Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Truly Cool City

Tyee contributor Ruben Anderson offered another glimpse at a new way of living this week, inviting us to Claim our Rotting Riches. Food waste is the next frontier of waste reduction ~ and Anderson wants us to do it right.

He takes a sober look at the way the leading cities -- Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco -- have chosen to design their food waste composting programs and says we should do it better.

"First the city gives every household a pricey new plastic rolling tote. They buy additional trucks and hire more people. Those trucks chug up every single lane in the city until they are full, then they drive somewhere far away and dump the organic waste. Large machines pile and re-pile the organics for a few months until it breaks down into compost. They do this two to four times each month, 12 months of the year, for the rest of time...."

This centralized, industrial approach misses a better opportunity, Anderson proposes. He asks us to re-think the idea of a composting system that relies on "a river of oil."

Anderson sees a whole range of systems for managing food waste. Small to large, intensely local, and scaled to fit the purpose, from backyard composting (even in apartment complexes!) to in-house digestion systems at industrial sites.

I think Anderson's got it right. We're starting from scratch with food waste composting and this gives us an opportunity to do it differently, setting a new standard for the 21st Century.
pic: The Cedar Grove centralized composting plant that is the model for a new plant likely to be built by Metro Vancouver at the Langley wastewater treatment plant site. This is where Seattle's food waste is trucked. The plant has firm support from knowledgeable environmentalists in Everett, WA, where a plant has been in operation for several years. It got some bad press this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A Zero Waster you have to put composting widdrow style in context. Its more damaging for the environment than either per tonne processed by either anaerobic digestion or plasma gasification. The problem is the methane, Volatile Organics VOC, PAHs.

I don't suggest open composting is wrong. But ZW idealists should not cast stones before their ideals spring contradiction leaks. There is no place for inefficient incinerators/WtE/EfW/CHP; most people agree; contaminated char producing gasification /pyrolysis. However, plasma gasification and gasplasma modular technology of reduced residual has gone the extra mile, has a valid goalkeeper role and IMO ZWer reductionist thermal=bad arguement is petty. The dioxin/PM2.5 concerns are gone, the CO2 impacts are competitive with AD processes, energy efficiency 40%+ especially without food waste, converted products/gases are 99%, landfill 1%. Like AD modules, ZW people need to work out what role plasma can have; not immaturely poo poo it.

Also its a well known fact one can't closed loop recycle indefinately with certain recycleables. PET and HDPE plastic grades degrade in quality for each recycle cycle; with newsprint the fibres become less viable. There are over 50 plastic grades, each with a specific and useful purpose. Most other than PET 1, HDPE2, possibly LDPE are uneconomic and unsustainable to recycle. You need a convertion end process to provide choices to reintroduce these polymers from carbon monoxide; produce syngas with hydrogen potential or provide CHP. Redesign of every global product will be a ponderous and unviable process with an exponetical timescale. So like producing zero % residual waste an unrealistic ideal only achievable at the corporate business level, or small community level(collective
); but totally unsuited as a sole answer at the complex city and liberal democratic (non collective)society.