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E-M:/ Re: options for biodegradable municipal waste

Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>

On Tue, 1 Oct 2002, WIMS wrote:

> Lowell,
> I have enjoyed your comments on this issue.
> In light of your recent post and your discussion of... "Composting all our
> urban organic waste and returning it to to the
> farm soil would help, instead of dumping it in landfills...," I thought you
> might be interested in this timely European report that was issued today and
> which I reported on in WIMS Daily/eNewsUSA... Here is the article:
> EU Biodegradable MSW Management - (10/1) The European Commisson has released
> a report which provides an economic analysis of options for managing
> biodegradable municipal waste. The report indicates that the costs of
> landfilling and incineration have shown a tendency to rise whereas those for
> enclosed composting and anaerobic digestion have, if anything, shown a
> tendency to fall.  The report concludes that notwithstanding the limitations
> of this type of analysis, there is little to suggest that a policy mandating
> source separation of biodegradable municipal waste would be damaging if
> imposed in the European Union (EU). Access a website on the issue which
> includes the complete report, an Executve Summary and related information
> (click here). http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/waste/compost/index.htm

Hello Jeff,

Yes, alternative waste disposal is beginning to make sense to many people
but we are still a long ways from the zero concept. 

i.e: zero discharge from industry by implementing clean technologies
rather than trying to scrub emissions from bad technologies, a hydrogen
infrastructure to make fuels cells a reality and rid our selves of fossil
fuels, complete recycling of organic and non-organic wastes, etc.

>From a technical standpoint, all of that is possible. All that remains 
is for the general public to agree politically that it is time to stop
poisoning ourselves and make the planet habitable for future generations.

Lowell Prag

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Lowell Prag" <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> To: <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
> Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 12:28 PM
> Subject: E-M:/ catch-22 "organic" ecology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, 1 Oct 2002, Kenneth Vermeulen wrote:
> > Lowell, I agree with your basic premise that the use of compost is
> > superior to the use of synthetic fertilizers or non-composted manure.
> > But surely you must concede that it is also A LOT more expensive.
> > Unless consumers are willing to pay for the cost of organic farming
> > (which to date, they have not been)  organic farming methods will not
> > succeed in the market.
> >
> > Ken
> Hello Ken,
> The "organic farm" problem is a bit of a catch-22 type of thing:
> 200 years ago, over 90% of the USA was rural farm life. Things
> were a lot slower, marketing of produce was a local thing, plants
> were not breed for long travel instead of more valuable traits,
> crop rotation and the use of cover crops was easier, as letting
> land lay fallow for awhile was easier, organic waste was utilized
> on the farms in a traditional manner, etc. In short, we had no
> problems feeding ourselves without causing any great ecological
> harm.
> At present though, less than 2% of the population in the USA are
> farmers. That puts a great burden on them for food production and
> therein lies the problem of "organic" vs."non-organic" farming.
> The catch-22 becomes even more apparent when observing the
> results of a dependence on petrol-chemical derived fertilizers,
> instead of compost.
> Plants need a vast array of micro life in the soil in order to be
> healthy plants, as there is a symbiotic relationship that has
> developed over millions of years.
> The way that micro life is nurtured is through the use of
> compost.
> i.e: the forests do very well without any human intervention, as
> everything that was once was alive, returns naturally to the soil
> via the natural composting process and the nitrogen-phosphorous-
> potassium cycle is naturally maintained, as is the micro life in
> the soil which in numerous ways, then makes the nutrients
> available to the trees and plants.
> The problem with petro-chemical derived fertilizers is that they
> do not nurture the micro life in the soil and in many instances,
> are actually toxic to that micro life.
> At that point, the plants will still grow but are not as healthy
> as they otherwise would be, and it is unhealthy plants that are
> most susceptible to disease, insect attack, etc.
> To combat those problems, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides
> are applied which temporarily control the problems but their
> application is also toxic to the micro life in the soil and the
> beneficial insects above the soil.
> In short, the real catch-22:
> by attempting to solve the problems created by the sole use of
> petrol-chemical derived fertilizers, the problems only get worse,
> as do the problems created by the run-offs of the chemicals used
> to combat the problems.
> What then, is the solution?
> More farmers would help, as they could proceed more slowly and
> still maintain the food supply but given the global competition,
> that is difficult with the controversy of price supports, etc.
> Composting all our urban organic waste and returning it to to the
> farm soil would help, instead of dumping it in landfills, but
> that would require a national commitment to recycling to make it
> cost effective.
> Composting all our farm waste would help but as you suggest,
> are the farmers aware of the advantages of compost compared to
> petrol-chemical derived fertilizers and are they willing to make
> the initial capital investment to wean themselves off the
> petrol-chemical derived fertilizers?
> Greater use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) would help,
> whereby natural biological controls are used to control problems,
> rather than chemicals.
> Making more land cheaply available to our smaller farmers would
> help, instead of turning it into condos, shopping malls, mega farms,
> etc., as the farmers could practice better rotations and cover crops.
> A greater public awareness that we are in fact, killing not only
> our farm soil but also our various eco systems through bad,
> "hurry up", farming practices would help.
> In the long run, more organic small farmers are needed to combat
> the intrusion of the corporate mega farms and pressure must also
> be brought on those corporate mega farms to make the switch to
> truly sustainable agricultural practices.
> Given the relationship of those corporate mega farms to the
> petro-chemical fertilizer industry and the other related
> industries, initiating truly organic farming practices nationwide
> would require some type of federal mandate.
> Is such a mandate possible?
> Well, I guess anything is possible with a well informed public
> and it will take an established, "green", third political party
> to begin to mount the type of public pressure necessary to make
> such a change possible.
> In conclusion, I remain an optimist, as given all the other
> ecological problems we are facing not only in the USA but also
> globally, and the failure of past and present federal
> administrations to deal rationally with those problems, the
> development of a strong, "green", third political party is
> inevitable.
> Lowell Prag

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