Garbage in = garbage out? Not always

Person amidst washed-up-on-shore-debris, Hawaii
Person amidst washed-up-on-shore-debris, Hawaii

Conversation picks up where discussion on July 16, 2013 in “CATS: Trash – it’s the ‘stuff’ of biomass and documentaries” leaves off.

Trash is unsightly, no question, but it can also be harmful, unhealthful or both. Bottom line, refuse must be disposed of. That’s no small proposition, let me tell you. Moreover, the way in which trash is disposed of varies – it is either done sustainably or it’s not; it’s that simple.

I would like to believe more and more of it is being handled sustainably. However, it is up to cities and citizens to hash out what program to adopt. It can be mind-bending thinking what’s involved in trash disposal when you think about it.

As it pertains to my situation, residential refuse and recyclables pickup in the neighborhood is once per week. Two containers are provided for recyclable discards while one container is for conventional (non-recyclable) trash most of which, presumably, is biodegradable.

Of the two bins designated for recyclable items, one is for green waste, the other for paper, plastic, metal and glass.

Meanwhile, once per year is a curbside pickup service provision, which, in Fresno, is called “Operation Clean Up.”

Described as follows, “Operation Clean Up program is designed to assist City of Fresno (not county residents) single-family homeowners and residents in the removal of excess trash, rubbish, and other bulky goods (such as old stoves, refrigerators, water heaters, sofas, etc.) not picked up by Solid Waste.”

For all other waste to be disposed of above and beyond what has already been mentioned, I separate out and put in piles plastic bottles and jugs and glass bottles and jars and aluminum cans not going the “Solid Waste” route because I can transport this material myself to local collection centers that accept this material and in exchange for such, I get cash back. Items like spent motor oil and filters also go to designated collection sites while used tires and electronics waste get taken to such sites but only at times when collecting services are offered – usually once or twice a year. Every once in a while I will see the truck of a company offering paper shredding services. Call the process paper-shredding services for hire.

Lastly, the green waste that is too massive and bulky for the green waste bin and might cause damage to collection truck crushing equipment such as large tree branches and stumps, and otherwise does not qualify for “Operation Clean Up” pickup, this can be chipped via chipping machinery which in many cases then yields wood chips for garden or ground cover.

It takes some effort, obviously, to dispense of waste in sustainable, environmentally friendly ways, but in the short-, medium and long-runs, the environment and air get relief from all of this material not being burned.

And, if any of it is to be incinerated, this is where biomass or cogeneration can come to the rescue, in that that waste can be converted into usable electricity and heat relatively cleanly and cost effectively.

With the time taken to separate all waste accordingly, it is amazing how much refuse can end up being handled in a responsible, safe and sustainable way all the while being kept out of landfills, lakes, rivers and streams and, perhaps just as if not more importantly, out of the air (as smoke) and ultimately us.

Image above: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

– Alan Kandel