July 18, 2011 | General

Editorial: Six-Month Checkup

BioCycle July 2011, Vol. 52, No. 7, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

We are more than halfway through the year, so what better time than now to take stock of how 2011 is shaping up in the world of composting, organics recycling and renewable energy. From a natural disaster and weather event standpoint, this has been a tough year already, with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the devastating tornadoes in the central U.S. and even in New England, wildfires in the southwest, and drought plaguing Texas and some other states. On the political front – at all levels of government – the combination of budget deficits and program cutting is taking its toll on renewable energy and recycling programs.
From an organics diversion standpoint, composters and mulch producers were dealt a blow in the first half of 2011 when the legislatures in Florida and Georgia ultimately repealed bans on yard trimmings disposal in landfills. The buzz is that the solid waste industry is not stopping there, renewing its repeal charge in states where it’s tried before, and setting its sites on at least one new one (North Carolina).
Despite the horror of the natural disaster in Japan, one net effect seems to be a tamping down of the call to build more nuclear reactors in the name of clean energy. The wildfires highlight the need for better management of diseased and dead trees (aka biomass), and increased exposure to drought only highlights the necessity to amend soils with compost and other organic matter to assist infiltration and hold on to whatever precipitation does fall down from the sky.
Articles in this July issue highlight how our industry and the solutions it provides are bright patches in a difficult year. “Greenhouse Packs A Power Punch” (page 40) tells about a Montana entrepreneur who has developed a closed loop system that utilizes gasification, algae ponds and anaerobic digestion to convert wood waste to a variety of products, including biofuels, biogas and a soil amendment. “What’s Happening In The Windrow World” (page 34) discusses innovations that are providing increased efficiency and productivity at composting facilities – leading to more compost to address the challenges that nature is throwing at us.
But perhaps the brightest patch is this month’s Community Sustainability feature and cover story, “Zero Waste On San Francisco’s Horizon” (page 28). While the traditional solid waste industry clamors for organic waste in the landfill, sound policy, a committed municipality and a willing waste hauler have pushed waste diversion to almost 80 percent. Elected officials, citizens and businesses did not fight against San Francisco’s decision to make participation in the city’s three-stream source separation program mandatory in 2009. After many years of using the carrot to drive change in waste management practices, this nudge with the stick has helped pushed San Francisco toward its zero waste goal.
We are fortunate to publish a magazine that is focused on sustainable solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges. Amidst the disasters and politics, each month we meet and introduce you to people (and their projects, products and services) who are keeping their eye on the sustainability prize. At our six-month checkup, we are doing okay.

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