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Philly furthers Greenwashing with Garbage Disposal Initiative
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Philly furthers Greenwashing with Garbage Disposal Initiative

Philly is back with its greenwashing initiative, touting in-sink food waste disposals (aka garbage disposals) as a sustainable solution and requiring them in all new residential construction.

According to a press release:

Philadelphia is tackling the challenge of diverting household food scraps from its trash by requiring in-sink food waste disposers (aka garbage disposals) to be installed in all new residential construction.  The building code amendment was adopted by the City Council on December 3, 2015, and signed into law by former Mayor Michael Nutter on December 23 – it took effect on January 1.

The problem with this campaign? Composting is way more sustainable. The process actually puts many vital nutrients back into the ground, and can overall reduce the amount of fertilizers and chemicals in our ground. (AKA you’re eating less pesticides when farmers use organic compost.) 

Lucky for you guys, we actually called this greenwashing almost 4 years ago with Nutter’s / Streets Department’s “the Dirt Factory” campaign. Plus, this isn’t great for water: the average household uses 700 gallons per year JUST to push food down the drain with a garbage disposal.

Shocker (also from the press release): “The project was led by the Streets Department’s recycling division, supported by the Philadelphia Water Department and InSinkErator, the world’s leading manufacturer of food waste processing systems.” Corporate influence over sustainable solutions?

Just to clarify: garbage disposals are better than food scraps in a landfill. But the good ol’ fashion way, composting – is the king of them all.

Plus, Philly has FREE composting programs available. If only they can expand it to residential food scraps besides the Dirt Factory

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

3 thoughts on “Philly furthers Greenwashing with Garbage Disposal Initiative

  1. PWD wants to require them because they make Biogas at their treatment plants. This increase in feed stock will allow them to cut their electricity bills down. Streets wants it because there is the possibility of reducing the cost of running curbside pick up. While home composting is best it would be interesting to examine the differences between a curbside city run composing system and bio-gas at water treatment plants.

    As for green washing ehhh maybe but, doesn’t everything have a caveat.

  2. Valid points, Nick – and I’ve talked to PWD reps about the biogas aspects. While this is definitely advantageous (over the landfill route), there could be more transparency from the city on the big sustainability picture. I think to ignore composting as a valid, sustainable option is a true missed mark, which is why we choose to call out these things from time-to-time.

  3. There are some detrimental aspects to composting, especially when compared to anaerobic digestion, most notably increased carbon emissions to the atmosphere, not just from CO2, but in the form of methane as well as nitrous oxide, two extremely potent greenhouse gases. By processing waste in an anaerobic environment, a large part of the material is converted to methane, which can be used for bioenergy or cooking gas, thus offsetting emissions from fossil fuel use. Furthermore, the end product can be composted and used as a fertilizer, while the liquid portion can be used as a liquid fertilizer as well. So far from green washing, this initiative is even more green than composting, since it makes the most efficient use of the biomass, turning it into bioenergy, before the nutrients are returned for use. Yes, there are issues with food safety for the digestate, but as long as it is fully processed in the right system, it is safe for use on food crops. Regular quality testing will ensure that it is. It could also be possible to divert certain water streams, so that sinks and toilets are treated separately (although I honestly don’t know how feasible this would actually be). Here is some information on the comparison between composting and anaerobic digestion, and the potential of integrating the two:

    http://www.biocycle.net/2014/11/18/integrating-anaerobic-digestion-with-composting/

    In short, composting produces a number of emissions that anaerobic digestion could turn into energy. These are the types of changes we need to make in society if we ever want to fully transition from fossil fuels. We should welcome any bioenergy applications we can find, and this one in particular does not necessarily eliminate the benefits we could get from pure composting, as claimed in the article above. Definitely not green washing in my opinion.

    See what the city’s website has to say about what their doing. It may not be perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction:

    http://www.phila.gov/water/sustainability/energy/Pages/default.aspx

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