Tag Archives: zero waste

New Report from GAIA on the Perils of Incineration

GAIA just dropped a killer new report on the perils of incineration.

What does this have to do with composting, you may ask?

Incineration directly competes with composting (and recycling) programs by destroying perfectly good material and turning it into brand-new toxins to inhale.

Better yet, both composting and recycling are more cost effective, practical solutions that create more jobs than incineration.

We already know how bad incinerators (pyrolysis, gasification, waste-to-energy) are in terms of the pollutants they spew out (dioxin, NOx, SOx, arsenic, mercury, ash, etc), but this report appeals to even the most conservative bean counters.

Incinerators are the most expensive high-risk solution to dealing with waste.

Here’s the official press release and link to the report:

Berkeley, U.S. — A new risk analysis from GAIA finds that companies promoting “waste-to-energy” projects like gasification and pyrolysis have a 30-year track record of failures and unfulfilled promises. After decades of industry promising a solution that both manages waste and produces energy, the vast majority of proposed plants were never built or were shut down.

“The global spotlight on marine plastic pollution has led to increasing proposals for technological solutions. But it’s important that investors recognize these processes do not work as promised and  set us back in developing real solutions,” says report author Monica Wilson.

According to the report Gasification and Pyrolysis: A high risk, low yield investment, “the potential returns on waste gasification are smaller and more uncertain, and the risks much higher, than proponents claim.” Billions of dollars of investments have been wasted on unsuccessful ventures in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Germany, to name a few. In 2016, the failed UK project by U.S.-based Air Products lost $1 billion alone.

Many gasification projects that started operations, have closed after failing to meet projected energy generation, revenue generation, and emission requirements. Despite decades of opportunity the industry has not resolved these problems. Other projects have failed in the proposal stage — after raising significant investments — due to community opposition and government scrutiny into false and exaggerated claims.

Gasification plants have sought public subsidies to  be profitable — particularly from  feed-in tariffs. However, these facilities would regularly burn fossil fuel-sourced material including plastic waste and coal, contradicting the purpose of “renewable energy.”

Over 100 major environmental organizations released a public letter in February stating that “We are deeply concerned by the promotion of feed-in-tariffs and other renewable energy subsidies for gasification, incineration, and the use of plastics as fuel.”

The report concludes that municipal zero waste programs relying on source separation, recycling,composting, and redesign of no-value products have demonstrated economic and technical success.

Check out the full report by clicking here.

Scarborough condo leading way toward ‘zero waste’

Check out this link to original article, reposted below:



Toronto’s path to diverting all waste from a rapidly filling landfill might start at a Scarborough condominium.

The 1,000 or so residents of Mayfair on the Green responded to skyrocketing waste fees with a multi-pronged diversion campaign. They turned the garbage chute into an organics collector, tapped city educational tools including multilingual signs and cut trash output to one dumpster every two months from one dumpster every week.

“If you really talk to the people and they really understand, they will help,” says Princely Soundranayagam, the building’s superintendent who has spearheaded the transformation since 2004.

“Also, put a dollar mark (of savings) in front of them. In the beginning it is hard to get people to change but once you explain the benefits, they will co-operate to save money and for the environment.”

The condo used to spend $7,000 to $10,000 a year to get drains cleared. The problem stopped when Soundranayagam gave residents empty containers to bring down used cooking oil. Now they sell the used oil.

Toronto Environmental Alliance is calling Mayfair on the Green an example for the kind of thinking Torontonians — and city staff — urgently need to embrace.

“They are blowing everyone out of the water” by diverting more than 85 per cent, compared with the 26-per-cent highrise average, says Emily Alfred, a senior campaigner at the environmental advocacy group.

Tenants at Mayfair on the Green have set aside space where they leave unwanted toys and other items for others to take so that they don’t go in the garbage.

Keith Beaty

Tenants at Mayfair on the Green have set aside space where they leave unwanted toys and other items for others to take so that they don’t go in the garbage.

“The city should study that building, find out what they did and use it as a model . . . get people thinking differently. The city should invest in people and education to get them excited about reducing consumption and diverting more of their waste.”

Toronto used to be a diversion leader. In 2007, when the residential diversion rate was 42 per cent, the city said it would get to 70 per cent by 2010. More than five years after that target, the rate is stalled at 53 per cent.

As the city consults Torontonians on its solid waste strategy, Toronto Environmental Alliance has released a road map to “zero waste.”

The report cites models for change and suggests Toronto invest in successful programs such as Second Harvest, which distributes surplus food from restaurants and stores to community agencies.

“If they had twice as many trucks, they could go to twice as many restaurants,” Alfred said. “There is a tool library (for reusing items) that struggles to find space, that has to rent space. The city could easily boost its diversion rate with some smart investments.”

