Monday, October 15, 2007

Who is the most important person in the world?

Your audience. Never forget it. Change the message to save the planet

He hasn't. They are the guys who pay to read him. However...

I agree.

And I disagree.

The way things get said is important. And to whom you are saying it is critical.

To business I long ago learned to avoid any hint of saving the planet up front. I wouldn't even get in the door. So it's all about 'ways to boost CSR and even PR, and often sales...' first, but I do still add at the end with a ', who knows, we might get to save the planet, too.'. Makes me feel better and sets them on notice that that is what I really care about.

Equally with consumers, from the most self-absorbed Yuppie singleton to the most harassed Yummie eco-mummie to the most eager-beaver kiddie-winky, I pitch what I do as ways to 'Save time, save money and, who knows, maybe even the planet, too'.

Seems to work, still.

Maybe not with Guardian Online readers though. But I guess they might not be my audience. Or that significant in the great totality of the general public who it is still necessary to inspire to make differences... for the future of the planet.

I've been moderated!

Well, at least I have one less excuse to make my RSI worse!

A while ago I took issue with the Biased BBC website removing all of a comment of mine bar the initial line. This was odd, as they usually either leave in and critique, just moderate out or simply delete. Leaving it hanging with some text remaining out of context seemed an odd and unfair thing to do and I took issue with it.

In the same way I take the BBC to task because I think they can and should do better, so I was disappointed that what seemed a good, if poorly named, site interested in media balance seemed to have its own agenda, too. And reading their final word on the matter, happy to admit it too.

They say not. I feel different. A passing of the ways, then. Let's see what happens when they get bigger and more mainstream (which they will if the BBC keeps on its rather defensive course), and then find their own foundations start to crumble beneath them.

Hubris. To be watched for and avoided if you can.

Just to do to them (though it's in full on the link, slap down to me inc.) what they did to me, here are a few choice comments:

'We get far more comments on global warming than we want, and we
delete a lot of them.'

Well that's one way to balance. If they are not following moderation rules, fine. If they are just not wanted, then why allow debates based on what the BBC inspires. It's simply too selective to be credible.

"We do leave some comments on GW in, but only the better, more relevant and more concise ones."

Ok, so I can often not be 'concise' (but look at some of their magnum opi - seems that while they can publish chapter and verse, to engage you need to be pithy, or risk censure. But once 'they' (it seems to swing from 'we' to 'I' a lot) get into 'better' and 'relevance', then agenda is in play.

'You gave us a good excuse to delete yours '

Well, they are honest. Nice to find they were looking for an excuse. The facts were, of course, irrelevant.

"If you want to discuss GW in-depth online, then I suggest you go to a dedicated site."

And if I want to discuss the accuracy, or not, of the media, I will do so on a site that doesn't say one thing and self-evidently practice another. Guardian CiF is more honest, if an effort due to the majority of those who haunt it.


Not about climate, but what 'they' deem on message:

Yet another HYS debacle.

A discussion gets closed with 2% rejected, around a third published and near two thirds unpublished.

We all know that this majority unpublished have in fact been rejected 'by the back door'.

Its not one discussion, its time and time again.

If it were sale of goods the BBC would be liable to action for misrepresntation.

Is there no way to make them change the name to reflect the level of accepted contribution and make them call it "DON'T Have Your Say", at least that would be more honest.


Seems BBBC isn't so chilled when edits/moderation/technical issues happen to their 'right' to be heard.

I do note it is about the very issue that got me booted off their site, climate change. By way of some balance I am go-smacked by this from a BBC Enviro correspondent, David Gregory:

'There is some discussion about carbon offset for flights taken by the BBC. But as I understand it at the moment it isn't something we are going to spend lisence fees on.
David Gregory (BBC) | 17.11.07 - 7:18 pm | #'

Talk about missing the point!

And which group are you in?

