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E-M:/ Solving our municipal waste problems ...



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Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
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On Fri, 1 Nov 2002, Barbara Jean Madsen wrote:

--- see below ---

Hello Barbara,

Per your post, a couple of points on the issues you raise:

First, the overall conclusion of the European Commission study I cite, 
is that composting of municipal waste is the most economical method of
processing, compared to landfills and incinerators, in addition to the
environmental benefits.

Also as you point out, I am aware of the Michigan composting facilities
that now handle our yard wastes since it has been banned from landfills.

That is a small beginning but it does not begin to address the large scale
processing of all our municipal organic waste via composting, as the study
proposes and is now being implemented in Europe in their effort to ban
landfills and incinerators in all the various countries.

Doing the same in Michigan is not a technical problem, as large scale
systems are already available that can compost all of our municipal waste
throughout the state.

Also regarding the "some significant logistic and health problems to be
solved" that you cite:

i.e: "Animal products (meat, fats, bones, etc.) and grease do not
compost well and tend to attract scavenging animals"

This is not true with anaerobic composting in large scale, closed vessel
facilities. It has long been used to successfully compost huge quantities
of every type of animal waste and is in fact, also used to compost the
entire carcasses of all the animals which die on farms.

In addition, the bacteria which create the composting process, produce
very high temperatures which readily destroy the pathogens in the waste.
All of this is already well documented and I won't belabor the point here.

What must be understood is:

to successfully compost every type of organic municipal waste produced
throughout Michigan is simply a matter of using the same technology on 
a larger scale.

Also regarding:

"Many residents (especially those in apartments) have no place to store
even the compostable vegetable wastes for more than a few days.  
Recycling requires different kinds of materials to be separated; many
residents are unwilling or unable to do this, so there would be a cost for
the labor to do this at some central facility."

I think you misunderstand the concept:

this type of large scale composting does not require individuals to store
their organic waste. It is simply put in out door, municipal refuse
containers as at present, and is trucked to the composting facilities,
rather than being trucked to landfills and incinerators.

Also, the issue you raise regarding the separation of organic waste from
non-organic waste is really an educational problem and not a technical
problem. In Europe, there are already many cities which successfully
compost their municipal waste and some in fact, have been doing it for
over 50 years.

You also cite the issue of toxic waste getting into municipal waste. 

There are ways to separate toxins from the waste but the long term
solution is not separation but rather, zero discharge laws which force 
the use of processes that do not create any toxic discharge and further
elimination by removing toxic products from the market place, just as new
battery technology has removed a major source of cadmium from the waste
stream.

In short: 

the main obstacle to composting all our municipal waste is not the lack of
technology but rather, the vested interests who control our present waste
management via landfills and incinerators, as it is a very lucrative
industry which obviously is opposed to change.

This vested interest problem is no different than that posed by other
large scale innovations and eventually, the transition will be made.

Public knowledge of viable options is the driving force and in this case,
most urban people have very little knowledge of composting technology and
the feasibility of changing our entire waste management system.

Thus, to initiate a solution which will realistically allow the
eventual ban of landfills and incinerators throughout Michigan:

we must propose a bond issue for municipal composting throughout the
state, similar to the present $10 billion for clean water, as the issues
are interrelated and if explained as such, the public will respond.

Lowell Prag

On Fri, 1 Nov 2002, Barbara Jean Madsen wrote:

> Lowell,
> 
> 	Michigan does have a law that makes at least a small step in this
> direction, by banning organic yard wastes from landfills. As a result of
> this law, many municipalities and townships now have large-scale
> composting operations, which earn a part of their keep by selling the
> compost they produce (the Ann Arbor city compost is beautiful stuff, and
> cheaper than anything you could buy in a bag!).
> 
> 	Of course, that doesn't include household compostable waste (like
> food waste), and doesn't address the issue of recycling other materials.
> There are some significant logistic and health problems to be solved,
> though.  Animal products (meat, fats, bones, etc.) and grease do not
> compost well and tend to attract scavenging animals.  Many residents
> (especially those in apartments) have no place to store even the
> compostable vegetable wastes for more than a few days.  Recycling requires
> different kinds of materials to be separated; many residents are unwilling
> or unable to do this, so there would be a cost for the labor to do this at
> some central facility.  Perhaps most seriously, there would need to be
> some way of dealing with toxic materials.  There are already problems with
> people flushing toxic materials down the toilet, and sewage-treatment
> plants not being able to deal with all of these substances.
> 
> 	Certainly recycling everything in one way or another is an
> excellent goal, but it's going to take a lot of work to approach this
> goal, given the variety and volume of wastes we create.
> 
> 	--Barb Madsen

> On Fri, 1 Nov 2002, Lowell Prag wrote:
> 
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Hello,
> >
> > Given all the protest in Michigan regarding landfills and incinerators
> > for the processing our municipal waste, below is a link to a study by the
> > European Commission to move those countries towards the composting of all
> > their municipal waste.
> >
> > In light of Michigan proposing to spend $10 billion on clean water:
> >
> > I should think this study and the many other studies with the same
> > conclusion, should convince us to also spend a similar amount on banning
> > landfills and incinerators in Michigan, by adapting state-wide composting
> > technology for all our municipal organic waste and the re-cycling of all
> > our non-organic waste.
> >
> > Here is the report by the European Commission:
> > http://www.environmental-center.com/articles/article1163/article1163.htm
> >
> > Lowell Prag



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