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COMMENTARY:
Digestion Suggestion
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

We value our food, but not its scraps. Our food waste remains a wasted opportunity. Once disposed of, our organics never again see the light of day. For the few lucky ones that become backyard compost, our scraps are smothered in plastic bags until they are delivered to the landfill. There they join the Methane load - an unchannelled resource that accelerates our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. But a much more profitable life is available to our discards if we use our ingenuity and a spirit of community partnerships.

Very small communities in Europe notably in countries such as Germany, Denmark and England have joined cooperatives under the banner of Local United.

Community groups are building farm-scale anaerobic biogesters that serve local residents, farms and public and private institutions. Their organics including food and animal waste are sent on a digestive journey ultimately to fertilize gardens and farms and electrify local power networks with the generated biogas.

On this side of the pond solo institutions such the Detroit and Toronto Zoos, UC Davis and even the Cleveland Browns have made organizational decisions to biodigest on a small-scale their animal manure and discarded visitor food. Agriculture Professors from Ohio State University are designing digesters for these kinds of modest operations. Using less than an acre for its biodigester the Detroit Zoo plans to use the biogas produced to power its Animal Health Complex. The ‘Comeback’ Detroit achieved its financing through government and community grants and crowd funding.

Both the Cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach are long overdue to establish Zero Waste goals through mainstream municipal resolutions. Moving closer to Zero Waste includes progressive organics management for residential households and commercial operations. Our food waste can no longer be abandonned. While maximizing our landfill diversion rate, we need to capture our food waste’s capacity to regenerate a useful by-product.

Currently our waste hauling service does not have the infrastructure close at hand to take our food waste to a more productive opportunity. Large commercial biogesters are a costly and time-demanding investment. San Diego County lacks options. In the meanwhile the clock ticks down to the State’s mandates for Zero Waste and the Governor’s most recent call to accelerate the reduction of GHG by 40% from 1990 levels by the year 2030. Can we use our determination to start our own ‘Local United’, a partnership with our neighbors, Solana Beach and the 22nd Agricultural District to merge our organics for a community-serving source of renewable energy?

Del Mar’s soon-to-be-previewed Climate Action Plan developed under the supervision of the Sustainability Advisory Board is an ideal vehicle for starting the conversation with our neighbors, Solana Beach and its Green Team and the 22nd Agricultural District about a mutual method to extract the most out of all of our combined organics for the benefit of our local environment. The 22nd Agricultural District, already at a 92% diversion rate exhibits a very progressive attitude toward its organics management. Their strength in the area of waste reuse is one to which we should hitch our wagon. To achieve a 100% diversion while gaining a renewable power source to reduce some of our community’s wattage calls for our immediate attention, ingenuity and outreach.

 

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