Whattaya Mean It Ain’t Green?

We are in love with green. Green grocery bags, green beverage bottles, green everything, damn it, we want to be green! Today, everyone is an expert in green.  However, I am here to show that quite often much of what we believe is green is anything but.

MASS BALANCE –THE ONLY MEAUSURE OF GREEN!

Mass Balance (MB) is the complete scientific measurement of the total energy consumption, waste/pollution, man hours, resources consumed, and economic benefit provided by one technology or set of technologies over competing ones. Without the MB process no technology can accurately be called green.

Recently I was  asked to analyze a certain technology to remove molybdenum from an industrial wastewater. The proposed technology is supposedly natural, inexpensive, and has been widely promoted as green. This technology comes naturally from the Earth, currently has no use, and is mostly being sent to landfill. This certainly has a strong hint of being a wonderfully green water treatment technology, right?

As promising as this green opportunity sounds, a simple 3-minute MB demonstrates that this technology was not at all green for this particular application. Let’s take a closer look.

-Existing System-

  • 100,000 gallons of polluted water with high Total Suspended Solids
  • Energy costs to evaporate this water = 12 cents per gallon = $12,000
  • Weight of solids (cake) to be hauled off after evaporation = 3,000 pounds
  • Average cost to haul away 3,000 pounds of metal bearing cake = $1,500

TOTAL COST OF EXISTING “NON GREEN” TREATMENT TECHNOLOGY – $13,5000

TOTAL MASS SENT TO LANDFILL – 3,000 POUNDS

-Proposed Green Technology Alternative-

  • Cost of “green” filtration material – $3.00 per pound
  • Pounds needed to removal hazardous metals – 60,000 pounds
  • Cost of “green material” to remove hazardous molybdenum from wastewater – $180,000
  • Cost to dispose of “green” material after filtration – $90,000
  • Cost to dispose of remaining 100,000 gallon wastewater, now non-hazardous into sewer, $0.50 per gallon surcharge plus lab verification costs = $53,500

TOTAL COST OF GREEN TECHNOLOGY – $335,500 

TOTAL SOLID WASTE SENT TO LANDFILL  – 60,000 POUNDS

The problem illuminated here is that while the raw material, by itself is indeed green, in this application the large amount of it required to do the job, makes it cost more, generate more waste and use more fossil fuels for the transportation and disposal of the end product than the existing technology. In this instance, the existing “dirty” technology is more green than the proposed technology.

A lot of the technology that is represented to the public as green, when examined properly is far from being so. Solar panels and wind generators are two shining examples, and there are many more. The issue here is not to bash or pimp any technology, but to educate the public so that we start making environmental decisions that are right for us.

So, how do we keep entertainers, politicians and over-zealous corporations from selling us bogus green technology?

MASS BALANCE.