by Casey Furlong, MSW Professional
Put yourself in the shoes of a community administrator about to tackle the goal of increasing waste diversion from the landfill. Food scraps are part of the evaluation. The easy solution – composting!
In your community, you’re already managing landscape waste that way, so the infrastructure is in place to harmlessly turn organics into dirt. (And if it isn’t, building a flat composting pad takes relatively minimal time and capital.) Good. Done.
As an administrator, you are about to take the first step of a familiar “5 stage” journey in coming to terms with the reality of establishing your food scrap composting program:
A certain person I know well claims that, for his psychological well-being, an occasional fine cigar is beneficial. That determination is based on weighted values known only to him, and arguably with willful and sublime ignorance of the values held by, say, his wife.
Spouses aside, individuals are pretty much free to deem whether something is beneficial to them or not and take it from there. But in public policy, others get to decide what is beneficial for the rest of us.
This post is about the “beneficial reuse” of biosolids, which got me thinking about who declared their reuse to be so, and how, where, and when it’s considered a good thing.
How biosolids come to be. Wastewater treatment relies on both physical and biological processes to clean water. Primary clarifiers physically remove most of the organic materials simply through settling them out as primary sludge. The remaining soluble organic matter that passes on to the aeration tanks is biologically converted by bacteria. The bacteria multiply, so to keep their population in check, a portion of them is “wasted” out of the system to digesters along with primary sludge. Sludge digestion is either done aerobically or anaerobically (some sludges are incinerated), but under the EPA 503 Rule, the end product becomes “biosolids.” Read more
Recently I attended the 5th annual WERF Forum in Chicago to hear about the latest research in the wastewater field. The final speaker was Nancy Beller-Simms of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who reported that global temperatures in 2012 were the tenth highest on record. In addition, she said that 2012 was the warmest and most extreme weather year on record in the US. Coincidentally, heavy rains and flooding struck Chicago during the forum, washing away a January spell of 60 degree temperature.