Common Ground – Part 1

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Travel to and around the UK is my excuse for the long time between postings here.  (I had never been there before so I had to at least check out St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.) One of the reasons for my visit was participation in the European Wastewater Management Conference in Manchester where I shared a paper by Harold Leverenz and George Tchobanoglous on the energy balance and nutrient removal impacts of food waste disposers . To my surprise, audience questions focused on the same concerns I often address in other technical settings back home. One person claimed food waste ends up getting screened out at the headworks of treatment plants, which is untrue because the particles are much too small ‒ less than 3 mm ‒ the typical size of the smallest screens. Some questioned the use of disposers due to the potential impacts on collection systems, i.e. settling in sewers, the contribution to fats, oils and greases, and increased maintenance costs. But sewers designed to transport human waste are perfectly capable of transporting ground food waste. I took the opportunity to educate attendees about FOG and calcium soaps. It seems wastewater professionals still view blockages as grease when in fact they are something entirely different. I was struck how the issues and questions were the same that I’ve heard many times before, thousands of miles away at North American events, until I realized what’s more surprising is –  I didn’t expect them. 
The highlight of the trip came on the following day when I spoke at the Royal Society at an event hosted by AMDEA to discuss food waste disposers. The Royal Society was founded in 1660 and in centuries past, members included history’s most distinguished scientists including Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. To speak in such a historical setting was quite an experience, to put it mildly!  Speakers for the AMDEA event (pictured in order) included Paolo Battistoni from Marche University of Italy, Per Henrik Nielson from Odense, Denmark, yours truly, Douglas Herbison of AMDEA, Jonathon Mattsson from Lulea University in Sweden, and Per Andersson from Surahammar, Sweden.

Speakers of the AMDEA Food Waste Disposer Roundtable at the Royal Society.

Speakers of the AMDEA Food Waste Disposer Roundtable at the Royal Society.

During the event we discussed the use and impact of disposers; namely how disposers are helping communities like Surahammar and Odense meet waste diversion goals. But we also discussed more complex issues like the potential concerns of settling in sewers and particulate transformation of organics in sewers, as well as the social implications of whether disposers will help reduce overall “arisings” of waste – otherwise known as generation in the US. This was an interesting point of view that I will discuss in my next post. How about you? Has your work taken you to historic or significant places in history?  I’d enjoy hearing from you.