Seattle to require table-scrap recycling at homes in 2009

We’re talking about TRASH! That’s right, about the scraps and food that end up in your trash can and then in the landfills near and around cities. The people involved in handling your scraps refer to this kind of trash as SWM (solid waste material).

Just south of Seattle along the I-5 corridor there is a landfill adjacent to the busy freeway that is clearly visible to commuters as they commute to and from work. A few years ago the residents who live in the sprawling new home developments near the covered landfill and commuters along the freeway witnessed a spectacular event…….smoke and fire billowing out of the topped over landfill where grass had been planted. At great expense to property owners and tax payers the city and county engineers had to rework the landfill burying pipes to collect and safely handle what is naturally produced when garbage is buried………..methane gas. Pockets of gas form and find there way to the surface where they are easily ignited when garbage is buried and allowed to decompose.

Fires in landfills are very common and numerous other gases from the solid waste are fouling the atmosphere. We’ll talk more about these greenhouse gases later, but it is obvious to anyone, just common sense that you can’t keep putting scraps in the landfill. What to do?

Approximately 30% of the volume of material heading to the landfill is organic material, the solid waste left over from food scraps. We just don’t have enough places to bury it. If you keep turning the trash, exposing it to oxygen while it is rotting (decomposing) you can minimize the risk of methane production but that requires a lot of machinery, labor, and energy. It is a non-sustainable solution.

City planners and engineers are trying hard to find a solution……..and they have a plan for you. They want you to get involved. It’s going to happen everywhere and it’s happening right now. In Seattle all single family homes must sign up for table-scrap recycling in 2009. (SharonPian Chan’s Seattle Times report published in July 2007)

Residents will have to pay for the service. Starting in April 2009 inSeattle, you will have to buy special containers that will then be placed at the curbside. You will have to sort your trash placing it in the special containers and will then pay the city to have it hauled away where it will be “reclaimed”. Richard Conlin, a Seattle cityCouncilmember said he hopes that the garbage collection rates can be adjusted to absorb some of the additional cost homeowners will have to pay for the food recycling plan, but the real costs are still unknown.

Don’t think you will escape these issues living elsewhere. JaredBlumenfeld, the director of the Department of the Environment for the city and county of San Francisco has sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a strongly worded letter urging the governor to sign Assembly Bill 548, which will increase California waste diversion by requiring apartment building owners to provide recycling opportunities at multifamily dwellings. 

The California Integrated Waste Management Board provides to the public guidelines on diverting food waste and offers tips they believe are essential in meeting the California waste reduction goals.

Officials know these kinds of measures are needed but know a lot of people are going to be angry and opposed to the plans they propose. In hard economic times who wants to pay more to get the trash hauled away. And how do you know the plan they propose will make things better.

Emanuel Madison goes door to door in Los Angeles’ Leimert Parkneighborhood as a “recycling ambassador.”

His mission: to distribute 2-gallon kitchen pails to houses targeted in an experimental garbage pickup program. The city’s plan is to try to divert 600 tons of wasted food that go to the landfills every day. The pilot program would have nearly 5,000 Los Angeles households join residents in cities like San Francisco and Seattle, which have been separating table scraps for years and recycling them into compost.

So there you are a plan to charge you the homeowner to sort your trash, and then pay to have it hauled away by the city to “compost”. Common sense tells you they are right, you can’t keep putting in the landfill. Does composting make sense? Is that really recycling and sustainable? No it is not. You can make the difference and save money too.

Richard Conlin, the Seattle city Councilmember is correct; there should be a reduction the hauling rates if you separate your organicSWM from the other trash because the size of the containers required going to the landfill will be reduced. In fact King County’s solid waste management program( )provides incentives in the form of reduced hauling rates for homeowners who can reduce the amount of curbside trash. But you don’t want to then have to pay more to have your food scraps and organic waste hauled away to “recycle” at a city or county facility.

How are they going to “recycle” the trash? King County’s Solid Waste Division has embarked on a new project to generate usable energy from methane gas produced by the decomposition of garbage at Cedar Hills Regional Landfill. ( )

King County has contracted with renewable energy companyIngenco—doing business as Bio Energy (Washington), LLC (“Bio Energy”)—to convert methane gas produced at the landfill into pipeline quality natural gas for use in the region. That’s a big project. Currently they are collecting a million tons of garbage each year, hauling it to the site and letting it decompose. They collect the gas and burn it off because they can’t yet make the conversion to a usable form of methane gas. It costs a lot in machinery, labor and energy to haul it off and handle it at the site.

Let’s in closing look at the facts and use a little common sense. All that hauling and transferring of trash cost a lot of fuel and labor. We are duplicating the transfer process consuming much more fuel because we’ve still got to haul trash to the landfill, and now haul organic matter to another site for processing. It is well known that collecting all of the methane produced in a landfill is very difficult and most of it escapes into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that most experts’ state is 20 to 80 times more effective at heating the planet then carbon dioxide. A lot of carbon dioxide is also produced in the “recycle” site and it also escapes into the atmosphere. The heat from flaming and burning of gases goes straight into the air heating the planet too. And the methane produced is impure, containing many other nitrous and sulfur containing materials that when burned with the methane yield even more toxic gases for the planet to absorb. By the way the main product from methane combustion is carbon dioxide.

It’s been a long blog today………..but think about it. You could have processed the trash right at home using microbes to do the work. If you had taken your trash and fermented it using an anaerobic bokashisystem, no gases, heat, or toxic waste would have been produced. You wouldn’t be paying to have your organic trash hauled by the city to a site where toxins are produced. Next topic……..we’re going to talk about composting. Maybe you think that is the answer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.