Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is there an answer?

I am reading Garbage Land and I've got to say so far it's a bit dismal. Is there no answer to the question of what to do about our mounting garbage problem? Our garbage is just piling up everywhere creating all kinds of problems. It is unlikely that we can count on the majority of the public to take up composting their own materials and it isn't cost effective for municipalities to do it so that's not likely to happen. I'm still excited about my Green Cone and the prospect of doing my small part, but this book is making me frustrated about the big picture. I'm not done w/ the book yet and am awaiting her big answer / solution to the problem - though I doubt she has one. I think the real answer is for each of us to be more conscious about our decisions and how the impact the whole. We can't eliminate our garbage, but we can decrease it. Don't buy individually packaged products, buy bulk where we can... to coin a marketing term for the recycling campaigns... reduce, recycle, reuse!

One solution that is being discussed in the book are Anaerobic food digesters. These are enclosed vertical tanks that take up far less space than a landfill. The tanks are hooked up to dewatering and gas collection systems. Food and waste is 'cooked' in the cylinder until it is about 90% decomposed then it is moved to an aerobic system (I believe just in open air) for it to be converted to compost. This compost is made up of about 40 percent carbon dioxide and 60 percent methane. This can then be converted to energy.

Nantucket, Mass. came up against some real problems with their unlined landfill in the late 80s and was in the position to make a change. They hired Waste Options to implement an anaerobic food digester and have been able to divert about 86 percent of their garbage from the landfill into the digester and are going a step further and taking the old landfill and putting it in the digester to convert it to compost. You can check HERE for the full story!

I'm not sure that this is the answer for ALL locations, but it shows a great amount of promise. Now I need to research to see if others are looking into this as an option... surely the success of Nantucket's operation is no secret! I read about it..

So I think the NOW answer is for each of us to REDUCE, recycle and reuse wherever we can... while the long term answer is being worked on. I know there are bigger things we can do ... like lobby our local governments etc... the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

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