Using waste to save the world

first_imgMethane burning. The gas, a powerfulfuel, is produced from the decay oforganic material in the biodigester. It’salso a serious greenhouse gas, andburning it for household use renders it farless harmful to the earth’s climate.(Image: National Science Digital Library) Peter Bysshe stirring the holding tank –probably the least pleasant part of owninga biodigester, but not that big a deal.(Image: Jennifer Stern) A dome biodigester under construction. Construction of the reed bed thatperforms the final filtration of thebiodigester’s recycled water. The completed reed bed of Bysshe’sbiodigester.(Images: Agama Energy)Jennifer SternGlobal climate change is a reality, and the only way we, as a nation and a species, are going to avoid catastrophe is to utilise our resources more sensibly.There are lots of ways of decreasing waste, saving water and generating alternative energy. But there’s one piece of technology that does all three at once – a biodigester. And the Overstrand Municipality on the Western Cape’s southern coastline is the first local authority in South Africa to pass plans for one in an urban area.That’s quite a big step, because biodigesters deal with the unmentionables we all prefer not to think about. But it’s not thinking that creates so many problems. Let’s face it, none of us likes to really reflect on what happens after we flush the toilet, but the reality is that we use litres and litres of perfectly good drinking water to flush away our waste, which is then processed at the cost of quite a bit of energy before being released into the sea or river systems.More and more people are realising that they are flushing away good quality nutrients and energy, and so are looking at alternative ways of dealing with human waste – and have discovered loads of benefits. It’s all about thinking of it as a resource, not just something we need to get rid of. One such person is Peter Bysshe. When he bought his house in Stanford, he needed to decide whether to install a new septic tank, or to go for a biodigester.“I took the long view,” he says. “It cost about 15 or 20 grand more, but it was worth it.”Bysshe’s main motivation was to recycle the water he and his family used in the house to water the large garden. “But I’m not saying no to free gas,” he says with a smile.The Bysshe family of four, plus domestic staff, do all their cooking on methane produced by the biodigester.“We came on line during the load shedding in 2007,” Bysshe says, obviously pretty pleased with his timing. In 2007 and early 2008 South Africa was hit by a series of planned power outages after rapid economic growth put a strain on the country’s electricity grid.“It takes about three or four weeks before you start getting gas. We’ve been going for 16 months, now and it’s been great Once or twice it’s been low, but the next day it’s up again.”A forward-thinking municipalityBysshe lives in the pretty country town of Stanford, part of the Overstrand Municipality, which includes the coastal towns of Hermanus and Gansbaai that are famous, respectively, for southern right whales and great white sharks. Country towns can be quite conservative, so Bysshe was pleasantly surprised with the response when he applied for permission to build the biodigester.“They wrote to DWAF [Department of Water Affairs and Forestry] and asked what the requirements were. We had to put in an additional baffler system before it flows into the reed bed – to purify the water more. They wanted it to get to the point that, when I was watering the garden, I wasn’t contaminating the ground water.“They took groundwater readings before we built it, and they check it every year.”How it all worksBiodigesters are pretty simple. The main fermentation tank looks rather like a giant pizza oven buried in the ground. Obviously, gravity plays an important role in the process so the level of the bottom of the tank, or dome, is dictated by the fall necessary to get the waste from all the toilets and drains in the house.All the waste from the drains and toilets flows into a holding tank, and then into the dome. A separate inlet with a cast-iron cover allows users to add kitchen waste, garden waste and other organic material.In the dome, all the organic material ferments to form methane, which is tapped off and piped to the stove in the house. Waste water flows from the bottom of the dome through a series of anaerobic baffled reactor tanks, also called expansion tanks, which progressively remove remaining pathogens from the water by simply allowing them to die through lack of oxygen.The holding tank and all the baffler tanks are accessed by simply removing their cast-iron covers. All of these processes happen underground.From the last tank, the water flows into a bed of reeds, which do the final purification of the water. The reed bed is an open pond filled with course stones to a level higher than the overflow. So the reeds grow directly in the water but – to all appearances – are growing in course gravel.Any pollutants remaining in the water nourish the growing reeds so that, once they have utilised all available nutrients, the water is clean enough be used on the garden, thus re-entering the groundwater system.Maintenance is minimalUsing a biodigester is taking control of the process of waste disposal – unlike the head-in-the-sand approach of most urban people. It requires a certain amount of dedication, but the maintenance is minimal.“You have to stir it about once a week,” Bysshe says. “Otherwise it cakes up. You want to keep it as liquid as possible. You stir it with a paddle. There is a slight odour when you open it, but it’s not like a honey sucker.” (“Honey sucker” is the rather euphemistic name for the tanker trucks that suck raw sewage from tanker trucks.)It’s not a very high-tech process. He opens the tank up, shoves in an old scaffolding board and – well – stirs. I watched him doing it and, while it’s certainly not jasmine or orange blossom, the smell isn’t that bad. It’s definitely less offensive than a long drop – not that that’s saying much, I know. And when it is closed there is no smell at all.The system must be adequately fed. As well as all the toilet discharge and grey water – water used for bathing and washing dishes, for example – Bysshe adds kitchen waste, grass cuttings, bits of paper, and even dog poo.“Everything in moderation,” he says. “If it hasn’t had grass, for example, you introduce it slowly.”  A diagram of Agama Energy’s domestic biodigester (Image: Agama Energy) Saving resources and saving the worldWhile the primary objective is to effectively and efficiently utilise all the resources at hand, a biodigester also reduces your carbon footprint by burning methane, thereby turning it into carbon dioxide, instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere.“Methane is 23 times worse than CO2,” says Neil Parker, an engineer working for Agama Energy, the company that designed the biodigester.  What that means is methane – the ultimate greenhouse gas – traps 23 times more of the sun’s energy than carbon dioxide.While Parker’s company have produced Bysshe’s and one or two other domestic units, they aim to focus on larger projects, where economies of scale would make the whole thing more affordable.“We’re trying to start a rural biogas programme,” he says. “What you want to encourage is setting up small scale biogas plants at individual household level. Guys who have a few cattle, and can get manure, they can use that for fuel.“It improves their lifestyle tenfold. They’re not walking 10 kilometres a day to get firewood, and it burns cleaner, so there’s less health risk.Most of the biodigesters set up so far in and around Cape Town have been built from scratch out of bricks – an expensive exercise. But Parker says they’re looking at cheaper ways of mass-producing the domes, which are usually the most expensive parts to build.“At the moment we are developing a tank. We’re going to make the first ones from fibreglass, and then we’ll start rotomoulding them in plastic.”Bysshe says it’s a win-win situation.“The benefits are huge. The water and the gas, and ultimately, it’s sustainable. We’re creating a positive impact on the environment. It’s the difference between being green and being sustainable. This is sustainable.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at marya@mediaclubsouthafrica.comRelated articlesGreenpeace takes on Africa Bikes for Africa – from bamboo Power from the African sunUseful linksAgama EnergyOverstrand MunicipalityDepartment of Water Affairs and Forestrylast_img read more

