Waste Awareness Down the Drain?

You know that one about the perfect being the enemy of the good? I’m not sure about the perfect’s relationship with the mediocre, but a recent Philadelphia campaign personifies that word.

Last week, the city unveiled a pilot program to install garbage disposals in 200 homes to reduce food waste going to landfills. Now–there’s some healthy debate on whether it’s better to send food to the landfill or down the drain. When there’s a waste-to-energy component to the wastewater treatment plant–as there is in Philly–the garbage disposal is the better option.

But…to undertake any kind of civic effort to “reduce food waste” (as the false Philadelphia Inquirer headline proclaims) through garbage disposals is folly. It keeps food out of the landfill–preventing methane emissions–but yields minimal energy creation. And operating those mammoth water treatment facilities takes plenty of energy, too.

And I shudder at the notion of brotherly-loving Philadelphians viewing putting food waste down the disposal as green behavior.

More important, if a city “Streets” department has the social and political will to undertake any kind of campaign on food waste, it’d seem that they could try a curbside composting pilot (or building an anaerobic digestion plant or a campaign to get people to reduce the amount of food they waste). As Philly Compost‘s president noted, the funding from InSinkErator is what’s enabling this program.

This all begs the question: Is the mediocre a good thing?

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