The clock is ticking and big money is at stake. Green Lane landfill, near London, Ont., bought by Toronto a decade ago for $220 million, is expected to be full by 2029.

Alfred warned that it takes years to get environmental approvals for a new landfill. It’s expensive to bury waste, and so are technological answers like incineration. Diversion is the quickest, cheapest and best solution, she said.

The path to zero waste


Making green bins available for diverting organic waste in more places is one fo the ways the city can influence how Torontonians handle trash.

Chris So

Making green bins available for diverting organic waste in more places is one fo the ways the city can influence how Torontonians handle trash.

41%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted

54%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

Green bins are finally starting to be offered to highrise dwellers, but with a city policy change they could be everywhere from offices to restaurants and malls, Toronto Environmental Alliance says. Community groups such as Second Harvest could be expanded and encouraged. Civic examples to follow include San Francisco, where all buildings must collect organic waste for compost.


If blue bins were more consistently available at businesses, more recyclables could be saved.

David Cooper

If blue bins were more consistently available at businesses, more recyclables could be saved.

20%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted

24%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

While Torontonians are pretty good at using blue bins, they send up to 84,000 tonnes of recyclables to landfill every year. Consistent rules ensuring people have the same access to blue bins at home and work would boost the diversion rate. Companies need to reduce packaging. In Vancouver, businesses are forced to collect the same recyclables as homes and schools.

Hazardous waste, electronic waste, durable goods

It's convenient to find a place for old electronic or hazardous waste in Toronto, and mobile depots could help raise the service's visibility.

Glenn Lowson

It’s convenient to find a place for old electronic or hazardous waste in Toronto, and mobile depots could help raise the service’s visibility.

4%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted

4%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

These items are a small part of the waste stream but pose environmental and health hazards. In Toronto it is inconvenient for businesses, schools and others to dispose of hazardous and electronic materials properly. Mobile, highly visible depots would help. Community partners that could be expanded include the REBOOT second-hand computer service.


Reusing old clothes helps conserve the energy that went into producing them.

Carlos Osorio

Reusing old clothes helps conserve the energy that went into producing them.

6%: Amount in a typical house garbage bag that could be diverted

4%: Amount in a typical apartment/condo garbage bag that could be diverted

Clothing, toys and furniture that could have a second life are dumped in landfill every day. Reusing those items is even better than recycling because it conserves the energy that went into producing them. The Toronto Tool Library, Repair Café Toronto and Kind Exchange are showing the way. Regulations could force companies to make products with longer life spans.


This is an issue I constantly hear about, and the solution lies with the tenants.  For some reason, apartment complexes don’t appear to be mandated to recycle (or compost).

For those of you living in apartment complexes, if you want change, you need to ask management for it.  It will take pressure, of course, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t take too much if you got enough signatures.

In Philadelphia, recycling fees are cheaper than trash fees.  Organics collection is often cheaper as well.  The trickier route would be to set up a series of three bins and have a shared composting space.  Leaf collection could be stored in one bin, and then alternate between two bins for the actual composting process.

In December 2014, I was able to guide an eager composter through this, and now there’s a 30-household composting project going on.  While a naysayer may say whatever, the reality is that this stuff is contagious once the message resonates.

All that’s needed is just a few concerned/curious/enthusiastic/energetic people and permission (or not).  Getting organics out of the landfill is top priority today, and over time this movement is going to greatly expand.

As for the excess stuff shelf, that’s awesome!  That’s another one of those things where moving all the excess things from the curb in bags to inside a building in a nicely done space changes everything- I love it!

Great work, Scarborough!

Boston launching pilot composting program (article)

[originally found here: http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130813/NEWS08/130819986/boston-launching-pilot-composting-program?utm_campaign=residential_newsletter&utm_medium=residential_email&utm_source=residential_20130814&utm_content=article12]

Boston is launching a pilot, drop-off program to collect organic waste from households and turn it into compost.

The items being accepted for free at three farmers markets include mostly food scraps, such as fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells, nut shells, pits and non-greasy items like rice, pasta, bread and cereal. However, house plants and potted soil will be taken, too.

The limited-time program – it ends in late October – represents Boston’s first foray into public composting and will allow city officials to evaluate how residential composting can be part of waste reduction goals.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the program was inspired by feedback during community presentations about the city’s urban agricultural zoning amendment and it contributes to his Greenovate Boston initiative to educate the public on climate actions.

“Residents have made it clear that they support a healthier, cleaner Boston that supports local agriculture, healthy food and waste reduction,” Menino said in a statement. “This pilot will show residents how separating food scraps from trash is better for the environment and our bottom-line.”

