March 19, 2008 | General


BioCycle March 2008, Vol. 49, No. 3, p. 4
Organics Matter

THE other day I was speaking with a sustainability director of a major corporation. He noted that these must be exciting times for BioCycle, with the increased popularity and focus on climate change and sustainability, and how organics diversion is a solution, not a problem. In the span of about two weeks, that was the third time I had heard that comment from corporate executives who are either on the waste management side of the industry, or the generator and market sides.
There is something very rewarding about that recognition, especially as The JG Press, Inc. approaches the 50th anniversary of BioCycle’s existence. We – and by this I mean the all inclusive “we” of project operators, technology and system providers, researchers, public policy and regulatory advocates, local government leaders, information specialists and others – have slogged long and hard in the trenches to reach the point today where composting, organics recycling and renewable energy are key solutions to addressing climate change, creating green collar jobs and helping communities and industries become sustainable. We are now on the offensive, armed with short- and long-term benefits that can trump just about everything skeptics and naysayers throw our way.
How have we reached this point? Because organics matter. Why do they matter? Let’s start with organic matter, which soils indisputably require to be productive and function in the way nature intended. A case in point is David McDonald and Kris Beatty’s article on page 23, “Don’t Treat Building Site Soil Like Dirt.” The article discusses a new outreach campaign to change standard building practices. The mission, write McDonald and Beatty, “is to help builders and developers preserve and restore native soil on building sites, using compost.” These soil Best Management Practices will soon be required by local governments around western Washington, as local codes are updated.
Why else have we reached this point? There is growing consensus – and back-up data – that organics in the landfill are a primary source of human-caused methane. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a 100-year basis. This reality led BioCycle to work with the GrassRoots Recycling Network and Eco-Cycle to launch the COOL 2012 campaign next month at the BioCycle West Coast Conference in San Diego. COOL 2012 – Compostable Organics Out Of Landfills by 2012 – is a national initiative to inspire and educate state and local jurisdictions on the importance of getting compostable organics out of the landfill and back to the soils (see page 36 of this issue). There is a preconference workshop on April 13th on Zero Waste Communities and COOL 2012. Additional COOL sessions are part of the West Coast Conference, April 14-16, 2008.
As communities around the world assess and select their options for municipal solid waste management in the 21st century, the reality that “organics matter” will be at the forefront of their evaluation process. Several weeks ago, I toured a waste-to-energy plant in Florida, as part of the Chartwell/Envirobiz annual conference in Tampa. Standing in the room over the tipping floor, watching truck after truck pull in to unload tons and tons of mixed garbage, then moving on to peek through the window of the burner and see these materials in flames, then going to the control room that monitors electricity output to the grid, I had “a moment” where I thought, what is so bad about this? A handful of workers are employed on each shift, the facility footprint was pretty small, and upwards of 3,000 tons/day of MSW are being processed. In reality, however, the capital costs for a new version of this plant are astronomical, the energy required to run it is high, and all the resources that need to go back to the soils have gone up in smoke. Not too much sustainability or green collar jobs there!
We rest our case. Organics Matter. – N.G.

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