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Eric Lombardi's Zero Waste Park
Julia Levitt, 25 Aug 08

Eric Lombardi, the waste-management guru behind Boulder, Colo.-based recycler Eco-Cycle, is fighting incinerators around the world with a vision. Although his Zero-Waste Park may never be built, he has been able to use the artistic plan as an effective tool for discussion that has allowed city planners to consider alternative solutions.

The Zero-Waste Park was originally conceived by Lombardi when he was working with a Hawaiian community group called Zero Waste Kauai (we originally mentioned the design in our post on Vancouver's RCBC conference). The island of Kauai was facing a landfill closure, and considering building an incinerator to handle waste disposal. The park is sized to handle solid waste from about 300,000 people (about the size of Boulder County, or the entire island of Kauai).

"I pulled together all the ways that the world was handling recycling, composting, etc. and discards, and I put them in once place, because the world likes one-stop shops," says Lombardi. "So when cities are talking big money -- for example, right now in Fredrick, Md., they're talking about a 300 million dollar incinerator -- I can talk 300 million dollars too, and we can talk about getting 90 percent of your resources out of the incinerators."

This is what the park looks like:

The park would be a one-stop dumping ground for truck loads of already-sorted city waste. The park includes a composting facility for organic materials; reuse center for still-good items; a center for hard-to-recycle materials (Eco-Cycle has already successfully created one of these in Boulder); a materials recovery facility for recovering valuable technical nutrients like metals; a residue facility for handling any trash that is leftover after the former; and a public education center.

Lombardi's plan doesn’t invent a way to deal with waste, it simply connects the dots between established solutions. "None of the technologies in my park is new," says Lombardi. "They're simple, proven, low-tech and little risk."

And making an investment in zero-waste can be enormously profitable to a city – but only if residents commit to sorting their waste much more zealously than we do right now. But that in itself is a wise move that would benefit everyone.

"To feed incinerators and landfills, the world must keep using a single mixed-waste trash can," Lombardi explains. "The key to making zero waste profitable is that people are required to sort their waste three ways: recycling, composting, and trash. In any community that's decided to sort discards into three bins – San Francisco, Nova Scotia, Toronto, and others -- they will never go back, it is so profitable to take the zero-waste path."

Lombardi explained that even if we reached zero waste, cities would still need residue facilities, but that zero-waste cities could expect to eventually down actual residual trash to about 10 percent or less of all the waste we throw away. This 10 percent would still be landfilled, but to further reduce its volume Lombardi suggests adhering to a policy of first composting all mixed waste residuals before landfilling, so that any mixed-in organic material decomposes and the leftovers don't "cook underground and release methane."

The Zero Waste park is not a magic bullet design. But Lombardi's idea of one stop with multiple solutions, combined with the overarching need for citizens to be more aware of their own trash, does make me think: What if, instead of building parks like this that were designed to accommodate the trucks of a municipal waste service, we built one-stop resource recovery facilities on a local scale? What if every neighborhood had a Zero Waste Resource Recovery Park somewhere near its center, where one building could house goods for trade (or refurbish and resale); one building would collect only products for corporate take-back programs; one building would facilitate the recovery of technical nutrients, and a neighborhood learning center would house classes on re-use, waste reduction and other pertinent topics? (Chicago, I know, has something a bit like this.)

Of course, there are many reasons why we don’t want trash and heavy metals being collected anywhere near our neighborhood centers. But conceiving creative new ways to make waste management one-stop and more visible would help many people understand the value of seeing nutrients where we now see only garbage.

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Comments

All waste facilities should include an anaerobic digester into which all organic waste would be put to generate Biomethane that is then cleaned up and injected into the natural gas grid the way they are doing in Germany. The solids and liquid byproducts can be returned to the soil as fertilizer. If the sewage treatment plant were in the same facility, human waste could be included in the anaerobic digestive process.


Posted by: M. Schultz on 28 Aug 08

All waste facilities should include an anaerobic digester into which all organic waste would be put to generate Biomethane that is then cleaned up and injected into the natural gas grid the way they are doing in Germany. The solids and liquid byproducts can be returned to the soil as fertilizer. If the sewage treatment plant were in the same facility, human waste could be included in the anaerobic digestive process.


Posted by: M. Schultz on 28 Aug 08

This seems like a good "first step" towards a real Zero Waste society.

But read Dr Paul Palmer's book "Getting to Zero Waste"
(http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Zero-Waste-Paul-Palmer/dp/0976057107) for an in-depth discussion of how Zero Waste means even more than sorting our 'trash' a bit better then sending it to the kind of facility mentioned above.

As Palmer says, the long-term goal should be re-using _function_, not just material, in nearly all cases - through measures such as bar-coding bottles so they can be returned to retailers who use them unbroken, and enforcing modularity and public posting of technical specs for all commodity electronics.


Posted by: P Sunter on 29 Aug 08



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