BioCycle March 2008, Vol. 49, No. 3, p. 36
Spearheaded by the GrassRoots Recycling Network, with BioCycle as the media partner, the COOL 2012 campaign connects organics in the landfill to greenhouse gas emissions.
COMPOSTABLE Organics Out of Landfills (COOL) by 2012 – that is the message of the COOL 2012 campaign, to be launched next month at the 24th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference in San Diego (April 14-16, 2008). The COOL 2012 launch will be part of a separate, half-day workshop on April 13, 2008, starting at 1:00 pm at the conference venue. Organizers of the campaign – the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), BioCycle and Eco-Cycle – designed the workshop to connect the mission of COOL 2012 to the Zero Waste Communities movement that is spreading rapidly across North America. The first two hours of the workshop focus on Zero Waste Community Planning. The second half highlights COOL 2012.
The idea for COOL 2012 was hatched in the summer of 2007; a five-year window to work towards the COOL end goal seemed appropriate, thus the year 2012 was selected. COOL 2012 (www.cool2012.com) is a national initiative to inspire and educate state and local jurisdictions on the importance of getting compostable organics out of the landfill. It is an outreach and education campaign that will provide tools, models, presentation materials and public policy suggestions to achieve the goal in communities around North America.
STOP METHANE NOW
The underlying problem with continued disposal of compostable organics is methane generation. In short, notes the COOL 2012 campaign, “landfilling paper and food is heating the planet.” Methane, as a greenhouse gas, is 23 times more potent than CO2 on a 100-year basis. Methane lasts in the atmosphere for an average of 12 years. Yet its global warming potential over 100 years is 23 times greater than carbon dioxide. This means that reducing methane concentrations now can have an enormous beneficial impact.
Biodegradable materials such as paper products, food scraps and yard trimmings amount to half of the nation’s discarded resources. The methane generated by these decomposing materials has become the number one source of man-made methane – and a major player in climate change. When looked at over the 20-year time frame, landfills annually emit the greenhouse gas equivalent of 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants.
CLIMATE PROBLEM INTO SOIL SOLUTION
The COOL 2012 campaign offers communities a pragmatic and effective approach to “turning a climate problem into a soil solution.” Notes the campaign statement: “Intensive farming and short-sighted land use management have been spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for more than 100 years, contributing to one-third of the increase in atmospheric CO2. Rather than applying organic material to replenish the soil, modern industrial agriculture relies upon huge quantities of petroleum-based, energy-intensive, greenhouse gas-generating fertilizers to produce crops on declining lands. Soils hold twice the carbon stocks of plants. Releasing this carbon through tilling means the soil now contributes to, rather than protects against, global warming. It also means that the ability of soil to grow our food comes into question.”
Urban and suburban communities, along with rural areas, have the ability to recycle organics to the soil instead of burying them in landfills. Local food production is one of the hottest trends in the U.S. In fact, the 2007 Word of the Year, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, is “locavore,” defined as someone who eats locally grown food. Small farms and community gardens in and around metropolitan areas are prime locations to utilize compostable organic materials.
While we work toward longer-term, challenging solutions like shutting down coal-fired power plants and taking cars off the road, the easiest, first step that can produce significant climate results right now is to stop landfill-produced methane. Simply by keeping compostable organics out of landfills, we can prevent potent methane emissions and build healthier soils. These in turn replenish carbon stocks and support sustainable agriculture and healthier foods for our population. States the COOL 2012 campaign: “The technology exists, the need is certain and the time to act is NOW.”
EASY TO BE COOL BY 2012
The COOL 2012 campaign advocates four action steps to get compostable organics out of the landfill by 2012:
1. Seize the Paper: Commit to recycling a minimum of 75 percent of all paper by 2012. Paper is the largest source of biodegradable materials in a landfill, so recycling and composting paper products will take the largest bite out of a community’s methane emissions. The infrastructure to recycle paper already exists; the key is to make it happen.
2. Source Separate: Require source separation of residential and business waste into three streams: compostables, recyclables and residuals. Source separation is the key to maximizing the environmental and economic potential of these resources.
3. Feed Local Soils: Support local farmers and sustainable food production with community composting infrastructure. The benefits of amending soils with composted organics are well-proven to reduce irrigation needs and use of synthetic fertilizers.
4. Stop Creating Methane Now: No matter how the waste industry promotes its “new and improved” landfills, there is only one proven way to truly prevent methane emissions – keep organics out of landfills. Public policy needs to first support the elimination of methane by requiring source separation of compostables and recyclables, then mitigating methane from existing sources where organics have already been buried.
April 13 Cool Workshop
REGISTER now for the Zero Waste Communities and COOL 2012 Workshop, April 13, 2008 in San Diego, California. Starting at 1:00 pm, the first two hours focus on Zero Waste Communities. Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle and President of GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), will introduce workshop attendees to zero waste (ZW), and why it is a “journey, not a destination.” Linda Christopher, Executive Director of GRRN, will review the four keys to ZW Community Planning that include Extended and Local Producer Responsibility, ZW Purchasing and ZW Infrastructure. Brenda Platt of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reviews Upstream Strategies that make local businesses part of the solution instead of “just the source of waste.”
The COOL 2012 component of the workshop starts at 3:00 pm. Dr. Sally Brown of the University of Washington will reveal “the true value of a banana peel,” discussing how individual actions related to composting and organics recycling can help combat climate change. A panel comprised of Brown, Nora Goldstein of BioCycle and Lombardi, will present COOL solutions. The last segment is a Case Study, examining what San Diego County – the 12th largest agriculture economy in the U.S. – can do to link COOL initiatives with local farms. Instructors include consultants Richard Anthony and Rich Flammer, and Wayne Williams of San Diego County.
The workshop fee is $90; register at http://www.jgpress.com/conferences1/conferences1.html. There are additional COOL 2012 sessions at the BioCycle West Coast Conference, which starts Monday, April 14, 2008 at 9:00 am (register at same weblink).