BioCycle March 2005, Vol. 46, No. 3, p. 4
AS the days lengthen and spring begins to assert itself, we hear of initiatives that prove how far we’ve come with the concepts of maximum recovery and resource utilization. From city councils to state legislatures and world forums, we learn of small-and-large steps being taken that bring new confidence in our abilities to solve problems. “Many factors are working together to make us feel pretty optimistic that we’re going to see an increase in recycling,” declares a member of the Maine State Planning Office, as lawmakers prepare a bill to achieve a 50 percent recycling level. Those factors include a 200 percent jump in recycled material collection, pilot food residuals composting programs, higher prices for recyclables, and more regional involvement. Meanwhile, Seattle set a 60 percent recovery goal by the end of this decade. and Sacramento set a timeline for developing its own food residuals recycling along the lines of San Francisco. A White Paper on collection, transportation and processing shows that commercial firms in Sacramento generate approximately 96,000 tons of food residuals annually. By December 2005, Sacramento’s solid waste division will present City Council with key data regarding project implementation.
Renewable energy from waste biomass is also building a strong base for growth. This issue reports on an expanding electricity-generating program by Central Vermont Public Service at the Blue Spruce Dairy farm where 1,500 cows are supplying the feedstock. More than 1,100 customers have signed for Cow Power since August 2004. “People seem to like that it’s local, it’s practical, and it’s benefiting dairy farm families who work the land and help keep Vermont looking like Vermont,” explains a utility staffperson. And at Oregon’s Port of Tillamook Bay, a centralized digester and composter are moving power to the grid, digested fiber to landscapers in the Willamette Valley, and high-quality compost to farm and garden soils. Lots of encouraging activity for spring-time.
The major media are also carrying more and more reports of significant change – at least the critical need for such change. In its March 7, 2005 issue Newsweek headlines an article: “Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon” that makes the point of how close we are to solving the petroleum problem through breakthroughs as hybrid technology. “Beneath the din lies a little-noticed reality – the solution is already with us. Gas stations will need to be fitted to pump methanol and ethanol. … New technologies will empower new industries, few of which have lobbies in Washington.”
Then, of course, there’s the search for strategies that might work in the Middle East – in places like Iran – to achieve political reform and lower priced oil. According to The New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, the answer is the “geo-greens who would put all our focus on reducing the price of oil – by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies. You give me $18-a-barrel oil, and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran,” says Friedman. “All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. Shrink the oil revenue, and they will have to open up their economies and schools, and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.”
Simple like “organics recycling” and the freshness and invigoration of spring! – J.G.