Just saw this in Marketing Week: Climate Group separates green substance from spin

Now I am sure I have heard of these guys, but there are now so many out there I can't be sure. I'll have to do a nosey. Until proevn otherwise, I always wonder a bit about motivations. Especially if, as a consumer, I will soon end up with a logo that's been paid for to show how much deeper green the guys who forked out are. A Climate Brand Index gets me twitchy from the off. And if the organisation already runs to an international campaign director of "Together", Lord knows who else is on the payroll.

Gaurdian - High street's climate message not getting through - I'm guessing we got the same press release

Whoops, its World Blog Action Day

And I forgot.

"Some time ago I signed up to the Blog Action Day"

This guy reminded me: A FAD IS A FAD BUT IT CAN BE A GOOD FAD

As did I.

"The most interesting thing for me is not the environment per se, that's just a fad, but the way the web can get over 16,000 people to write about something."

I'll have to disagree a tad there. I only engaged because of the environment, and really hope it is not as you so definitively suggest... a fad.

However, what is interesting as we are discussing blogs and motivations and stuff, is that I had forgotten all about it until I clicked on my BR email and saw you blog flagging it highlighted.

And then I found out it was today! Ooops.

It's OK as I blog on matters green and mostly unpleasant (my site does the nice, fun stuff), so I am on brief, if by accident. In fact, just by cutting and pasting this across!

Of course green marketing is greener in delivery (or is it... all that need for PCs and servers and juice, etc just to read it), but effective? Hmnn. I needed a prod.

Green only passes as a fad if there is no substance, or indeed need to stay with it.

I would maintain there is. But then you need to be on board with a climate caution. For what it's worth mine is man-worsened climate change as a sort of 'best not to assume it isn't, because if it is then being proven wrong doesn't really seem so bard (unless you're a climate optimist, in which case being proven wrong means we're toast if your views have prevailed).

What I don't go for is scare stories, fines and the whole green tsunami things, where you get bombarded and have to go with it all.

So, as you raise it, how obesity got equated to climate change I have no idea. That seemed daft.

Good on Florian. I wish we in the UK could be more like him. Thing is, his government and businesses are helping him a lot more, both with systems and incentives and logistics and clear communications in complement.

Here we have quangos on bonuses if we recycle more, and almost no joined up e-systems at all when we do. Plus a bunch of dodgy pols trying to grab our vote depending on whether the Guardian or Daily Mail can scare up a frightening fact pro or con that day.

So yes, as one of those bloggers I hope it may be a start, but I have to go off and now wonder how I forgot all about it.

Ta for the heads up.

Treehugger - Blog Action Day Takes the Blogosphere by Storm - Not such a huge storm, really. It may just be me, and I blinked, but I can't think of hearing or seeing this anywhere else but these two places. Maybe the BBC and Gordon Brown, etc, had better things to do. Shame, as the numbers looked good.

Reuters - Thousands of bloggers unite in blitz of green tips

Kinda off topic, but on message, I do note this 'The U.N. climate panel said this year it was at least 90 percent likely that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, were stoking warming that would lead to more heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising seas' That looks like a vote for MWCC to me!

Guardian - Bloggers share tips to go green - Including the originator, four posts. And oen said it had 'passed him by'. Hmmmn.

ADDENDUM - Nice note:

The Wrap Up

The very first Blog Action Day was an unprecedented success and
we've got the final wrap up where the site used to be at complete with statistics, sample posts,
details of the huge amount of press coverage we had all over
the world, quotes and more.

It's a must see. Please feel free to spread the word around as
it's great for people to really see what we achieved together.


And if I could just say a huge thank you to every single one of
you, all 20,603 registered bloggers who took the plunge even if
it meant going off their regularly scheduled programming and
stood up to be counted.

Also thank you to everyone who helped out with the effort, in
particular Leo Babauta whose contacts, writing and enthusiasm
pushed the enterprise forward, my wife - Cyan Ta'eed who braved
the media and fronted up to interviews around the globe, John
Brougher who put together the superb video, Ryan Allen who
performed the elite coding to keep the site up despite barrages
of traffic and most importantly my Dad - Fuad Ta'eed who valiantly
looked through thousands of blogs to give the tick of approval,
every single day for two months.

