Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

To the solid waste industry, Seattle and the surrounding area enjoys a well-earned reputation as a place where people are not afraid to explore new horizons.

To the general public, Seattle is known for many things: industrial-strength coffee, the jaw-dropping beauty of Puget Sound and nearby Mount Rainier, and the 1990s grunge-rock movement that draped twentysomethings across the nation in plaid, flannel shirts and spawned way, way too many Eddie Vedder imitators. To the solid waste industry, Seattle and the surrounding area enjoys a well-earned reputation as a place where people are not afraid to explore new horizons.

For instance, in 2009, the city began requiring single-family households to recycle their food waste. That material is transported to the Cedar Grove facility in nearby Everett, Wash., where it is mixed with yard waste from Seattle residences to create compost.

Now, a report by the Seattle public radio station KUOW says, the Cedar Grove facility is considering using the food waste to generate energy. According to the report, the food scraps would be covered with starter bacteria and then placed in an anaerobic digester. The resulting gas could be used to power the Cedar Grove operations. It also could be converted to compressed natural gas that could be used for vehicle fuel or used to generate electricity that could power approximately 400 homes, the report says.

The Cedar Grove facility has received a $1 million grant from Washington state to help implement its plans, according to KUOW.

The energy-from-food story isn't the only environmentally friendly news to emerge from the Seattle area in recent weeks. In October, the Seattle City Council voted to create a program that will allow residents and businesses to opt out of phone book deliveries. The law also requires the publishers of Yellow Pages to pay for the recycling of Yellow Page directories.

Residents and businesses will be able to opt out of the deliveries via the Web, by phone or by mail. "Seattleites are constantly looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment, and the council has heard from an overwhelming number of people who don't want phone books," said Councilmember Mike O'Brien in a statement. The opt-out registry is expected to be operational by July 2011.

Seattle officials estimate that the city spends $350,000 each year to recycled unwanted Yellow Page directories.

California has long been considered the new frontier in solid waste management, but The Emerald City has proven time and again that it's one to keep an eye on.