Khune named SA Sports Star of the Year

first_img18 November 2013 Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune picked up the Sports Star of the Year award at the South African Sports Awards at Sun City in North West province on Sunday evening. He won R1-million, half of which will go to his charity of choice, which turned out to be his former primary school, and a new BMW 1 Series. Khune was up against double world champion swimmer Chad le Clos, US Open wheelchair tennis champion Lucas Sithole, world leading batsman Hashim Amla and versatile athletics star Mapaseka Makhanya for the award. While Khune enjoyed a superb year, some critics argued that opening the voting for the main award to the public had made it a popularity vote that the footballer was always likely to win. Sportsman of the Year Award The Bafana Bafana captain failed to land the Sportsman of the Year award. That went to Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh, who won the 50 metres breaststroke at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona. Amla was the third nominee. Makhanya, who excelled over distances from 800 metres to the marathon, lifted the Sportswoman of the Year award, with Lee-Ann Pace, a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, and Springbok women’s rugby captain Mandisa Williams, who led her side to Women’s Rugby World Cup qualification, missing out. During the year, Makhyana won the Gauteng Marathon and the Spar Women’s Challenge overall title.Sportsman of the year with Disability World number two Sithole, who also won the British Open in July, was recognised when he received the Sportsman of the Year with Disability award. His coach, Helger Losch, was named Coach of the Year. Fellow wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane, ranked sixth in the world and also coached by Losch, claimed the Sportswoman of the Year with Disability award. The highlight of her year was her victory in the Gauteng Open, in which she defeated top Dutch player Jiske Griffioen for the first time to claim the trophy. There was further recognition for South Africa’s wheelchair tennis players when Thato Tsomole received recognition as the Newcomer of the Year.Team of the Year The Proteas, the dominant team in test cricket, were named Team of the Year. They whitewashed New Zealand and Pakistan on home soil and also shared a draw with Pakistan in the UAE. The Proteas’ dominance can be seen in the test player rankings, with AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla number one and two among batsmen, while Graeme Smith is in eighth place. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander top the bowling rankings, while Morne Morkel occupies 13th place. Swimming South Africa piggy-backed on the success of Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh to receive the Federation of the Year title. Mimi Mthethwa was named the Administrator of the Year for her excellent work in netball.OTHER AWARD WINNERS Volunteer Of The Year: Zakes Mkhize Indigenous Games Of The Year: Simphiwe Maphumulo Photographer Of The Year: Wessel Oosthuizen Journalist Of The Year: Ramatsiyi Moholoa School Team Of The Year: Sol Plaatjie Sol Plaatje High School Developing School Team of The Year: Daniye Primary School Recreational Bodies: 702 Walk The Talk Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award: Hajera Kajee, Mvuzo Mbebe, Kaizer Motaung, Leepile Taunyane and Betty Magwazalast_img read more

