BioCycle June 2009, Vol. 50, No. 6, p. 4
Figuring It Out
THE original title of this month’s editorial was going to be Growing The Infrastructure. But I feared we’ve used that title before, as the rallying cry to build more infrastructure to process organic waste streams is an almost daily rant. But as the days, months and years go by, the need to grow the infrastructure has become more urgent. Why?
Let’s start with the economic and environmental benefits discussed in this month’s cover story, “Composting Generates Cash For Greenhouse Gas Benefits” (page 18). The Chicago Climate Exchange released its protocol for composting in late April, paving the way for tradable carbon credits (aka economic benefit) that result from landfill methane avoidance via aerobic composting of organic waste streams (aka environmental benefit). And the article doesn’t even touch on benefits related to compost use, which include carbon sequestration.
And then there is the constant stream of phone conversations and emails about food waste generators who are primed to divert, and the haulers who are willing to collect the material but have no place to take it. An organics collection company just started up in New Jersey. The facility it had planned to use to process the food waste has been having financial and odor challenges. The hauler has been able to find a composter, but at a greater distance. Another example is a large capacity composting facility in Virginia that is just a little too far away to make a lot of collection routes economical. In that case, the composting company could use a series of transfer stations in the metropolitan areas, so the organics can be hauled more economically in larger quantities. I asked the person on the phone what sort of equipment and systems it would need to start up a transfer station for that purpose. “Nothing elaborate,” he replied, “just a really effective biofilter.”
Another article is this issue, “Biomethane Fuels Dairy Fleet” (page 36), tells an exciting story about a dairy farm with covered lagoons that was generating too much biogas so the owner decided to install a biogas upgrading and compression system to produce compressed biomethane (CBM). The fuel is being used in two trucks that deliver milk, as well as other vehicles. At full capacity, the CBM system will replace 750 to 800 gallons of diesel fuel per day. In the article, farm owner Rob Hilarides is asked about lessons learned. He said that from a technology aspect, the project was not difficult, but obtaining the necessary permits from the air district and the county was a huge task. “What’s a shame in my mind is something that is so obviously environmentally friendly has become so difficult to permit.”
So here is the bottom line: The economic and environmental benefits of organic waste recycling are a slam dunk, whether we are talking climate change or healthy soils and saving water. The technology is there, proven and ready to use. And all the transfer station really needs is a biofilter. Seriously, we can figure this out. Actually, we have to figure this out because the urgency is real and not imagined. Together (and we mean the really big together that includes collaboration, cooperation, public/private partnerships, dispute resolution, etc.) we will make sustainable organics recycling a reality. – Nora Goldstein