Are suburban corporate campuses falling out of fashion? NRDC staff blog predicts an increase in smart growth. Lonely Planet surveyed travelers to find a list of the top 20 walking cities. Grist readers nominated 10 additional cities that didn’t make the original Lonely Planet list. A study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations finds that roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.
This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.
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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Putrescible waste is “solid waste that contains organic matter capable of being decomposed by microorganisms and of such a character and proportion as to cause obnoxious odors and to be capable of attracting or providing food for birds or animals (definition from the Argonne National Laboratory).
Basically, putrescibles are the bits of garbage that decompose and get stinky. This can include food waste, used diapers, and pet waste.
If the putrescible waste is removed from the standard waste stream, the remaining household solid waste (packaging, plastic films) and recycling (cardboard, glass, metals, plastics, and paper) is quite clean. As local government recycling programs face budget cuts, there is potential to use this separation of putrescible waste to creatively adjust waste and recycling programs.
If the putrescible waste is picked up pretty frequently (such as weekly), and possibly separated into compostable foodscraps and non-compostable waste (diapers and animal products), the remaining “clean” garbage and recycling could be picked up less frequently. There is potential to increase participation in food waste composting, since folks will want the stinky stuff out of their houses as fast as possible. Since a lot of the cost of recycling programs is the labor cost of pick-ups and sorting, there is also potential to reduce overall costs of program with careful planning of routes and pick-up schedule frequency.
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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.
(Image credit – City of Berkeley)
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On Tuesday evening, March Berkeley City Council heard an analysis of the recycling program managed by the Ecology Center.
According to East Bay Express,
The city paid the southern California firm Sloan Vasquez $85,000 to figure out how to plug the deficit. The consultants said in taking over the recycling, the city should replace the Ecology Center’s two-person trucks with one-person trucks, except on hilly and narrow roads where one employee working alone would be dangerous. Reducing the number of drivers and overhead incurred by the nonprofits would save millions of dollars, they said. They also recommended layoffs in the city’s solid waste division.
Currently, the nonprofit Ecology Center manages a city contract to pick up paper, glass and plastic. The Conservation Center, also a nonprofit organization, is charged by the city with processing and buying back recyclables. Urban Ore, a for-profit business, salvages and sells reusable items. City workers pick up garbage, and green and food waste. … …
The point where the city and nonprofit workers agreed was that outside profit-making companies such as Waste Management should not have the commercial franchises, as they do now, to pick up recyclables from Alta Bates Hospital, UC Berkeley, Bayer Corporation, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Steel Casting and more. Ricky Jackson, a rep for the government employees’ union, said the city could make money taking on this work.
Councilmembers want more input from the nonprofits, city workers, and the Zero Waste Commission at their March 22, 2011 meeting.
UPDATE: There is a detailed report on many of the speakers and comments from Tuesday’s Council meeting from the Berkeley Daily Planet (always to be taken with a grain of salt) here.
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To give some more background on concerns about the study, on Tuesday Berkeleyside carried a story about the report on recycling in Berkeley:
An independent report commissioned by Berkeley to assess how it could save money on its waste and recycling operations has recommended that the city terminate its contract with the Ecology Center which started the nation’s first curbside recycling program here nearly 40 years ago. The report’s proposals have been challenged and its methodology criticized by the Ecology Center, as well as by at least one third-party waste management expert.
Concerns about the study include the following:
[Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center] says he sees significant problems with the assumptions made in the Sloan Vazquez report, principally that the city would be able to save money by bringing operations in-house. Citing two specific examples he says: “The city waste supervisor is already overburdened and they are suggesting doubling his workload. And, at the moment, the city doesn’t carry any overheads but that will increase their costs by 26%.”
Bourque also has issues with the way the consultation process was handled — the consultants chose the day the Ecology Center was rolling out its new recycling split-carts last October to observe the program in action, which according to Bourque was atypical of its service. He adds that offers made by the Ecology Center to meet with the consultants or share data were declined.
Berkeley resident Steven Sherman, who is President of Applied Compost Consulting and has consulted for the city on waste matters, believes the Sloan Vasquez study has “terrible policy implications for the City”. In a March 3 letter to the Council he outlines why he believes the City should not accept the report’s analysis as valid.
Berkeley’s Zero Waste Commission has also condemned the study, describing it, in a February 28 report, as ”incomplete and missing information, cost-benefit analyses, and a lack of an adequate and inclusive process”.
You can read the entire article on Berkeleyside here.