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A Proposal.

In order to address the problems of waste management, energy security, climate change, soil fertility and unemployment, I propose the establishment of a Resource Recovery Co-Operative.

 The goals of this consortium would be:

  • To divert all organic material from the landfill to a compost facility, and from there back to the land

  • To recycle or re-use every possible scrap of non-organic material

  • To provide education about resource recovery

  • To demonstrate the possibilities of alternative energy 

  • To provide an outlet for all green businesses 

  • To offer support to  green services

Using a location like the  former Thrift Store on Pulteney St, there could be a Green Campus made up of 

  • An indoor composting facility

  • A zero-sort recycling drop off point

  • An off-the-grid building

  • A retail store

  • A common office and switchboard

  • A demonstration garden

  • A classroom

  • A recycled art studio

  • A locavore restaurant


With a critical mass of inter-related enterprises, this could become a destination as well as a center for green businesses, and we could begin to rival San Francisco which is currently leading the march towards being a zero waste city.

There are costs involved with setting up an enterprise like this.  The building would need to be adapted, (access doors, fans) and some equipment purchased (a grinder, aeration devices).   However, because of the climate change implications (compost is carbon neutral), there are grants available to help with start-up.







An off-the-grid building

Starting with the heat generated by the compost, one could retrofit the building to be highly energy efficient, add solar panels to the extensive roof, collect and store water, install waterless toilets, maybe have a wind turbine.  All this work would be done by alternative energy companies who need a way to show how effective their methods are – a working showroom, if you like.

A retail store/shared office

This would need some capital to set up, but overheads would be low as all utilities would be free.  The staff of the store could double as secretarial staff for other businesses in the consortium, again reducing and spreading costs.


The store would be the outlet for the composting facility selling in bulk or bagged, as well as home composting kits, rain barrels, thermometers, soil-testing kits, books, and so on.


It would also be the outlet for solar panels, wind turbines, hydrogen cells and other alternative energies as they become available.  A service desk would put customers in touch with companies which perform energy audits and retrofit buildings, sellers and installers of insulation, installers of green roofs or rain gardens, sellers of greenhouses, creative plumbers (to divert gray water into the garden, for example).  Any business with an interest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation and green living should have a presence.  Along the theme of resource recovery, there would be  registry of anyone who repairs anything, so that stuff can be renewed and not thrown away – appliances, small machinery, computers, jewelry, clocks, DVD players (that’s personal – I need one), shoes, guitars, anything that can be made to work again.



This is the part that I would like to do.  I’m on a mission to save the earth one compost heap at a time.  This would be a great way to get the message to a large number of people.


I envisage a classroom for lectures and workshops; a demonstration garden made up of different home composting systems; various ways to grow vegetables at home – raised beds, containers, in ground; samples of stakes and supports; a solar greenhouse; cloches, row covers, cold frames (all available in the store) and so on.  The garden would be anchored by a shed built entirely out of recycled or repurposed materials.  What a wonderful project for a school, BOCES, a scout troop or the College to take on. Students would design and then construct the shed, hopefully videotaping the process to encourage similar structures in the future.  There might be space for a small community garden, although I have my eye on the temporary parking lot off Pulteney Street for a larger, attractive, even artsy communal garden, when it is returned to “green space”.


Besides the lectures and workshops, there would be tours for school groups, garden clubs, and others interested in a green future.  The tour would include the garden, the compost facility, and the off-the-grid building.


Finally to generate a small amount of income, and take care of those items that can’t easily be recycled, and are too interesting to throw away, there would be a weekly or bi-weekly flea market.  The British have boot sales where anything you want to sell comes in the boot (trunk) of your car.  For a modest fee, anyone who wanted to could park near the demonstration garden and try to sell their bric-a-brac, junk and odds and ends.


A Locavore Restaurant

The perfect complement to all this “greenness” would be a breakfast and lunch restaurant with a simple menu sourced entirely from local farms.   

An indoor composting facility

There is a perception that any compost facility must be an eye-sore and smelly to boot.  By locating the facility indoors, one avoids these negative perceptions, but there are also very positive aspects to such a location.  The most suitable method of composting for an indoor enterprise, the aerated static pile, is also the one of the most efficient and easy-to-operate systems.  Furthermore, the heat generated by the compost can be used to heat the entire complex.


Gathering the feedstock (what goes into the compost) would require partnering with many existing businesses to divert valuable organic material from the landfill.  It is possible to deal directly with restaurants, schools and hospitals to gather food residuals, or offices to gather waste paper and cardboard, tree services for wood chips and stables for horse bedding.  But perhaps it is easier to use existing trash haulage businesses to gather the material and deliver it to the compost facility rather than the landfill.


It is possible that one of the existing businesses in the area would see this as an opportunity to expand and diversify.  Perhaps an entrepreneur would like to become the co-ordinator who brings together existing businesses to supply the new facility.

A zero-sort recycling drop off point

There are several ways this could go.  I envision it as a joint venture for any company in the area that is already dealing with recycling.  I would like to see the scope of recycling expanded to include electronics, batteries, all glass, all metal, all plastics, construction material, and more.  In the poorer parts of the world, there is no trash because everything is re-used in some way or another. 


There is a company called Terracycle which collects things like drink pouches, chip bags, tooth brushes and many more.  They have found a way of “upcycling” many products that are considered un-recyclable.  What an opportunity for some imaginative people to find new uses for junk. Studio space would allow artists to come, select materials and actually work on the spot.


This could become a factory of some sort, not just a collection point. I see many employment opportunities.

  This is a proposal that I presented to more than 30 civic and business leaders a few years back.

  There was, at that time, zero interest in zero waste.

  However, the need for such a plan is as pressing as it has ever been. The essential element is a composting facility.

It will allow organic matter to be taken out of the waste stream and converted to an outstanding soil amendment, which in turn will improve water penetration and retention, reducing storm water run-off and pressure on the waste-water treatment plant.

  Instead of the sludge from the WWTP being trucked to the Bath landfill, where it produces methane, it can be safely composted.  Ideally, the treated water would not be discharged into the river, but rather diverted to a constructed wetland where selected plants would further clean the water, some of which would seep into the river, but most of it would return to the aquifer from which it was originally drawn.

  Separating out organics would greatly reduce the amount of garbage residents and businesses have to dispose of. Less garbage means a reduced dependence on dumpsters.

More efficient recycling can generate income for local businesses and revenue for the city.

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