Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Lambertville-New Hope, Local-Sustainable Living | Comments Off on TAKE MY TRASH, PLEASE!


Luckily I bothered to read my recent “Update from the City of Lambertville” email and scroll down because buried at the bottom was a link to a survey asking residents what they thought of having their food scraps composted. This means picked up by the City with the regular trash and recycling.  Turns out, this is only part of the plan.

The person who spearheaded the idea was resident, Julie Ann Hajdusek, with support from Lambertville Environmental Commission and the City of Lambertville. They all got it off the ground with some grant money from Sustainable Jersey…

In their spare time.
While we were playing Angry Birds or watching America’s Next Top Whatever, they were working on making the most of our garbage.

If you care about your Municipal trash bill and/or the environment, you should care about this simple thing.  Click here to see how food-waste in landfills generates greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming, not to mention taking up space.  

dangerfieldCoupla years ago I nearly fell of my chair reading that Princeton residents actually PAID the City to take their food scraps.

All I could think was, “But Ptoners, you can compost your own food waste in your big backyards!”

But that was not the half of it.  That waste that Ptoners were paying the City to take, the City could then sell.

Trash is gas, don’t ya know?

Some facilities make energy from it, or incinerate the stuff and sell the ash, or simply sell the compost.

I wondered why anyone would pay the City to take something the City or a vendor could then make money off of – mere convenience?

The Pton plan is kind of like what our City is now putting out feelers to see if we will do.

I kind of got why Ptoners would pay. Around that same time I was verbally accosted by my neighbor who ran out of her house in dress sweats, guns a-blazin’ to tell me not to throw “garbage” in the backyard.

When I tried to explain the food scrap and leaf pile was compost, I got more argument.

One woman’s trash is another woman’s compost, I suppose.

Some think compost is stinky and attracts vermin. I don’t mind the mice, or even rats. Everybody’s gotta eat. But I get why Ms. Dress Sweats did not. Some feel its unsightly or gross, along with the wildlife that live off it.

So money aside, maybe getting this stuff taken away by a truck each week will at least settle a few neighborly arguments, so to speak, and give those compost-is-gross feeling folks an option to participate and reap the benefits without the gross-out, not to mention the local restaurants who generate a lot of food waste.


Did I mention that compost, can be turned into energy?

According to Julie Ann Hajdusek, the larger vision of the food-waste-to-compost idea, is to also see if Lambertville’s sewage plant can turn that food-waste into green power.

They’d hire an engineer to see if it was possible.

Lest we forget we have a local sewage plant, every towpath walk past it, south of Cavallo Park is marked by its pungent smell of poop.

According to Julie, right now we process the poop and sell the resulting sludge to Atlantic County. They incinerate the sludge and cap their landfills with the ash.

They get something for nothing? Yes, Alice.
And we pay for it? Uh-huh.

Seeing a theme here? We pay them to take a resource they need but don’t have to pay for.

Now that’s capitalism, and its current day waste management, until the day people wake up to the resources they are paying to “give away.”

So the alternative Julie and crew are gonna explore is whether our very own sewage plant can be turned into a poop and food waste power plant.

Sound nuts? Here’s how it would work:

1. All the waste would get processed at the plant into a glorious slurry, an awful mixture, tucked away in the plant, and odor-free for residents.

2. Microorganisms would eat the slurry – way cleaner than rats, right?

3. All that eatin’ would generate biogas, methane that we could then use for power.

4. The leftover material could be composted or sold to farms for fertilizer.

Julie believes that this sort of power plant would be more, “resilient” in the case of a power outage.  In other words, we would have a reliable power source for the plant itself, when another super-storm knocks out the power.

jetsonIf this all feels a bit too futuristic, consider, cities on the West Coast like San Francisco have been doing this for years. Three “trash” buckets 1) recycling 2) food waste 3) trash.

Oakland, California’s main wastewater treatment plant is already converting food scraps to energy.  Click here to see a video of how they are doing it.

Don’t worry, great Americans, no one is going to make you participate in the City’s plan. Right now there is the survey to see who is down with the food-waste pick up idea.

If people are into it, according to Julie, they will try a pilot program, and truck the waste to a Sussex County composting facility. Unclear if people will have to pay to be in the program. We will know more after the survey results are in and the pilot is started.  Also unclear if processing the waste here in the sewage plant instead of trucking it to Sussex County will work either.  

There will be a day when people look back and fall off their globally warmed chairs at the fact that we threw away so much stuff that they will make energy from.  They will be amazed that we paid someone to make money off our waste.  But right now we have to start somewhere. When I balk at paying for something a vendor of the City could make money off of, or that City could use to reduce bills in another area, like tipping fees (that we also pay for), my conundrum is:

How will a program like this get fully funded unless each person pays to get it off the ground by having the food waste taken away?  

While Lambertville has received seed funds from Sustainable Jersey, and Oakland, California got their trash to gas program funded by the EPA, its not a total funds solution.  

In terms of the sewage plant making energy, if that can get off-the-ground, perhaps they will pay for the program, and take our trash for free, because it will be a resource that reduces their energy costs to make gas from it?

Regardless, and meanwhile, Julie and company are doing work to set this up and not getting paid, absorbing a large part of the visioning cost with their free time.  This is the price of converting our backwards, fossil fueled, wasteful lifestyle into a greener, more sustainable one.  Meanwhile, if we do nothing, we are paying a greater cost in sacrificing our environment and future.

What do you think?  What would you pay to go green?  To have a stable, local power source?   To reduce trash cost, greenhouse gasses, and landfill size?  Would you give your money?  What about your free time?