Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garbage in . . . earth out?

I've long had a special interest in the disposal of garbage - and not just any garbage, but the more hazardous forms of waste. Coming from Africa as I do, I've seen all too many places where First World companies transport shiploads of toxic waste to the Third World and essentially dump it there, ostensibly for recycling, but in reality poisoning the environment and those who live there. There are many accounts of the problem out there, for those who're interested.

That's why this article in the Tennessean caught my eye.

A quarter-ton of roofing shingles, 5 tons of construction debris, some gasoline and diesel fuel, a dead deer and an armadillo.

All of this — and literally tons of additional items, including almost 1,500 pounds of household garbage with everything from aluminum cans to soiled diapers — is part of a composting experiment in Williamson County that promises to turn this mess into usable soil in just 10 weeks.

. . .

Microbes with voracious appetites have quickly turned the massive piles of shredded garbage, tires, sludge and construction debris into an earthy-smelling mass. The two windrows initially stood more than 7 feet tall and measured 12 feet across at the base. They’ve shrunk by at least one-third.

There's more at the link.

If this technology can be more widely used in the First World, it might be able to cut down on the quantity of toxic waste needing disposal; and if it can be further developed to deal with existing toxic waste dumps in the Third World, it might become a really meaningful contributor to improving the health of those living nearby.

I'll be watching this with great interest. It may seem prosaic - even boring - to most of my readers, but if you've seen the effect of toxic waste on kids surrounded by the stuff . . . it's not boring any more. It's a bloody nightmare!


1 comment:

Shrimp said...

Between plasma arc waste incinerators and the Windhexe, I can't figure out why we would be sending trash anywhere, when we could be destroying it here.

While both of those systems need to be manufactured on site and need energy to run (although, the plasma arc actually creates energy, supposedly) the advantage to this seems to be that it needs no infrastructure to "run" and would be highly portable. Plus, if it truly is compost soil in which plants can grow, it becomes even more valuable.