Posted by: seedfoundation | January 6, 2010

Digesting the Holidays

The holiday break has flickered out like a bunch of Chinese manufactured Christmas lights. Already the halls of OIT Portland are saturated with overfed, hungover students whining about course loads and class schedules. The winter quarter has begun, but the lingering effects of Peppermint Snapps, peanut brittle and other caloric decadence persist. Lucky for us sentient beings, we have ways to manage this. A few extra pounds and a little indigestion is fixed easily enough. A couple of Tums, a couple of crunches and maybe some breakdancing classes (ask Mike Pacella about that one), and we’re back to 10-year high school reunion weight.

Mike Pacella

Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t only about you or me, (I mean they should be because Santa thinks each one of us is the most specialist person in the whole wide world). Beyond our fun couple weeks of consumptive narcissism and faux compassion for the poor, collectively we produce some garbage and collectively it adds up. As nice as it would be to throw a couple of Tums onto a pile of refuse and then do some break dancing, it pretty much stays there unchanged, (well, maybe if someone throws a Tums onto something acidic in a landfill it will be neutralized). Also, unless the trash is burned, it is buried. It is later covered then more is dumped on top until layers and layers of shit accumulate. This rate of shit accumulation probably increases during the holiday season.

Our bodies know what do with organic calorie accumulation. We have numerous ways of using and storing calories and expelling what we don’t need. On the other hand letting our collective “calories” accumulate in landfills leaves them unused. Much of the functional and usable goods sit idle for decades. Different companies have been taking advantage of some of these resources with composting.

Barr-Tech LLC is one of these companies. It is building a 4 and a half acre composting site in Fishtrap, WA that could be ingesting 75,000 tons of municipal, commercial and farm waste. The waste will mostly come from within a 100 mile radius, in particular Spokane. A biodigester will be used for high energy wastes like fats and foods with other waste being converted to usable compost. The company plans on producing fertilizer, chemicals for the petroleum industry and electricity from two methane burning generators. The methane will come from the biodigester and could produce enough energy for 1000 homes. Blue Marble Energy, based in Seattle, will co-lease with Barr-Tech. They plan on producing high-value cosmetics, paints and plastics from organic waste. Within a couple of years, together they plan on employing 70 people, many of which will be well paid engineer and chemists positions.

This kind of news, although a little dry, (or should I say, moist? har har har), is inspiring. Making use of the perceived useless is a good way to move forward into the next decade. Composting isn’t a novel technology, although Barr-Tech LLC will be a state of the art facility, but it plays a role in the development of a cradle to cradle culture. The next step may be extensive landfill mining for usable resources. The large scale cost-benefit for such an endeavor is probably entirely cost right now. However as certain resources become more scarce, and the technology becomes cheap and good enough to start digging into all the accumulated shit, a cradle to cradle culture can be fully realized. Maybe then we will have an even better reason to breakdance.

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