So until next year when we get back together for
Blog Action Day 2008

And this from Blogger (Not us, sadly, but hey):

In honor of Blog Action Day, we wanted to highlight some of the many Blogger-powered blogs that are focused on the environment, climate change, and sustainability. Want to see more Blog Action Day participants from around the web? Find them on Blog Search.
  • Cleantech Blog - Commentary on technologies, news, and issues relating to next generation energy and the environment.
  • The Conscious Earth - Earth-centered news for the health of air, water, habitat and the fight against global warming.
  • Earth Meanders - Earth essays placing environmental sustainability within the context of other contemporary issues.
  • Environmental Action Blog - Current environmental issues and green energy news.
  • The Future is Green - Thoughts on the coming of a society that is in balance with nature.
  • The Green Skeptic - Devoted to challenging assumptions about how we live on the earth and protect our environment.
  • Haute*Nature - Ecologically based creative ideas, art & green products for your children, home and lifestyle, blending style with sustainability.
  • The Lazy Environmentalist - Sustainable living made easy.
  • Lights Out America - A grassroots community group organizing nationwide energy savings events.
  • The Nature Writers of Texas - The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State.
  • Rachel Carson Centennial Book Club - Considering the legacy of Rachel Carson's literary and scientific contributions with a different book each month.
  • Sustainablog - News, information and personal meanderings related to environmental and economic sustainability, green and sustainable business, and environmental politics.
  • These Come From Trees - An experiment in environmentalism, viral marketing, and user interface design with the goal of reducing consumer waste paper.

Spinning yarns. Telling tales. Act II

PRE -ADDENDUM by Junkk Male - A view from Dilbert

Further to the previous post and discussion on Al Gore's film and the court case which attempted to prevent it from being shown in schools; this from The Guardian provides some interesting information.

I'll leave it for you the reader to draw your own conclusions.

This is the slant The Times took yesterday on some of the same information.

Good Lies / Bad Lies - A useful summary from the excellent Brendan O’Neill of Spiked.
‘A good lie will have travelled half way around the world while the truth is putting on her boots.’ (Mark Twain)

Addendum 2 (from Junkk Male) - Climate deniers to send film to British schools - Now, I could say I thought as much, but I won't. I'll just write it. The cause of rational debate is helped how again?

Response (from Dave):
AIT is shown in schools at the instruction of our own government's education department. An extreme right wing group is free to create and send in as much propaganda as it wishes. But it just won't get shown unless otherwise instructed at governmental level.

Addendum 3 (from Dave):
I always like to wait for the views of someone that I respect as a genuine scientist. This from MediaLens is the personal evaluation of Professor John Shepherd of the National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, regarding the recent stalking horse, sorry, court case, about showing AIT in schools.

Sink me!

"They seek it here, they seek it there, they seek it everywhere. Is it in sink or is it it composter, that darned elusive, latest waste bit of bluster."

It started so innocently. One of the many forums/feeds I subscribe to mentioned in sink disposal.

In my quest for the best enviROI answers I decided to weigh in. As I speak it is ongoing. I must say, whilst still civilised, I am finding some of the retorts now a tad testy and pointed. My urge, naturally, is to kick back. When will these ardent 'greenies' ever learn about human nature:

Initial Post: A request for help please! I am working with a new team and we are looking for a range of exciting environment ideas to showcase at a major new exhibition.

· Theme: kitchen – just as a case study – what could be done in this room of a house? Ideas for what people can do in their own homes, and possibly work kitchens.

Ans 1: My friend has recently had an ‘Insinkerator’ installed (a waste disposal shoot fitted into a secondary, smaller sink next to the main sink). The idea is you put all your green waste in there; it gets shredded and washed down the drain by the water flow in the sink. It makes its way into the sewerage system and is eventually filtered and processed like the rest of the waste water in your house.
Reply 2: Obviously there are issues (water use, electricity use, increasing load on sewers), but it does seem to be a viable alternative to the brown box scheme we currently have in London for our green waste – you fill a brown box that is collected once a week by a lorry: a diesel lorry which drives around the neighbourhood, calling at every house…surely this is not the answer? The brown bins also smell terrible (which makes most of the public immediately switch off and vow never to have one in their home), and were recently labeled as ‘slop buckets’ by some newspapers. This hardly encourages take-up.

