May 23, 2007 | General

Editorial: Power of Organics, Revisited

BioCycle May 2007, Vol. 48, No. 5, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

Several years ago, while designing a new trade show booth, we lighted upon a phrase which we thought captured the core message of BioCycle: “Power Of Organics.” The word “power,” when coupled with “organics” has multiple meanings – the strict interpretation, which is featured each month in the pages of BioCycle Energy and our annual Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference (October 1-3, 2007, Indianapolis, Indiana); and the figurative, such as the power of processed organics in the form of compost to build healthy soils, filter storm water and trap sediment, provide plant disease suppression and more.
The current focus on how to combat global climate change once again brings the Power of Organics to the fore. A recent study released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that composting is a net benefit to greenhouse gas reduction (see item on page 6 in BioCycle World). Furthermore, diversion of food waste from landfills, where it contributes to methane generation and release, to composting and anaerobic digestion, where emissions can be controlled effectively, is recognized as eligible for carbon credits (giving dollar value to diversion).
And then there is the direct replacement of fossil fuels with biopower and biofuels. Microgy, an anaerobic digestion project developer, recently brought a facility on line in Texas that is producing enough pipeline quality gas to yield the equivalent of a commercial gas well. This issue’s article (and cover story) on harnessing microbes to generate electricity via microbial fuel cells (page 49) is just another example of the Power of Organics. Our new column, Biomass Energy Outlook (page 62), will track technology, projects and policies in the BioCycle Energy arena. Mark Jenner, founder of Biomass Rules and a lead consultant to the BioTown USA project in Indiana, will author the column. Jenner recently launched a biomass energy new service, tracking activity on a daily basis.
Another compelling component of the Power of Organics is the monetary value. Several weeks ago, I attended a brainstorming session on how to increase participation in curbside recycling programs. The meeting included representatives of industries that purchase commodities diverted through curbside programs (e.g., aluminum, steel, paper). One person attending the meeting presented a sample calculation – using data from the state of Georgia – on the value of recyclables currently being disposed. He noted that $90 million/year is being spent to throw away $270 million worth of recyclable commodities. A waste characterization study done in Georgia shows that about 2.8 million tons of all grades of paper are being disposed (39 percent of the MSW stream going to disposal). Organics comprise 27 percent (almost 2 million tons). The monetary power of those organics in terms of the value of the end products that could be produced – from soil amendments to energy – is a very compelling argument for diversion.
Today, more than ever, the Power of Organics is the driving force behind BioCycle’s editorial mission. We are compelled to address the opportunities and the solutions that organics provide, not just to combating climate change, but to building healthy soils, improving water and air quality, and contributing to stronger local economies.

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