Five Fabulous Gmail Gadgets You Won’t Find in Labs

first_imgTags:#NYT#Product Reviews#web A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Since Google introduced “Gmail Labs” to the users of their popular, web-based email application, they’ve been adding new features constantly, all of which you can enable or disable with the click of a button. Some of those Labs features are “gadgets” – aka small widgets that you can add to your Gmail sidebar. A few of the top gadgets in Labs include things like Tasks, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. But did you know that there are a ton of other gadgets you can add, too? It’s true, but you won’t find them in Labs – you have to add them yourself by URL. Before you can use any of the custom Gmail gadgets, you have to first enable a setting in Labs in order to use this feature. In Gmail, go to “Settings,” then click on “Labs” and scroll to the bottom of the list. There, you’ll see an option to “Add any gadget by URL.” Enable this setting and then click “Save Changes.” Now head over to the “Gadgets” section in Settings. For any of the gadgets listed below, all you have to do is enter in (or even better, copy and paste) the gadget URL provided into the box. Click “Add” and you’re finished! Twitter Gadget The Twitter Gadget is a recent favorite of ours. Once installed, it provides a box where you can update your status, check your friends’ timeline, read your replies and direct messages, and view your favorites. Gadget URL: Map SearchNeed to look up an address which was just emailed to you? The Google Map Search lets you do so without having to leave Gmail. Just enter the location in the box provided and click “Search.” Gadget URL: Gadget Can’t get enough Facebook and aren’t up to installing the Xoopit Gmail plugin? Another option is the Facebook gadget which lets you get your latest Facebook notifications, check on your friends’ updates, view photos, and even perform Facebook searches right within the gadget itself. The first time you install it, you’ll have to authenticate with Facebook to give the gadget permission to access your account. Gadget URL: GadgetIf you’re more of a FriendFeeder than Facebooker (or maybe you’re both), another gadget you’ll probably like is the FriendFeed gadget. This one is a Google Gadget repurposed for Gmail and it just displays your Home Feed, nothing more. There are no settings to customize and the layout hasn’t been configured specifically for the small size of the Gmail sidebar. However, it is scrollable and you can “like” and comment within the gadget. If you need your FriendFeed everywhere, it’s not a bad option. Gadget URL: Gadget The Digg gadget lets you check out Digg’s top stories within your Gmail sidebar. You can choose to just see News, Videos, or Images, or you can view all the stories. You can also use the drop-down box to pick which sub-section of stories you’re interested in seeing (Technology, Politics, Science, Gaming, etc.). If you scroll over to the right, the gadget lets you access your friends list and your settings, which is, by the way, the area where you’ll need to enter in your Digg username.Gadget URL: MentionsHere are a few other gadgets you may find of use. These aren’t our personal favorites, but perhaps they will be yours:World Clock: Translate: a Word (Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia): Gadget: Gadget: Gadget: the Milk (Task List): URL Shortner: Scrapbook: Search: Calculator: Converter: Links to Google Services: supports iGoogle gadgets, too, so you can actually add any gadget you want. Just find your favorite gadget, click the “share this gadget” option, and then copy the URL that ends with “.xml.” However, be aware that not all gadgets will look good when smashed into the Gmail sidebar. Related Posts sarah perezcenter_img Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

