Dwight Adams: Turning waste into products


Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.

Establishing a resource recovery park (Sun, Jan. 31) to make products and create jobs using waste materials was one of the recommendations of the Alachua County Energy Conservation Strategies Commission suggested by Commissioner Mike Byerly. I chaired the subcommittee on waste and energy implications that made this recommendation in 2008 for managing waste. It would be gratifying if this recommendation and numerous others made by my subcommittee could come to fruition within the decade.

Several states have about 1,000 recycling jobs per 100,000 population, more than five times Florida's rate. Most of the jobs in high-jobs states are in manufacturing new products, while Florida primarily collects recycling materials that are shipped out of state for manufacturing new products elsewhere. If Florida were as successful as, say, Indiana in supporting recycling industries, 216,000 people could be employed.

Florida has missed out on the high-paying manufacturing jobs because it has not attracted recycling manufacturing industries. When a 75 percent recycling goal was passed in 2008, encouraging manufacturing jobs was to be achieved through the Recycling Business Assistance Center. However, the center was provided zero funding to do this crucial job. With a more favorable economic situation now, the state should fund the center. A successful resource recovery park in Gainesville would make Gainesville the “San Francisco of the East” for managing waste.

One component of waste that is not being recycled here is food waste and other organics (about 15 percent to 20 percent of the total waste stream). In high-recycling cities (such as San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto), this component of the waste is collected in separate bins and taken to a compost facility where it is turned into a valuable soil amendment.

The preferred technique for managing organics is anaerobic digestion to produce both energy (through methane production) and then compost. An anaerobic digestion facility could handle both the organic component of municipal waste and the biosolids currently being spread on land near Archer. If the county would issue a request for proposals to implement anaerobic digestion, vendors of this equipment would bid to provide the service. Alternatively, the county should proceed with a “bioreactor landfill” anaerobic digester.

In the Jan. 31 article, glass is mentioned as an item that is hard to recycle. In states that have beverage container deposit laws, glass bottles are recovered at more than 75 percent compared with about 15 percent in Florida. A high rate of recovery of bottles would attract a glass-recycling firm to locate to the state to make the glass cullets into new bottles. The difficulty is in finding legislators to introduce a deposit law.

Old tires were also mentioned as hard to recycle. All available old tires could be used in rubberized asphalt paving if governments required this type of paving that has been found to be superior to ordinary asphalt. Locally, the city and county should specify rubberized asphalt in their repaving projects.

Dwight Adams chairs Sierra Club Florida's committee on waste minimization.

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