Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Solution? The Problem with Garbage Dumps

Posted by jaystile on November 26, 2008

One of the problems with garbage dumps is that we are mummifying our trash. Researchers find newspapers from the 1950s that are still readable and meat with fat on the bone that has not started to decompose. A garbage dump is actually supposed to mummify its contents so that dangerous chemicals and runoff do not invade the groundwater. We need garbage dumps! However, recyclable and compostable materials¬†that should be decomposed or reprocessed are filling up our dumps. While the government has seriously cut back on the number of new permits for garbage dumps. Because of that, I’ve been thinking about what I could do to help the planet and minimize my footprint on it. One of the things we do in my family besides recycling (Thank you Waste Management for the ease of Single Stream Recycling) is composting also know as aerobic digestion. One of my problems with the compost pile is that we cannot compost all food waste. If you live in a densely packed neighborhood like I do you do not want a big stinky compost pile. Which means you cannot compost any diary, meat, or anything that putrefies. I was wondering if we could compost more items if we did it for a larger community? The methane released from decomposition could be gathered and broken down further by burning it in a generator providing electricity back to the community.

While I was doing a little research for this post, I stumbled upon two articles from ecocycle.org: Zero Waste Recycling and Single Stream Recycling. Someone has already beaten me to the punch in trying to solve the world’s problems! I was going to present the concept of community composting which would allow a group, like an HOA, to sign up for compostable materials removal. Like trash pickup, you’d put out your can of grass clippings, leaves, and food waste and in return you could pickup finished compost for your personal use. It sounds like efforts are being made to have a 3-bin style separating and using one truck to pick it up. One bin for recyclables, one bin for compostables, and one bin for trash. Let’s hurry and get me my 3-bin separator!

There are some other cool technologies out there for composting. I had first read about an anaerobic digester from a Heifer International newsletter. The anaerobic digester is an underground storage tank which is fed by manure and compostable materials. In rural areas in Africa the digester’s bacteria produce methane in the digester and this gas is siphoned off and used for cooking while the slurry (which is near ordorless after processing) is used as fertilizer. On PBS I heard of dairy farms using a similar system to use the methane to power generators to operate their farms and receive carbon credits.

Anaerobic Digester

Anaerobic Digester

I am glad to see people taking a greater interest in the life cycle of their garbage. And I appreciate the efforts being made by companies like Amazon.com who are trying to minimize the use of plastics in packaging in favor of recyclable materials with their ‘hassle free packaging’.

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