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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 21, 2010 10:33 AM. The previous post in this blog was Your tax dollars at work, cont'd. The next post in this blog is Eye yi yi. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is Portland missing the boat on food scrap processing?

Maybe we should be running our table waste through high-end garbage disposals in our kitchen sinks and sending it through our platinum-plated sewers to a sewage treatment plant to be mined for methane, which can be used to generate electricity. From a "green" standpoint, it sure beats trucking the slop out to Waste Management in Troutdale and beyond, no?

This, of course, would involve the Sam-Rand Twins admitting that they placed their bets on the wrong technology. And we know that's not going to happen.

Comments (11)

We live in the country with a septic tank. Can't use a garbage disposal with septic system because it adds too much bulk to the holding tank, resulting in more frequent visits from the big, stinky (expensive) pump truck. We had to buy a critter proof compost unit because the open-air method was like a bugle call to the wild beasts in the woods beyond. Even though we don't have that much waste,I don't have time to layer, stir and process the organic matter like you're supposed to get the stuff to rot properly. It routinely turns into a black, slimy mess, flying gnats hovering around like a plague of locusts. I would rather push it down the garbage disposal, make a little electricity, and be done with it! Lucky city folks.

Do you have redworms in your compost system? They work wonders on vegetable waste.

I was going to not replace our garbage disposal, but with Adams planning on invoking separate food scrap collection (& reducing regular garbage pickup to once every two weeks from once weekly), I am considering replacing the disposal. With sewer rates escalating sharply, just as well get our money's worth and put it down the drain.

I think I recall our cityhall actually buying some of this electric generating equipment for water treatment. So, maybe not as bad as Jack says.

I wonder though if putting more food waste in the sewer stream might also spur problems with rodents. I recall some cases in Portland of sewer lines with garbage disposals connections incurring some rat and mice problems.

You know I think I came up with another low end technology to capture storm water. It's my pick up truck bed. It fills with rain water during storms. When a nicer day comes along, I sometimes drive my truck and the water drains out the bed as I drive away and down the street. Just think of it as a bioswail on wheels.

I compost at our summer home that has only solar power. Fortunately I have enough room to put the plastic composter away from the house. We are on an island so critters are not much of a problem.
We also have a Sunmar composting toilet there. Its fine for the light part time use we give it but it would work WAY better if we had a constant power source to heat the compost to 165 degrees all the time.
Here we are on a septic system and I use a garbage disposal. Seems to work fine and we have pumped the system once in 20 years.
Leaving rotting food scraps out to be picked up once a week in the city seems a plague waiting to happen.

The linked promotional article from the garbage disposal company InSinkerator certainly does paint a rosey picture, but it looks like fats sent through sewers are still a problem that the promotional article doesn't really address. Not to mention, there's no comparision between the reclaimed energy and the energy and water used to grind and flush the food waste.

I don't understand the problems with doing compost. Jack is right about the worms. Don't think of disposing food wastes and reaching optimal heat, think of growing Worms. If you have healthy worms you have a good compost operation going. I compost all my food, lawn and leaf waste. Grease is cooled and goes into the garbage can, no meat scraps (egg shells ok)or meat from leftovers are sent to compost. A large pile of grass needs some dirt mixed in to prevent a moldy muck. Water and aeration as needed. When you find ball sized masses of worms you know your on the right track. I do two stacks, one ready to use, and one i'm adding to.

Jack -

The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant (CBWTP) does have a methane generator. Provides about half of the electricity used at the plant, also a fair amount of heat for the treatment process itself. This is actually the second attempt to generate electricity - the first generator never really worked. Burning methane for electricity is a tricky process - the bio-gas generated is actually fairly dirty, and has to go through a filtering process before it's clean enough to burn what's essentially an engine without clogging all of the parts.

The sludge that is left is ultimately shipped to a farm somewhere around Hermiston, where it's used as a soil additive.

Worms are fine. I did that in the basement until I collected four of the black plastic compost towers. Then, I released my wormies into the wild and added separated compostables (no cereals, no meat/cheese/milk wastes). I also had a funky wood frame that keeps my yard debris contained.

Until a couple of years back, I had about fifteen to twenty years of accumulated composted materials in these containers (yet, two towers were still mostly empty).

Then, I added three chickens into the equation. They now do finish work on my composters. I pull the tower after it has been filled and set for a year, the girls spend a couple of months 'turning' it. It took my three hens a little under two years to completely turn, aerate and filter twenty some years of yard debris in the funky wood frame. It took another year for them to do the same with one of the full towers.

So...Now, most cereal waste goes to the hens. Some meat wastes (particularly the cat food my pampered house-tom spurns) are fed to the hens. It really is a much better alternative (in my humble estimation) than dumping even more foodstuffs into the sewer (and thence the river - like that is going to end) to feed the algae. Besides, now I get eggs from my my garbage.

I'd say that if you live out in the country, this would seem like a viable alternative for a lot of the stuff you cannot jam into a septic system. Of course, you'll have a shipload more predators to deal with out there, but know that we have them here in the city, too. (Some of them on the city council.)

Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Just one more STUPID THING TO WASTE YOUR TIME DOING courtesy of the City of Portland - the people that enjoy telling you how to live your life.

Milwaukee eh? The city has long been a leader in recycling and re-use of waste. It developed slow release nitrogen Milorganite (the Mil is short for Milwaukee) fertilizer in the 1920's from sludge residues at its sewage treatment facilities.

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=816193&category=GARDENER&BCCode=&newsdate=4/17/2010

I suppose the innovators in the Midwest aren't continental enough for the coastal crowd.

I added 4 chickens to my back yard last year. Almost 4 fresh eggs year around. Bright yellow yolks firm, whites. But I will need to fence them or the garden in this year. No problems with bugs like I used too.
I live in a small city. Took some eggs to each of the neighbors like "urban chicken" said I should. Sounds like one neighbor is starting with two of his own.


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