Putrescible Waste

2

This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

– – –

(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.

– – –

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.

MRF (Rhymes With Smurf)

3

This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

– – –

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

– – –

A MRF is a Materials Recovery Facility, a Materials Recycling Facility, or a Materials Reclamation Facility. These facilities receive household and business waste, construction waste, recyclables, and other discarded materials and separate them.

A “dirty” MRF receives mixed solid waste (everything all jumbled together), or in lingo “a mixed solid waste stream” and separates out the recyclables and other desirable materials.

A “clean” MRF receives just mixed recyclables and separates them.

And I have just learned about “wet” MRFs, which use water to separate items in a dirty MRF by density, cleans them, then dissolves organic material for anaerobic digestion.

The sorting in a MRF is accomplished with some automated processes and also manual sorting of materials into bins.

– – –

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.


local

Berkeley Might End Curbside Recycling Program

1

(Image credit – City of Berkeley)

– – –

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.

– – –

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.

Assorted Links

An op-ed has some interesting math lessons for locavores.

Sanford, Maine implemented a trash-metering system and residents reduced trash thrown away by 50%.

The folks at Walk Score have released Transit Score, which ranks how well-served a location is by transit.

San Francisco Finds a New Landfill?

1

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By 2015, San Francisco officials are hoping to send waste to a landfill in Yuba County, near the town of Wheatland, CA.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the garbage will be taken by truck to Oakland, loaded onto trains, and shipped 130 miles to a 236-acre landfill.

The city is currently under contract to ship garbage to the Altamont Landfill in Livermore.

The proposed landfill in Yuba County is owned by Recology (formerly Norcal Waste Systems) and currently receives about 750 tons of trash each day. It is expected that San Francisco would send more than 1000 additional tons of trash to the landfill each day.

Details of the plan are still being negotiated, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will have to approve any final proposal.

– – –

On a side note, Recology has a blog with lots of info about waste and recycling in the Bay Area. I’ve just started reading through some of the archives.

– – –

Informal Garbage Collection – Egypt’s Zabaleen

1

This post is part of our series exploring the ways people and communities reuse, recycle and dispose of waste around the world.

– – –

For decades the Zabaleen*, the regional garbage collectors, have gathered and processed the recyclables, managing to earn a living in the process. The Zabaleen are generally Coptic Christians, a minority in Muslim Egypt. One way in which they have dealt with organic waste is to feed it to their pigs. Once the pigs were fattened, the Christian Zabaleen could eat the pigs or sell the meat.

In 2009 the Egyptian government killed all the pigs in a misguided effort to forestall a swine flu epidemic.

The population of Cairo is about 18 million people. The government has tried to institute formal garbage collection in various ways since the 1980s, with the most recent effort involving multinational companies, but with limited success. And since the government killed a major part of their livelihood, the Zabaleen  stopped handling the organic waste.

Garbage began piling up in Cairo (images here).

In November 2009, the Egyptian government unsuccessfully tried to end its contracts with the Italian, Spanish, and French companies charged with garbage collection, saying the companies failed to do their jobs.

The international companies have now hired some of the Zabaleen as Cairo struggles to find a lasting solutions.

– – –

There is a Sundance Channel documentary about Cairo’s garbage collection history called “Cairo: Garbage” that looks interesting.

– – –

*Also seen spelled Zabbaleen.