My effort to find out how sustainable practices are being implemented here in Turkey has led me to lots of trash, literally. I wrote about the Mamak Miracle in my last entry, but ITC is not the only company that is finding renewable energy in waste products. I recently had the opportunity to interview Onur Keyf, a representative from DK Muhendislik which specializes in the design of different systems that produce energy from a multitude of waste products. My interview revealed a few divergent realities from what one would normally think about when they think of sustainable movements here in Turkey. Besides the major technological accomplishments this company has achieved, the incentive comes from a market-based ideology that hopes to capitalize on Turkey’s dependence on foreign fuel sources for electricity.
Currently, Turkey imports a majority of its energy from outside the region – primarily Russian natural gas – to provide a high percentage of their electricity needs. In this regard, only .1 percent of the electricity here comes from renewable energy sources. Where municipal and government investment are primarily focused on creating energy from sources like wind, solar, and hydro-electricity, private enterprises like DK are working toward gaining a profit from waste. A major difference between DK and similar companies is the fact that DK is the only Turkish company designing and producing this technology here in the country. Similar companies generally import the technology from the United States or the United Kingdom. The company is quite small at the moment with two main engineers who design the systems, one material science engineer specializing in metals, and a chemical engineer. The things they have been doing over the past five years and their vision for the future is quite amazing and inspiring.
There are three main processes involved in this company’s attempt at bringing renewable energy systems to Turkey, all of which create energy from waste products that would normally be scrapped. The first system is designed to “pyrolysis” plastics to create carbon black or fuel oil. In these systems recycled plastics like tires (where the oil based plastics and rubbers are separated from the metals in the tire) are transformed into “gas” to fire turbines and create electricity. Secondly are the gasification systems which take organic waste like leather shavings and biomass (like tea leaves, wood, sewage sludge and hazelnut shells) to create gas which again create electricity. What is most amazing about this process is that DK has figured out how to create 1 KwH (kilowatt hour) from 1.4 Kgs of hazelnut shells. Lastly, and most confusing, is the plasma gasification for medical waste, which is not an industrially feasible process but it is the only technology which can completely destroy medical wastes.
Like most other countries, a significant percentage (14.4 to 17 percent) of the electricity is wasted as it is transferred through an ever-aging infrastructure and to the consumer. Moreover, finding waste products like scrapped tires, thrown-away plastics, and hazelnut shells is fairly easy and could be done in most cities and towns throughout the country. This is where DK hopes to expand their business. As Mr. Keyf explained to me, their goal is not to provide the actual electricity to populations and businesses, but rather to provide them with the technology where they can create their own electricity and be self-sustainable. The main aim is to design systems that can be used for commercial enterprises, which in the right companies, decrease operating costs. Placing these different systems in the correct areas of the country that specialize in different sectors of the economy will hopefully provide these villages, towns, and cities with a means of using their waste as electricity, become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, and hopefully create a new segment of the energy infrastructure.
When I asked Mr. Keyf about his original intentions in starting such a company, I was happy to hear that the private sector has the capability to become a catalyst toward environmental sustainability. He told me that he had looked at the numbers in regards to electricity consumption in Turkey and saw how unfeasible it was that a majority of Turkish energy was imported. Further, he saw how insignificant the percentage was of renewable energy sources that were used for electricity and thought it would be a good niche to get into, partly for the environment but mostly to fill the market void. Nonetheless, this company’s market mentality and vision for the future will hopefully decrease its dependence on foreign energy supply, allow it to use its waste in a sustainable manner, and lead other companies to do the same.