For the three-month duration of the program, Renewable Waste Solutions will donate supplies and hauling services. The compostable materials will be transported to Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus, Mass., and transformed into fertile soil for use in commercial and personal farming and gardening projects.

“This pilot will set the stage for a larger conversation about innovative ways to continue increasing recycling in Boston, which is imperative to the vitality of our city,” Chief of Environment and Energy Brian Swett said in a statement.

While it isn’t curbside compost collection for everyone, I think this is a huge victory for the city of Boston, and I hope there’s some highly publicized results that other cities can learn from.

Philadelphia is one of them.  I feel like we’re on the brink of having some centralized food scrap collection trials, but I’m not sure what needs to happen next to make that happen.  The only problem I see is that it relies on public interest instead of what’s best for the public.

Communication and publicity are two huge factors here, and I hope Boston has plenty of advocates that can convey the message that composting is not only cool but extremely necessary right now.  I can see it now…the composting trial is over, and half the city didn’t know about it.

For all the haters out there complaining that commercial composting facilities turn into “stump dumps”, or try to make an issue out of where all the compost will go, quit denying the human nutrient cycle that’s been here as long as we have.  We eat, we crap it out, we compost it, we grow food with it.

Is Composting Endorsed Where You Live?

Today I stumbled upon the Wormcycler Municipal Program, which ties your municipality into a worm composting program by subsidizing part of the costs to get started while promoting the benefits of vermicomposting.

I wonder how effective their program has been, and if anyone in my home city of Philadelphia has actually done this.  If you haven’t noticed, I happen to like composting and want everyone to do it.

While I keep asking and pushing for curbside compost pickup in Philadelphia (which I’m told won’t happen), people can do it themselves at home, which is probably the better option anyway.  Or start a community collection point for compost…Philadelphia just opened one in my neighborhood (video/article to come shortly!).

It frustrates me to no end that composting isn’t expanding more rapidly, especially here in Philadelphia.  Our Mayor is always talking about how Philly has the goal to be the greenest city, yet we don’t have composting available to residents or really outright endorse it.  Recycling can only make up so much of our waste stream, while composting handles all our organic waste as well as all the crappy paper waste that won’t get recycled in the paper stream (think paper towels, napkins and even coffee cups).

Composting is THE no brainer process that can get anyone that much closer to the goal of zero waste.  So if your town says they don’t have the money/interest to start up a program (quite likely), then they should be promoting composting and making it front and center for residents to get started easily.  End rant (for now).

Greening the Mini Golf Course

While I was looking around to see if anyone had ever written about waste at a mini golf course, I found an article that I was really hoping existed: Greening the Golf Course Greens .  Such a no-brainer:  You’re cutting tons of grass and shrubs all the time, you want some pretty flowers here and there, and do you really need fluorescent green grass?

I haven’t played golf in years.  I used to play occasionally but I preferred the Par 3’s or even better, mini golf.  I always found putting to be the most fun part, and when I went to Myrtle Beach recently, little did I know it was the mini golf capital of…the U.S.?  The world?  Either way, I was psyched.


Right away, I noticed there were trash cans every so often on the mini golf course…why?  What do I need to throw away?  I don’t.  At the end, all I have is a paper score card and possibly a plastic soda bottle.  Return the pencil back to the front desk, don’t throw it away, slacker.

paper towels and scorecards...both compostable.
Paper towels and scorecards...both compostable.

Sadly, I have the lamest photo of this occurrence…it was dark out and the staff was eying me rather strangely as I kept casually trying to take photos of the can’s contents.  All it consisted of was soda bottles, scorecards and an occasional paper towel or tissue…both compostable.  Mini golf courses are a screaming example of zero waste…does anyone know of a place doing this?

Use the compost on your course grounds, or send it out to a commercial composting facility.  Recycle your plastics/glass/aluminum: your patrons want to see that, even if they act like they don’t care.  And that’s it.

OK, one “extreme” thought to minimize stuff even more: Sell drinks at the front in reusable/returnable cups and have your only waste segregation point at the front desk.  Finally, have mini marker boards made with pens attached to them so that you don’t need the score cards.  Those things always blow all over the place anyway.  Any takers?

Pile it On: 20 (questionable) Trash Types You Can Actually Compost (article)

Link: Pile it On: 20 Trash Types You Can Actually Compost

Looking for more stuff to compost?  This article is definitely worth checking out.  Some of the items may raise an eyebrow, and I’m currently in the middle of testing a good portion of them.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some hardcore composters were annoyed by some of the stuff on this list.

In the next week or so, I’ll be posting a more thorough examination of the article.  I’m currently on a road trip and “taking a break“.  Don’t think I’m not taking pictures of waste receptacles and looking for businesses with composting options…so far, not so much worth writing about, unfortunately.