10 months agoArsenal keeper Leno: We can cope with injury crisis

first_imgAbout the authorFreddie TaylorShare the loveHave your say Arsenal keeper Leno: We can cope with injury crisisby Freddie Taylor10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveArsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno is confident the club can cope with their current injury crisis.Hector Bellerin injured himself during Sunday’s loss to Southampton, joining Rob Holding (knee), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin) on the sidelines.”We have a big squad so we have many players who can play in defence or at centre-back so hopefully it won’t be a problem,” he told Standard Sport. “Sokratis will be back but I hope there will be no more injuries after yesterday and we won’t have any problems with our defence.”In the last games against Huddersfield or Tottenham, when Mustafi was injured, we changed systems but it was not a big problem because we know what to do with different systems. That’s not a problem.”Of course, it was not easy defensively. This line of defence didn’t play together before. But it was OK. It was a good performance but not a perfect performance. Southampton have a new manager, they have new passion and they played with it.” last_img read more

9 months ago​Bayern Munich star Muller suspended for Liverpool games

first_img​Bayern Munich star Muller suspended for Liverpool gamesby Ansser Sadiq9 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveBayern Munich will be without influential attacker Thomas Muller for their two legs against Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16.Muller was sent off against Ajaz and UEFA has decided to give him a two match ban, as his incident was deemed violent conduct.Bayern and Liverpool go head to head in February at Anfield, followed by the return fixture at the Allianz Arena in March.The Reds are top of the Premier League, while Bayern are six points adrift of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. About the authorAnsser SadiqShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

13 days agoInter Milan, Man Utd watching Cavani situation at PSG

first_imgTagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Inter Milan, Man Utd watching Cavani situation at PSGby Paul Vegas13 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveManchester United are watching Edinson Cavani’s situation at PSG.The Uruguay striker is off contract in June and already has fielded interest from keen clubs.ESPN says Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Napoli are all interested.Indeed, these four clubs have regularly made attempts for Cavani in recent years, but without ever being able to finalize a transfer, either because PSG closed the door, or because of the cost of the operation. last_img read more

Video: Here Is Connor Cook In His Full Oakland Raiders Uniform At The NFLPA Rookie Premiere

first_imgRaiders' Connor Cook in his uniform for the first time.Instagram/c_cook8After a fairly trying NFL Draft process, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook landed with the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round. He will be behind incumbent starter Derek Carr, but Cook has impressed his coaches thus far. Today, the NFLPA held its Rookie Premiere event, which featured the top NFL newcomers taking photos and filming videos in their new full uniforms. Cook juggled a couple of footballs in his shoot, where he shows off his new Raiders getup.last_img

