Paradigm Shift

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Many communities around the globe are looking to source-separated organics programs to manage food scraps. In fact, according to BioCycle the number of these programs in the US has increased 50% since 2009. But not everyone is able to participate in green bin programs ‒ or willing to. (The city of Ottawa, Canada has heard from opposing residents for a while and one could argue officials might try to “handle” the matter a bit differently.)  Disposers, as a way of discarding non-compostables like meat products, can be a tool to complement green bins, especially in multi-family residences where the logistics of collecting food scraps is a challenge. With nearly 60% of all US homes already using a disposer, a great opportunity exists for diversion without a single additional cent invested in green bins or collection equipment of any kind.

Densely-populated areas are seeing a proliferation of start-up businesses in . . . food scrap collection. All that an entrepreneurial young urbanite needs is a bicycle, a trailer ‒ and a place to dispose of the waste.

Disposers are traditionally utilized for kitchen clean-up to discard of food prep scraps and post-meal, for cleaning plates. But what if people used them to get rid of all food scraps? It could significantly reduce the 34 million tons of food waste generated in the US every year, most of which ends up at landfills and incinerators.  US EPA
To perpetuate an overused term, a paradigm shift in how we view food waste disposers could provide a two-fold solution for waste challenges. Not only could disposers divert a significant fraction of municipal solid waste from landfills — thus saving municipalities money spent on transportation and landfill tipping fees — they could also help facilitate resource recovery by sending material to wastewater treatment plants to produce clean water, energy and fertilizer. 

In short, a paradigm shift is needed to change the way consumers use their disposer.  Say you have a banana peel to throw out . . . where is the first place you think about discarding it?  What’s the second place that comes to mind?  The third?


One reply to “Paradigm Shift

  • Tim Evans on said:

    You are right Michael. Food waste disposers do separate food waste at source, even if you make a mistake. They don’t take the accidentially discarded peeler, plastic film, foil, etc. By contrast curbside collected food waste contains 10-20% of stuff you wouldn’t want in an anerovbic digester. Wastewater treatment plants in USA used not to be too interested in biogas, but they are now. Electricity generation or biomethane to gas grid is growing in application. Food waste disposers deliver clean biogas substrate to anaerobic digestion at POTWs via the sewers; John W. Hammes was indeed a far sighted man.

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