Reply 3: On balance, and as part of a suite of technologies in the home, the Insinkerator concept seems to me to offer a useful option for those wishing to recycle their green waste but who do not have the space or inclination to utilise a more hands on approach to composting their green waste, and who do not wish to use the Council’s collection scheme.

There are issues surrounding water and power use and the load on our sewers, and if anyone knows any more about these please let me know. People also need to know what can and cannot be put in there. But it seems a useful option to me, and should form a key part of the discussion about sustainable waste.

Me: My local council, Herefordshire, had an exhibition on this recently, and I'm a convert.

It seems a no-brainer, as this is a great way to get kitchen waste from the sink direct to a place where the energy is bio-extracted and the solid waste remaining reused.

I am currently assessing the half-dozen options on macerator offered, along with the grant funding in support.

My only wonder is that having done this it has vanished from the comms radar. To me it warrants a major national effort.

But then I have some doubts on the priorities applied in matters of enviROI by those who often look at targets and what will tick a Euro-box more than what's best for our kids' futures.
Reply 4: The use of an insinkerator has (like many environmental choices) trade-offs to weigh. The City of New York has been debating the use of these devices for decades and has, not surprisingly, generated a vast literature from proponents and opponents about the relative merits of managing food waste through the solid waste system versus the sewer system. A little bit of googling on insinkerator and New York City should lead you to many of the relevant studies. Note that in many parts of the US, the devices are called "garbage disposals" (pronounced dispose - Alls), so any searching should use both terms. All you are doing with one of these units is to pass the problem along the sewer to the Water Authority.

Reply 5: They have to treat and deal with it as sewage sludge and then find a disposal option for it. This may be anaerobic digestion or it may be putting onto non-food crop land. You’ll end up paying for it in higher water rates anyway. Much better to deal with it as close to source as possible, home composter, wornery , bokashi bin or kerbside collection.

Me: Forgive me, this was/is not my understanding.

As sold to me (at least, so far) they WANT this, and don't see it as a problem, but rather an opportunity.

As far as I can gather they have in place the means to deal with it - with luck on a enviROI+ basis.

It might be naive of me to hope such energy from 'free' waste may even reduce my rates, though.

And though my appreciation of the subtleties of composting, bio-degradability, etc is not that great (and I'd welcome more informed feedback), if the problem we face right now is C02 going into the atmosphere I would tend (with my limited science B/G) to prefer that the gasses of decomposition get captured and used rather than waft away

Reply 6: My reasoning was more of self sufficiency and not passing it on to someone else with all the embedded carbon in the transportation, processing etc. Another option is to community compost locally. I’m not sure that the water companies in the South and East will want extra solids in their sewerage system. With the push for reduction in water demand particularly in new homes build to Code for Sustainable Homes 4 and above, there may not be enough water flushed down the sewers to push it along and it will lead to blockages.
It seems to depend more on where you live and hence the council area.

Me: I am in South Hereford and Severn Trent seem to be OK with the solids.

Try this for more info. Reply 7: All kerbside collection schemes for anaerobic digestion and the methane produced is burnt to make electricity. That’s what I suggested, not putting it down the sink for the water company to deal with who might use AD or just bury the solids on non-food crop land.
Me: I don't know about all kerbside schemes, but ours takes just glass, metal and paper.

I wasn't even aware there were even such collections of matter for anaerobic digestion, which just shows the rather unhelpful diversity of options we seem to have countrywide.

I was told by my council that putting it down my sink would result in appropriate energy conversion and the solids would be used appropriately. I have to trust them that it's a bit more than 'might' on that... for now.