Big safety testing failure rate for California pot products

first_imgLOS ANGELES, Calif. – Nearly 20 per cent of marijuana products in California have failed tests for potency and purity since the state started requiring the checks on July 1, a failure rate some in the industry say has more to do with unrealistic standards and technical glitches than protecting consumer safety.The testing has been especially tough on cannabis-infused cookies, candies and tinctures: About one-third have been blocked from store shelves.In much smaller numbers, testing companies licensed by the state are finding unacceptable levels of pesticides, solvents and bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control.In the first two months, nearly 11,000 samples were tested and almost 2,000 failed. In some cases, the product must be destroyed. But many involve labeling issues that can be corrected. For example, a marijuana bud that’s tested to show a different potency than what’s on the label can be relabeled and sold with the right specification.To the state, the strict testing program is largely doing what it was designed to do: identify marijuana buds, concentrates, munchies and other products that are in some way tainted and unsuitable for eating or smoking.“Mandatory statewide testing is a new thing and it’s going to take some time for everything to run smoothly, but on the whole we’re pleased with how things are progressing,” Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso said.But as regulators consider recasting rules governing the nation’s largest legal pot economy, they are facing pressure to revamp testing requirements that are being alternately described as going too far, not far enough, or an overly costly burden.The California Growers Association, an industry group, is among those concerned the state is forcing growers and manufacturers to hit too tiny a target when gauging levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical that causes marijuana’s high.Rules require the THC concentration come within 10 per cent of what is advertised on a product label. Company executives say some products are being rejected after landing outside the margin by tiny amounts.The California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, another industry group, is pushing for changes that include allowing companies to challenge lab testing results.“Even if the lab admits it made an error, there is no way to change those results,” said Bryce Berryessa, an association board member who is CEO of TreeHouse dispensary in Santa Cruz County and president of La Vida Verde, which produces infused cookies.“Labs are not perfect. Mistakes get made,” he said.At a state hearing last month, the Santa Ana-based testing company Cannalysis urged regulators to broaden their rules to include a test used in food and pharmaceutical industries that company officials say can detect a large number of potentially harmful species of mould and yeast not currently covered in state guidelines.The company has seen examples where mould was on cannabis but the sample passed state tests.Swetha Kaul, the company’s chief scientific officer who sits on the board of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said in an interview the state needs to “create a bigger net to catch things.”By limiting its required review to a few mould species the state is “essentially creating a loophole where every other species can get by,” she said.California began broad legal sales on Jan. 1 and gave companies six months to sell off stockpiles of marijuana, oils and edibles produced without strict testing requirements.The rules require all cannabis products to clear a range of tests at labs before reaching consumers, from ensuring THC is distributed evenly in chocolate bars to making sure buds have not been contaminated by fuzzy blankets of mould.From July 1 through Aug. 29, labs tested 10,695 product batches and 1,904 were rejected, a failure rate of about 18 per cent.Claims on the label, such as THC content, accounted for 65 per cent of the failures, or 1,279 tests.This is how the rule works: If a bottled juice drink said on the label it was 25 per cent apple juice, testers would have to find that the concentration in the juice was within 10 per cent of that mark, plus or minus. It’s the same with cannabis.Next in line: About 400 batches were flagged for unacceptable levels of pesticides. Impurities such as bacteria and mould caused 114 rejections.Ninety per cent of the buds that were tested were sent on to shops, suggesting a mostly clean market for legal growers. The rejection rate was double that for concentrates: 20 per cent of oils and “waxes” tested didn’t make the cut.In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said it had not received any verified reports of illness resulting from consumption of a cannabis product attributed to mould or bacteria, although three complaints were submitted anonymously and were unverifiable.The debate over testing isn’t just about lab procedures or allowable levels of pesticides. It all comes with a cost, which companies say is straining their budgets.“Testing is currently costly, slow, and inconsistent,” the growers association told the state in a recent letter.Testing for a small, outdoor marijuana farm can typically run $5,000 to $10,000 in California. There have been similar complaints in pot-friendly Colorado, where cultivators are dealing with new, required pesticide tests.While California now has the nation’s largest legal market, a huge black market still exists. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore spotlighted the risk of buying on the illegal market last week, warning consumers that the price from money saved “can be their life.”He said unlicensed shops are known to lace their pot with Fentanyl and other narcotics. In an illegal shop “there’s no telling what they’re actually buying,” Moore said.___Associated Press journalist Brian Melley contributed to this story.___Blood is a member of AP’s marijuana beat team. Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: read more

Veteran investigative journalist Ron Nixon joins AP

first_imgNEW YORK — Ron Nixon, an acclaimed reporter, editor and data journalist, will join The Associated Press as its international investigations editor, based in Washington.Nixon, currently homeland security correspondent for The New York Times, will manage a team of reporters based in London, Cairo, New Delhi, Shanghai and Washington, and work closely with colleagues around the globe to conduct ambitious investigative and accountability reporting on a variety of topics.The appointment was announced Thursday by Michael Hudson, who heads AP’s investigative journalism.“Ron brings an impressive range of experience and know-how to the job,” Hudson said. “As an editor and reporter, he’s adept at immersing himself in all kinds of stories — from investigations of global propaganda, to the day-to-day workings of America’s homeland security apparatus.”Nixon has covered border and aviation security, immigration, cybercrime and violent extremism at The Times. He has reported in recent years from Mexico, Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. He is the author of the book “Selling Apartheid: Apartheid South Africa’s Global Propaganda War,” and is the co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society, which trains journalists of colour in investigative reporting.Nixon previously worked as data editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as training director at Investigative Reporters and Editors, and as an environment and investigative reporter at The Roanoke Times in Virginia.“We are enormously excited and committed to growing AP’s ability to do strong investigative journalism from all corners of the globe, leveraging our worldwide footprint of exceptional people,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “Ron’s passion, skill and commitment to training and nurturing journalists make him the perfect fit for this critical mission.”The Associated Presslast_img read more