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Waste - July 13

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A truly cool city would feature a short stroll to the local worm bin.

Ruben Anderson, The Tyee
Let's Claim Our Rotting Riches
Compost: why truck it?
You and I are caring people. And caring people care about composting, which is why many of us bemoan the fact that our civic governments do not collect compost. The well-informed among us may even talk fondly of municipal organic waste collection systems, like those started in San Francisco in 1998 and Toronto in 2004.

But let's play these municipal collection systems out a bit. First the city gives every household a pricey new plastic rolling tote. They buy additional trucks and hire more people. Those trucks chug up every single lane in the city until they are full, then they drive somewhere far away and dump the organic waste. Large machines pile and re-pile the organics for a few months until it breaks down into compost. They do this two to four times each month, 12 months of the year, for the rest of time.

There's an obvious environmental cost, and the cash price is none too pretty, either. Take my hometown of Vancouver as an example.
(10 July 2008)

Are you gonna eat that? How to curb food waste

Karen Collins, R.D., MSNBC
We throw away about 14 percent of the grub we buy, studies suggest
Amidst growing concerns about rising food prices and global warming, many Americans are taking a closer look at what they do - and don’t - eat.

Research in the U.S. estimates that at least 14 percent of purchased food ends up in the garbage. Some may view this as a call to return to the “clean your plate” mentality emblematic of the mid-twentieth century, but this would be unwise. With a skyrocketing obesity epidemic and a mounting national health crisis, it’s time for a new approach. Instead, we should view these statistics as motivation to reduce waste, cut grocery costs and safeguard our health by shopping and eating smarter.
(11 July 2008)
Actually I think 14 percent is a low figure for food waste. Studies in the UK and elsewhere show a highter percentage, so I think the real figure for the US is higher. Related:
Britain declares war on food waste
More than 30% of our food is thrown away

Trash Collectors

Michael Fox, Earth Island Institute
Vicente Emilio Sojo Bolivarian School is tucked into the labyrinth of streets and corridors of La Vega, a Caracas barrio of more than 100,000 residents on the southern end of the Venezuelan capital. Through the classroom windows, block homes stacked one on another stretch across the countryside. An improvised garbage dump sits just outside the school, where a small, evidently ignored sign reads “Don’t throw trash here.” The colorful environmental mural painted by students only a few years ago is faded and riddled with the slop of garbage that overflows from the dumpster and covers the ground, emitting a foul stench. On the other side of the wall, you can hear the sound of children playing in the courtyard during recess.

This scene is an unfortunate reality in many poor barrios across Venezuela, a reality that a grassroots group called Geografía Viva (Live Geography) is doing its best to alleviate, teaching a subtly radical form of environmental education to hundreds of Venezuelan children.

... The students in almost every school found trash to be the number one environmental problem. In response, PAS called on local governments to solve the trash problem through better cleanup and disposal. Students and promoters met with the local mayors’ offices, the Ministry of Environment, and even spoke before the Venezuelan National Assembly. Geografía Viva Director Isabel Villarte says that although the experience was “great public speaking practice,” it didn’t make any headway in solving the trash problem.

So three years ago, PAS organizers decided to take a different, more action-oriented approach. They launched a recycling and composting education program to deal with the trash problem directly by reusing organic material instead of throwing it out. While still fairly young, the program appears to be a success.

“Is the composting working? Definitely,” says Carmen Ramirez, a sixth-grade teacher at Vicente Emilio who has been collaborating with the project since its inception 10 years ago. The plants that line her classroom windowsill are potted in the soil that her class created last year by composting their organic waste.
(Winter 2008)

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