I do compost and bring major garden waste to the bring site by walking it there in a hand-towed trolley (it's flat en route, good exercise and then brambles don't kill the car fabric - plus I can take a nice big (volume) load, as oddly you need to pay for a trailer licence and hence most make multiple trips... in their cars).

But as I have no other option than a black bin liner and hence landfill for the rest of the organic matter, the sink system still seems good for where we are.

It would appear to be yet another case for some form of UK-wide, easy-to-assess, chart of the options and their relative enviROIs.

Reply 8: The reason for the diversity of collections is many fold, however it is mainly a mixture of the nature of the area, the aspirations of the Council through pressure from their residents and whether the private sector is willing to invest in processing facilities for different materials and take these from Local Authority collections. Why would a rural Local Authority want to collect green waste when most people practise home composting? Why would a Local Authority collect plastics, tetra paks, batteries when there are no processing facilities for hundreds of miles? Why would a Local Authority collect food waste when there are no AD or In Vessel Composting Facilities for hundreds of miles? Your Council would say put food waste down the sink as it divests them of the problem of collecting it. Councils are measured against a number of indicators and total waste arisings is one of them. The more they can divert away from what they collect whether it be to landfill or for composting, AD, etc. then the better their performance indicator looks. Also it improves the recycling percentage by decreasing the denominator in the calculation. The other main reason for diverting organic matter, particularly food waste away from collection and landfill is that it helps Local Authorities avoid the potential fines of £150 per tonne set by the EU if Local Authorities do not meet their ever increasing targets for diverting bio-degradable waste from landfill.

Reply 9 - I am confused. Where are the brambles and copious amounts of yard waste coming from? If you have enough outdoor space to produce so many trimmings, why can't you set up a composter or worm bin for your kitchen waste? It's dead easy, saves and recycles resources, and even gratifying when you remove the finished compost and feed it to your garden. As for assurances from Councils,'s been said already. There are unfortunately too many box-tickers and not enough creative thinkers in the average Council, and sending the problem waste downstream allows for better looking stats closer to the source.

Me - Golly you, and some others, don't sound the least bit confused. And that is to be envied.

I spent most of my time in a state of confusion on almost anything environmental.

Ever since I started up my little website, with its focus on practical at-home things to DO that can help the planet though reuse and repair, etc, I have also found myself very interested in all the other things out there that the general public can do to help. And as average family man and homemaker, in sharing my efforts many others have taken an interest in my various quests to find out more to do what one can for the best. Many have also been kind enough to contribute.

By doing a tad more reading and gaining exposure to the issues, I perhaps have become better informed than some, but of course a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Which is why I am careful always to caution on the limits of what I find or get told. All too often there are agendas, targets, boxes to be ticked and lucrative careers being forged that make what was on the surface so simple in fact a rather daunting hall of smoke and mirrors to get to my dream goal of a clear enviROI+. And it is so critical. As has been noted, the public does need to appreciate that collecting a Tetra-Pack may not make much eco-sense in Brighton if it has to be shipped to Fife for disposal, but then this should not be where it all stops. We have to then look at why there are not processing facilities and logistical systems for all potentially recyclable waste countrywide. And if there are local difference how these can be included to best national effect.

So be it man-made climate change to man-worsened climate change to climate change to global warming at government and/or major media level, to discussions as to whether Al Gore 'won' an Oscar or more the producer of a documentary featuring him did, or whether he won a Nobel prize or shared it with an entire scientific body (whose chairman once lambasted him) appropriately for Peace, I have often found myself stumbling through many issues (at least today the BBC did make a great point on insulation... so long as you have a cavity wall. I will however wait on the real figures of the solar they were plugging), with often strident exhortations from more committed and less questioning advocates on all sides.

So it seems, I have arrived at a similar point when it comes to insinkeration (neat term!)

To this point, it all made pretty good sense, because my council said it did and my local water board said it did. Indeed, at a county meeting (which involved the excellent Wiggly Wigglers lady ) this was all debated, and the result seemed quite clear.

Now, of course, I must look further, and deeper, to try and arrive a a 'better', or at least more informed view.

