Nora Goldstein, Editor, BioCycle

March 12, 2018 | BioCycle Editorials

Editorial: Championing The Champions

Nora Goldstein, Editor, BioCycle

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle March/April 2018

At BioCycle’s 31st Annual West Coast Conference, March 26-29, 2018 in San Diego , we are hosting a celebration dinner on March 27. Who and what are we celebrating? You — the champions of organics recycling. Why are we celebrating? Because being an organics recycling professional is a tough row to hoe, where many days are filled with challenging tasks. Tackling and solving those tasks requires creativity, knowledge, ingenuity, patience, persistence, empathy and ultimately, an intimate understanding of the biology that underpins successful organics recycling and the qualities that make the finished products perform to their highest potential.
Organics recycling champions are you — people who fight for diverting resources in solid waste and wastewater streams on behalf of creating a resilient planet. What tools do you champions bring to the “battle”? Among them are: Investment in and operation of collection and processing infrastructure; Market development and expansion; Passage and implementation of supportive policies and laws; Continual education and training of organic waste generators (including households and businesses); Ongoing research and field trials; and Equipment and services to practice the trade.
You, the champions, are championing the cause because you know that throwing away or burning valuable resources is not sustainable. You recognize that while landfill capacity is abundant in most places — and disposal is the path of least resistance — those resources are necessary to grow food, conserve water, produce low-carbon energy and fuels, and make the places we live more resilient to the impacts of weird and scary weather.
Organics recycling champions are also victors, winning battles in state legislatures and agencies to remove barriers, whether it’s (among many others) revising composting regulations to facilitate infrastructure development, creating incentives like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, establishing bans on disposal of organic waste streams, or working with stakeholders to establish food recovery programs.
To continue advancing, however, we must work harder to find stakeholders and collaborators outside of our organics recycling universe to champion our cause. How can we better listen to and address valid concerns of citizens and elected officials about the safety of our facilities, and air and water quality regulators and others about potential impacts? Key to those conversations — and eventual collaborations — is transparency, and a willingness to be flexible. After decades of practice, thanks to our organics recycling champions, we know how and why operations go awry, and we have the tools and knowledge to adopt best practices.
How can we better educate these stakeholders and potential collaborators? We can point to thousands and thousands of examples in the U.S. and globally, where outputs of organics recycling operations are helping to build sustainability. Examples include: Bringing life back to vacant lots to establish community gardens and urban farms; Infiltrating storm water that once flooded roads, playgrounds and homes; Reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by running vehicles on fuel made from renewable natural gas; Helping to facilitate wasted food reduction and food recovery; Benefiting local economies with new jobs and enterprises.

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