From garbage to energy: CMU takes technology-based approach to waste management

7 January 2021

Corporate Communication and Alumni Relations Center (CCARC)

Chiang Mai University has embarked on a project that recycles waste into alternative energy for sustainable benefits in hope to serve as a model for community application.

Assoc. Prof. Prasert Rerkkriangkrai, Vice President of CMU, revealed that thanks to the continuous proactive implementation of the University’s strategy on environment and energy, CMU Smart City – Clean Energy and Waste Management, a model organisation on environmental management has been developed. That organization is the Integrated Biomass Management Centre, founded based on a ‘zero waste’ principle to manage garbage produced within the CMU community. The idea is to reduce the amount of garbage from the source, minimising the disposal of waste, and then to recycle existing garbage into energy.
There are around 46,000 members of CMU’s community, and each day there are about 15 tonnes of garbage sent to the sorting facility of the Integrated Biomass Management Centre. Machines are used to sort organic substances or food waste from dry waste in order to be used in biogas fermentation, and the remaining garbage will be recycled. This has successfully led to a decrease in the amount of garbage sent to the landfill. Other garbage is managed using various technological approaches to be put to use, namely waste sorting technology, biogas technology for co-digestion, and compressed biomethane gas (CBG) production technology for comprehensive waste management. The resulting product is used as the fuel for CMU public buses, which offers service for students and staff, proving the practical benefits of this alternative energy generated from waste.

Moreover, other types of garbage are recycled into energy. For instance, plastic waste is turned into refuse-derived fuel (RDF) and it is also used in paving blocks and asphalt in road construction, which has now been piloted in the Integrated Biomass Management Centre. As for biomass waste, it is recycled into activated charcoal and pellet fuels, and the grease is used in biodiesel production. Furthermore, there is a research project on the recycling of plastic containers for asphalt concrete road construction, which is a collaboration between the Department of Highways, Department of Rural Roads, Dow Chemical Thailand Group, Siam Cement Group, and Chiang Mai University.

The Integrated Biomass Management Centre has successfully reduced landfill disposal and increased the generation of alternative energy. This has led to the generation of 900 m? of biomass gas per day, 5,200 kW of power per hour, and 18,000 kg of CBG per year. Furthermore landfill and burn disposal has been reduced by 4,050 tonnes per year, wet and food waste landfill by 500 tonnes per year, grease landfill by 125 tonnes per year, and carbon emission by 22,000 tonnes CO2 per year. In addition to efficient waste management and recycling, this initiative can serve as a model for future application and adaptation on the community scale.

This project is a testament of CMU’s commitment to proactive strategies for environmental and energy innovation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for sustainable health and well-being of the community and the society.