I was wondering if you guys who seem not so keen have any figures or sources pro/con to accompany your definitive advocacy against this system of disposal? And I will happily upload them on my site.

And on a a more personal note, yes, I am fortunate enough to have a garden. Though at this point I'd offer that not all do, especially in more urbanised areas, so again we have to look at the totality of the demographics when it comes to assessing the best enviROIs of systems. Often less ideal may be better than nothing, and according to usage more effective than 'the best'.

There's also the 'human' factor. I was actually keen on a green cone. But with kids playing out there and a stream nearby (a healthy source of water rats) my wife was not. Some battles are not worth fighting. Hence the sink-borne system seemed, to now, to be a good solution.

The net result is I am now not committing to either until I know more.

And finally, as a poor gardener with little interest in the practice, the only thing I grow is grass. Hence I am on my third composter. What would be neat would be to have a mechanism whereby I could give (or better yet sell) what I make to those who can and would use it.

Actually, I must add that to the list of things the JunkkYard postcode recognition system can facilitate.

Wow. That didn't take long. Within hours of the above I got this:

Reply 9 -

Some cities, including New York, have outlawed kitchen-sink garbage disposals, at least in homes foor good reason.
The cost and innefiency of combining non haserdous waste with water to transport it & then having to seperate it again for disposla is nuts!

Sink garbage disposals are not the greenest way to dispose of food waste. According to Mark Jeantheau of the popular eco-website Grinning Planet, conscientious consumers interested in returning food-based nutrients back to the Earth should bypass the garbage disposal in favor of composting.

“The ground-up waste [in a garbage disposal] does not go back to nature’s water supply to be gobbled up by fish and other life forms,” he says. Sewage-treatment and septic systems remove “any food value the waste might have had.” Indeed, most modern-day sewer filtration systems utilize chemicals to rid the outflow of any life forms, beneficial or otherwise. Plus, grinding food in a garbage disposal uses a lot of freshwater, which is becoming a more and more precious commodity.

Those on their own septic systems also might want to minimize their use of the garbage disposal. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regular use of garbage disposals leads to a “more rapid buildup of scum and sludge layers in the septic tank and increased risk of clogging in the soil adsorption field due to higher concentrations of suspended solids in the effluent.” Jeantheau adds that even if a given septic system is designed to handle heavier, food-based loads, it still might not be worth the risk: “There are few homeowner nightmares worse than having your septic system go belly up.”

While composting may sound like a messy proposition, it doesn’t have to be. For starters, those doing the dishes should make sure to dump any and all food waste items into a kitchen-based composting bin with a lid that seals tight. Many municipalities now make such bins available to interested residents. A mesh strainer in the hole in the sink can catch smaller food scraps and be dumped into the composting bin when the dishes are done.

When the kitchen-based compost bin fills up, it can be dumped into a larger composting bin outside. After four to six months, you should have some nice compost to add to your garden and jumpstart the health of your soil. Companies such as The Compost Bin and Clean Air Gardening offer online sales of a wide variety of quality compost bins of different shapes and sizes, and provide a wealth of comparative information for the interested consumer.

CONTACTS: Grinning Planet,; The Compost Bin,; Clean Air Gardening,

If you have to use this crazy appliance you should add another bit of plumbing to your disposal you can recapture the solids right away, for local composting. See the Kitchen Komposter

Again this bit of hardware is just worthless They complicate plumbing substantially, are expensive, use electricity, and do indeed lose nutrients while increasing the load on waste water treatment plants and systems. The disposal collector I mention above is basically a
juicer for your drain, and lots of good stuff is lost in the process.

Now It looks like I have an issue on my hands to get to the bottom of. I have posted this as I said I would. However, it does seem to me that it is falling out (in every sense of the word) between two sets of 'passionate' advocacy.

What I would value is the opinion, preferably backed by enviROI relevant facts, of a more objective person with no eco-axe to grind.

ADDENDUM - In the spirit of discovery, I asked for some opinion from a very nice chap I met at a composting event. To be sure, his company is in the advocacy camp, but he has been kind enough to offer a comprehensive reply which is rich in data. I post his reply here:

Thanks for your email. It isn't an unusual subject, or to see the views polarised.

