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Sorting through garbage for gold

Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On November 22, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

An Israeli trash sorting system separates organic and inorganic garbage and in one city alone saves gas emissions equivalent to taking 8,000 cars off the road.

 

Photo courtesy Chen Leopold/ Flash90
The Arrow Ecology solid waste treatment facility near Tel Aviv processes up to 150 tons of garbage a day.

Like death and taxes, garbage is inevitable. And with environmental concerns growing, cities across the globe are searching for smarter ways to dispose of their trash.

Sydney and Santa Barbara are among the cities that are now working with Arrow Ecology, an Israeli company whose revolutionary, ecologically sensible method sorts huge volumes of solid waste, salvages recyclables, and turns the rest into “green” biogas and rich agricultural compost.

The ArrowBio patented system takes trash directly from collection trucks and separates organic and inorganic materials through gravitational settling, screening, and hydro-mechanical shredding.

Panning for garbage gold

CEO Yair Zadik likens the process to panning for gold. “Our ‘gold’ comes from waste – whether it’s plastic, metal, glass or organic materials which contain energy,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Zadik explains that the water used by ArrowBio comes from the moisture in the trash. Any excess water is discharged into the public sewage system or biological treatment plant. Similarly, a small fraction of the resulting methane biogas powers the process itself and the rest is made available for municipal energy needs.

According to Zadik, the system can handle any proportion of organic-to-inorganic waste. In the Middle East and Asia, biodegradable organic matter may comprise up to 90 percent of the waste stream, while European and North American municipal solid waste generally contains less than 50 percent organics.

The flexibility of the system is the key to its success in locales as diverse as California, Australia, Greece, Mexico, the United Kingdom and at home in Israel.

The facility in Sydney, for example, was installed in July 2008 and treats 270 tons of municipal solid waste every day – diverting the equivalent of 9,000 garbage trucks per year from landfills, and generating greenhouse gas savings equivalent to taking about 8,000 cars off the road. An ArrowBio plant that has been operational at the Hiriya landfill site since December 2003 serves the Tel Aviv area, and processes up to 150 tons of garbage a day.

Arrow principals hope to generate interest in their system among water industry decision-makers from around the world at WATEC 09, the international Water Technologies & Environmental Control trade which closes today in Tel Aviv. The event provides a forum for displaying and sharing technological innovations.

From missile to trash management

The innovation that became ArrowBio originated about a decade ago with a group of entrepreneurs that included Zadik’s brother.

“My background includes many years in the [Israeli] Air Force and with the Ministry of Defense,” says Zadik, who holds a degree in physics from Bar-Ilan University and served as project manager for the Arrow antiballistic missile system jointly funded by Israel and the US.

Eight years ago, Zadik’s brother asked him to bring his experience in defense and high-tech projects to help Arrow Ecology export its technology. He succeeded in securing several contracts as well as an initial round of funding from British and Israeli investors. Two years ago, he became CEO of the 32-employee company and is now looking to raise $10 million in a second financing round.

Originally based in Haifa, Arrow’s corporate offices moved a bit south of that port city to the Yokne’am National Priority Area to encourage capital investment.

“Recently, we have won some more contracts for basic design,” says Zadik. “We also won a tender for a project in Slovenia and another in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome.”

Teri Cohan Link, ArrowBio’s California representative, says the company is under consideration for contract by the Los Angeles municipality based on its success in Santa Barbara County. “We are also in the design stage of a plant for a private strategic partner in Southern California,” Link tells ISRAEL21c. “These are all impressive accomplishments for Arrow Ecology, particularly since the barriers to entry into this market are extremely rigorous.”

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