October 27, 2006
Volume 42, Issue 6

Recycle to reduce unnecessary waste


Valerie DePan
The Advocate

Sustainability is a topic that scientists, environmentalists and former Vice President Al Gore are talking about these days in light of recent warnings that the planet is already beginning to feel the effects of global warming.

Global warming is a dirty word that politicians seem to hate to talk about because not enough is being done about it at the White House level, according to Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

What does this mean to students and what can we do about it? Locally, Metro and the City of Gresham are encouraging local businesses to do something about sustainability to help reduce the effects of carbon-dioxide emissions. According to a Sept. 11 article published in The Gresham Outlook, “Over the next eight months, a pilot program funded partially by an increase in the garbage collection rates will recycle several businesses’ food waste and give the city of Gresham a hands-on look at how to create a successful food waste recycling program.”

The article states that the Safeway grocery chain has been a leader, contributing 65 percent of the food waste now being recycled.

The pilot program is seeking a local school, grocery store, a fast-food restaurant, a sit-down restaurant and hopes for the participation of retail stores.

The program primarily consists of putting food waste and food-soiled papers into biodegradable containers. Plastic film and utensils (contaminants) are separated from the biodegradable residuals. Gresham Sanitary and Metro are collaborating to truck the contents to a composting company near Everett, Wash. In turn, the renewed compost will be sold wholesale to nurseries and farms.

Pilot studies for food recycling in neighboring Wash. are underway. In February, BioCycle, a regional roundup in Bellingham, Wash., said students at Alderwood Elementary are participating in separating food residuals in the school’s cafeteria as the kids learn about waste and where it goes. The Bellingham Program is modeled after the Food to Flower!, a system developed by Tamar Hurwizt, environmental education manager, for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the article stated. The district spends $185,000 a year on trash removal and diverts an estimated 500 tons of organic residuals.

Vendors at the Seattle Center have experimented with festival food recycling. Sam Wilder, president of Wilder Environmental Consulting, worked with pilot food recycling trials in Seattle in 2005. Two festivals in the year of the study diverted almost six tons of food compost materials. That’s a volume of roughly 40 cubic yards.

In a DEQ 2002 Waste Composition Study, Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties report that roughly 180,000 tons of food is wasted annually by businesses and residents. Add 95,500 tons of food-soiled paper waste and we have 800 tons of food waste recyclables per month. What isn’t clear is whether that’s material that’s being salvaged or whether it is material that could potentially be are renewable source of compost.

Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, more than five million people are anticipated to inhabit Oregon three decades from now. That’s a lot of mouths to feed as well as a lot of strain on the planet. It’s also a ton of waste and sooner or later we are going to run out of places to put it.

In Laurence G. Boldt’s book, “The Tao of Abundance — Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living,” he writes, “Since 1950, Americans alone have used more natural resources than all human beings who ever lived on earth before them combined. The United States with 5 percent of the word’s population, consumes 30 percent of its resources. The average American uses five times more of the world’s resources than the average Mexican, [10] times more than the average Chinese, and thirty times more than the average Indian. Between 1978 and 1998, per capita consumption in America increased by 45 percent.”

While Gore is on a mission to teach the world about the dangers of taking our planet for granted, the City of Gresham and Metro are finding ways to work with schools and local business to reduce food waste. What can we do about it individually so that we can provide a safe future for the generations to come?

We need to be continuously looking for new ways to reduce our waste and elect leaders that care about tomorrow. While zero waste seems like a lofty goal, there are a number of ways to cut back including recycling at home beginning today.

There are a number of friendly web sites that offer suggestions for creating compost piles. Apartments, too, are working with the pilot program to encourage multifamily home dwellers to sort waste including potentially renewable food waste. Even human feces can be composted.

For more information please visit http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_management or wikipedia.org/wiki/composting. Other useful sites include www.climatecrises.org and www.terrapass.com.




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