Monday, May 17, 2010

Composting Cleveland

Rust belt, Steel City, Burning River... all names that conjure up a decaying and disintegrating city.  In the 1920s, Cleveland stood in the ranks with New York City and Chicago and boomed with industry and promise.  But nowadays, she has a world wide reputation for being a joke and a hot bed of pollution of decline.  Even Forbes ranked her as the #1 most miserable city to live in.  (Clearly no one from Forbes have ever visited this city.) 

However, all of these rumors couldn't be further from the truth.  Few outside the city limits, and even limited numbers here recognize that Cleveland is a constantly evolving city that continues to reinvent herself.  She is on the front lines of becoming a leader in green city building and environmentalism. It's shocking, I know.

Take a look at this most recent article from in city wide development:  (for the full article, click the blog title.)

Large-scale downtown food-waste makers like The Q, Tower City and the Browns, along with restaurants like the Great Lakes Brewing Co. and the Greenhouse Tavern, are heading a new effort to keep tons of biodegradable food scraps out of the landfill. 

Instead, they dump their own unique combination of post-meal slop into biodegradable bags (often made out of potato starch) and a composting company hauls them away to be turned into a high-quality soil additive. 

And there's plenty of compostable waste to be had: A recent study by the waste industry found that organic materials made up half of all household solid waste -- and up to 75 percent of that can be composted and re-used.

In a three-week pilot program in November 2009, eight downtown businesses, with the help of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District and sustainability group Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S), combined to collect 9 tons of food waste.
Most of that came from food preparation work in their corporate kitchens or restaurants, not from the vast amount of leftover fan food at the sports venues.

That's the next level: The Browns and Cavaliers expect to be collecting and composting fan food waste -- possibly including biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery -- by next season. The Indians are also working on a plan for Progressive Field but haven't yet settled on a contractor to pick up the material. 

All of this makes Cleveland a part of the new movement toward zero waste, said Beau Daane of the county waste district. "We're very excited to see the number of companies downtown and elsewhere who are taking the lead on this," he said. "This is a movement catching on here and around the country."

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