Now, now, the great San Francisco Bay Area isn't "struggling" - it's just publicly realizing it has the infrastructure problem you say is common to many cities. But throwing bonds at bigger sewers won't solve the problem of increasingly precious water planet-wide, including in California.
If you look back to the 1970s, Dan Knapp wrote an article on a composting greenhouse for the first Rodale book on greenhouses. He based the article on his own backyard greenhouse in snowy Illinois, where he was a professor, and he used the carbon dioxide from the compost to boost his plants' growth even in the winter. Commercial greenhouses use a lot of fossil fuel to generate carbon dioxide for this function. How about trying composting instead of natural gas or petroleum? Then the product is good for landscaping. Talk about a win-win!
Maybe your downplayed idea of daily collection for the Hilton is indeed the best answer. It has to be better than using energy to purify water in a treatment plant, then using the sanitized water to carry chopped food to where it will be mixed with sludge, and fuel will be burned to evaporate the water from the food-cum-sludge so it can be composted in fuel-intensive digesters to generate what must be less energy than the total sludge production process used. Just save the water and energy in the first place. Much more efficient.
At the turn of the 20th century, some cities in the South offered daily collection for food and collected dry rubbish weekly or even less often. If you're looking at all the options, that's one you'll surely examine. Berkeley is planning to reduce rubbish collection once the people are used to using the new weekly collection of mixed yard debris and food.
Besides,, privatizing the sewers could be fraught with civil upsets like the demonstrations worldwide over privatizing other public utilities. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the people rioted in 2000 and overturned privatization of water supplies. In the US in 2001, Broadway produced the musical "Urinetown," where the characters in a water-scarce big city are subjected to a privatized system in which they have to pay to pee. Yuck! Let's toss a few bonds at composting and let the worms multiply. Worm bins, as you know, can be managed in apartment houses in winter. It's about resources, not waste.
Mary Lou Van Deventer
Urban Ore, Berkeley, CA
To End the Age of Waste
On Feb 28, 2008, at 1:44 PM, David Biddle wrote:
Kendall-I would love a copy of the WSJ article.
Dan- It seems to me that the problems that biosolid systems are having in this country are more a function of a dilapidated or under-sized infrastructure and that this issue calls forth the need to seriously examine that infrastructure. Also, in your climate backyard composting is probably a bit more doable than in northern climates like Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, etc. In addition, in many cities people don?t have space, literally. Here in Philly the majority of backyards are postage size. Finally, in studies I?ve seen, while the residential food waste component is high, the commercial and institutional fraction is much higher. Short of daily collection of roll-out carts, what is a Hilton Hotel supposed to do with their 2,000+ pounds of food scrap and sauces?
I?m advocating (and Kendall and I have talked about this often) for a very careful and thorough analysis of all the options for really solving this problem, especially for the commercial sectors. If it means that cities need to look at renovating with $200 million bond options or privatizing their sewer systems, or whatever, then so be it. Certainly, if the Bay Area is struggling the way you say it is, this process must already be underway. I would hope all the Waste-Heads their are looking to be a part of the solution.
David Biddle, Executive Director
Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council
P.O. Box 4037
Philadelphia, PA 19118
on 2/28/08 4:16 PM, Dan Knapp at email@example.com wrote:
I believe that sewage treatment plants in the San Francisco Bay Area would not be enthusiastic about the WSJ's glib endorsement of garbage disposals to reduce solid waste. I have read several articles in the local press about how these plants are so maxed out that they are sometimes forced to dump untreated sewage into streams that drain to the Bay. In late January one major sewage release in Marin County amounting to millions of gallons was one of the lead stories on the evening news for a couple of weeks. Following that spill, lots of dead shorebirds were found in the area, although no conclusive link was established. Also, sewage treatment facilitiy operators are advising customers via mailings never to put grease into the sewage system at all, since it creates pipe blockages not to mention lots of Biological Oxygen Demand.
The best option is to compost food in your own backyard along with all the yard trimmings, food paper, and other organics such as cotton clothing. I've done it for decades, and it's very satisfying, especially when combined with growing food in the enriched soil you get when you actually use the finished compost. My soil horizon in the food garden is now about eight inches deep after fifteen years of soil amending with dozens of cubic yards of humus. I'm also taking carbon that used to be in the air and putting it into the soil, where it nourishes the soil critters and fungi that help plants grow. The soil is much easier to work than the heavy clay that I had to start with; no clods at all, and it holds water like a sponge.
Next best is to use curbside food and yard debris collection; these centralized processing systems are proliferating all over the Bay Area right now.
Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling business in Berkeley, CA for 27 years.
On Feb 28, 2008, at 11:54 AM, Kendall Christiansen wrote:
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal featured a report about the growing international interest ? with a focus on the EU ? in the efficacy of food waste disposers (aka garbage disposals) as an environmental management tool, for immediate diversion of food scraps from the solid waste stream, and relying on wastewater treatment plants to process the solids in fertilizer products with energy recovery where possible. In particular, it noted the experience of several cities that have intentionally opted for disposer-based systems for food scrap management.
Given that the WSJ remains subscription-based, if you?d like a copy of the article ? as well as its Environmental Capital blog post on the same topic ? please let me know and I?ll forward. If you would like access to one or more of the reports referenced in the article, let me know that, too.
151 Maple Street
Brooklyn, NY 11225
o: 718.941.9535; cell: 917.359.0725
the writer is senior consultant on environmental affairs for InSinkErator, the leading manufacturer of residential and commercial food waste disposers, and former Chair of NYC?s Citywide Recycling Advisory Board