydrovac requirements.

Hydro Excavation Muds Dewatering with CDEnviro