All Maine Matters

May 2006



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Needed Reforms, Part 2: Waste Reduction
by Michael Fundalewicz

Over the years, I’ve worked in several food processing plants as a maintenance mechanic and had to tend to waste management either as part of my regular routine or filling in for absentees. I’ve seen the ins and outs of various operations and can honestly say there’s a lot of room for improvement in all of them.

I’m going to try and address some possibilities for a few of the issues we normally take for granted.

First, there’s human waste. I know it’s a nasty subject but it’s also one we face daily; human waste. What happens when you flush? Where does it go? How is it processed? How is it released? And where?

I’m not going to elaborate on the details because that’s your job to know what‘s going on in your town. If you’re concerned, and you very well should be, look into it and form your own conclusions; but these are the basics.

In Ashland, an “aerated lagoon system” is employed due to the low volume of flow. They use a system of solid-eating insects to break down the solids and a system of filtering ponds to clarify the wastewater prior to release, via a leaching field, into the Aroostook River. This is public information and is available to all who ask. This works for us, and it’s clean, safe, and acceptable.

As for the larger cities, I can see an implementation of a “methane generating facility” prior to the use of the above system.

For your general information, methane is generated by bacteria that convert carbohydrates into methane gas that is not soluble in waste and therefore escapes.

To generate this methane, all that’s needed is naturally found bacteria, (trust me, they’ll find it on their own), a series of large floating tanks, instead of ponds, to trap any released methane, under pressure, and utilize it for the energy required to operate the aerators, pumps and such, just like normal energy sources would. Why waste it? It’s there, it’s free and natural; use it!

Any solids not degraded after this process can be safely neutralized and spread onto empty or dormant fields to bio-degrade further into harmless fertilizer and soil enhancement. Let’s do some thinking folks ok?

Now, on to other forms of waste management. How about something a little more acceptable to those who choose not to face reality; redemptions. Ya, I said redemptions, in the context of returning the containers of the products you’ve purchased.

How many of you have returned your plastic peanut-butter or mayonnaise jars or ketchup and mustard, milk and sour cream containers? Your salad dressing bottles and the aluminum plates your frozen pie’s came in. What about the oatmeal, shortening, dinner roll and paper coffee containers with metal ends ; just to name a few. Do you separate them? I doubt it! How about if there was a 5 cent bounty on some of them? Would you turn them in? Darn right! Anything for a nickel!

Well now, isn’t that something to think about? How much do we normally throw into the trash that could be recycled? What about those cereal boxes, pasta, pancake, and paper egg cartons? These are paper too. There’s no reason, short of laziness, that these can’t be added to the list.

What about the styrofoam ones, have you thought about them? Egg cartons, cups, plates, old coolers, shipping peanuts, construction remnants and so on. What about them? They have a new use too.

We live in a “throw-away-society” and that is repugnant! We waste without thinking, we toss without conscience and we’re losing without concept. Why??? Because we’ve been trained that this is the “norm”.

So let’s change it and see what happens. Let’s reverse things for just a minute ok? How about we take those plastic items and recycle them. We can make other products by refining and recycling what we already have instead of something we have to dig up and process.

Most of us, in this area, and that’s whom I’m addressing, are quite aware of the things that go into the local dumpsite. We know what’s being thrown out and that which can be re-used; in one way or another. So take action and support the recycling effort. Turn your waste into re-usable products.

Here’s a few examples: Your peanut-butter and mayonnaise jars can be used for parts, screws and nails. Coffee cans into the same. Your pie plates into garden pest controls. Your milk jugs into bird feeders or pest repellents. The list goes on and on. Why waste???

There are so many things that we can do with what we’d normally think of as waste. It’s high time we considered utilizing it as an asset as apposed to being garbage. We need to rethink and adjust our attitudes or we’ll wind up like the people in the big cities. Trash heaped up and over the dumpsters and rats all about. Disease is sure to follow and our ground water…well, you do the math!

Now, another subject. As I’ve said, I’ve worked in the food processing field for a number of years and I’ve seen “good” waste go to the dogs.

In one plant we had potato peelings, called “peanut butter” and miscellaneous vegetable by-products getting pumped into tankers and then poured on to old fields without utilization of their prospective properties. They could have been fermented into “E-85”, or ethanol, first and then laid to rest as fertilizer to replace the depletion from former years of over-farming. Why wasn’t this done…there’s no money in it! It’s not a matter of money anymore; it’s viability. Will we be able to live off the ground we plant on in the future or will it be so toxic that it glows with pollutants?

Here’s why, there’s just no incentive to do anything progressive. We have rules and regulations about waste disposal but no incentives to comply. It’s cheaper to pay the fines than it is to make good the ground you plant on; plain and simple! It breaks down to the “money thing”. Is it worth the while to farm the “green“ way? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Why? Because chemicals are abundant and cheap. Farmers are enticed to use those chemicals by the manufacturers by giving breaks if they‘re used exclusively; not withstanding their toxicity! Ever drive by a large field and see the small signs with perhaps brightly colored symbols advocating a fertilizer company’s name on it? Here we go, it’s money again!

I know for a fact that I don’t like “Miracle Grow” in my coffee.
Please don’t think I’m saying ban all chemicals; some may be needed here and there as a booster. But I do mean that a ban on flagrant stupidity and corporate greed at our expense should be mandated! And only YOU can do this by speaking out now, before it‘s too late!

Sorry folks, but what I do on my small and insignificant garden should apply to the conglomerates as well.

Mulch your leaves, grass clippings, household bio-garbage and brush chips in a compost system. Put it back into the soil you grow your tomatoes in and see what happens.

Industrial food processing plants should be required to do just the same.

The next time you plant a garden, think about this. Try something new and keep your environment green.

Have a great season! (Credits to Mr. “C”)

Michael Fundalewicz moved to Ashland with his wife and four kids in the early ‘90s to escape the dictatorial confines of the State of Massachusetts’ taxation policies and the mayhem of drugs and crime for the protection of his kids’ futures. He has, in recent years, come to see that those very same issues have followed him in the form of self-serving governing officials and the reluctance of the citizens of northern Maine to stand up and speak out for themselves before they wind up in the same mess.



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