TED@UPS salon at Porter Sanfor III Performing Arts & Community Center, September 2, 2015, Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Mark Tioxon/TED

TED@UPS: Taking Trash Talk to a Whole New Level

Globally, there is a huge amount of organic waste. What can we do about all that methane?

Peter Harris | UPS

Summary:

Thirty years ago, I was a young engineer, working as a volunteer in Indonesia, trying to prevent the rice stored in warehouses and on loading docks from rotting.

The basic challenge was this: rice stored in a pile tends to decompose into fertilizer and methane gas, leaving less rice for people who need it to survive, but also creating a lot of methane which is a very powerful greenhouse gas.

This decomposition process is true of pretty much any organic matter, including organic waste from waste food, from agriculture, from sewerage and elsewhere.

Globally, there is a huge amount of organic waste so one big question is, what can we do about all that methane?

The question becomes intriguing if we begin to think of the methane produced through decomposition not as waste product, but as a resource – a replacement for fuel.

This is the essence of what’s known as the circular economy: taking raw materials that become waste and finding ways for the waste to become a resource.

In other words, not letting the waste go to waste. What if we could do that in this case?

Well, actually we can. Check out my TED Talk to learn how.

Click here to learn more about Peter Harris.

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Peter Harris is Director of Sustainability for UPS Europe. He has been working for UPS for 27 years and held previous positions as UK Automotive Director as well as UK Industrial Engineering Director. He holds a Masters in Engineering from Cambridge University, UK and is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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