One of the first things I was asked to do when I signed up to the course, was to answer the following three questions:

  1. Which is better for the environment – incineration of waste, or disposal via landfill?
  2. Which do you think is more sustainable? Drying your hands with hot air dryers or using paper towels?
  3. If you have the option of using a dishwasher, do you think it is more sustainable than washing up by hand?

I know my answers may be different to some peoples, but I hope that I can list why…

Which is better for the environment – incineration of waste, or disposal via landfill?

They both have their uses for end materials.

Once all recyclables and organic matter have been streamed out, you can place the remaining low hazard waste in a bio separated well managed landfill site.

Hard to recycle items that can be burnt, should be burnt in a modern incinerator in a controlled manner, where they clean the emissions and use the waste heat to provide either district heating or electrical generation.

Items that are of a hazardous nature and can not be re-processed, should be stored either in a way that they are easy to inspect, or geo-sequestered.

Which do you think is more sustainable? Drying your hands with hot air dryers or using paper towels?

In a high traffic environment I would look to use a hand dryer (a recent generation like a Dyson Airblade™) rather than paper towels given the additional energy requirements for stocking the hand towels, and removal of the generated waste.

In a low traffic environment the use of paper towels would make more sense than the large amount of embodied in the provision of a new electric hand dryer.

Where there is an existing previous generation hand dryer, unless the energy usage was greater than the embodied energy requirements for replacing it. I would leave in situ until it requires being replaced.

If you have the option of using a dishwasher, do you think it is more sustainable than washing up by hand?

A full dishwasher load should use less water when compared to the same hand wash. this should require less energy for heating, and less energy in the supply chain for both potable water supply and black water removal.