Water industry. None of the UK water companies like FWDs (Food waste disposers). because they think that they are being handed the bulk disposal costs of biodegradable municipal waste by the local government groups. Local gov has to reduce biodegradable waste going to landfill on a tapering limit. The taper is severe i.s >60% reduction is needed in a relativeley short time. For every tonne over they get fined £150. An average tonne costs £60 to dispose of, so the fines are huge. Water companies want to use FWDs as a mechanism to increase charges in their 2014 pricing settlement with Offwat. They say that if FWDs are allowed to expand in use, then their systems will need to be changed in order to handle it, and hence an increase in money will be needed. If they are not going to be allowed to get more money, then they will want to see their use curtailed.

Water UK is the trade body, and has entered into a 3yr research programme with WRC to establish the implications of FWDs on the sewer system.

There is already a body of evidence that says even in very high concentrated use that there is a negligible impact on sewer systemns and treatment processes. There is a town in Sweden where 30% of the homes were fitted with domestic FWDs and the impacts on the sewage treatment system measured. - I don't know the town's name or have a copy of the report.

If you want to think about the green issues of CO2 footprint and other greenhouse gases then you need to think about what happens to the Carbon atoms. Composting has a super following becuase it looks like the ultimate in get something for nothing. You can turn a tonne of waste into 200kg of fabulous compost. The old school scientists worked out some time ago that energy cannot be made nor destroyed. It just changes form - hence perpetual motion machines are unlikely. Energy also = mass (e=mc2) so a pile of waste material is an energy store. If the mass reduces say from 1 tonne to 0.2 tonnes, then the energy associated with the .8 tonnes has to be accounted for.

0.8 tonnes started life as chemical energy (i.e. carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, Hydrogen, and others bound together looking like an old tomato or onion, or whatever.)
Some will become heat
None will become light
None becomes kinetic
Some of it becomes worms and bugs - there is a great technical term for this but I can't remember what it is
Some of it was water and is evaporated and stays as water
The rest probably stays as chemicals, but in different forms/compounds:

Depending on where you are in the compost bin, there are bugs and worms. Where there is oxygen present (air) the bugs will be aaerobic. They will respire, using oxygen and generating CO2 - at the same time converting carbon in the waste into bug.
Where there is no oxygen, then the bugs are anaerobic and will be busy converting the waste into bug but will generate CH4 (Methane). A clue - if the compost is warm (heat being generated) then there is anaerobic digestion happening.
Worms it seems produce NOX.

All of this chemical activity goes unnoticed by the casual observer, so the process is considered to be something like a miracle solution.

There is a multiplier though: every ounce of CH4 is 23 times more agreessive as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and NOX is a frightening 296 times more agressive - see article below.

It is worth saying at this stage that sewage treatment processes are like big scale composters. The sludge is the byproduct compost. There are aerobic sections and aaerobic sections in any process. The trick is to capture the anaerobic output (Methane) in anaerobic digesters, because then you can do something with it that is positive - i.e. turn it into CO2 by burning it to get energy out - thus the Methane fraction doesn't act as a 23 times multiplier to greenhouse gas, but as a 1 times multiplier with a positive energy creation. If that is harnessed, then the energy might be used to offset CO2 generation in conventional power generation.

FWDs are one piece of technology in reducing landfill (CH4 is emitted in vast quantities at landfill). They have a role to play along with other things like composting. There actually needs to be a "live and let live" approach - it is a pity that there are folks around who want to ban this or ban that.

There are other manufacturers than Insinkerator.

He also directed to a Telegraph piece: Wormeries 'may add to greenhouse gases' , which actually validates (if true) my concerns from the outset on how anything that churns out greenhouse gasses can surely not be helping the immediate cause of a reduction of same. This would seem to suggets there may be soem value in looking at capturing the gasses from such composters, though on a domestic scale this might not be practical.

I have to say as I oscillate about, this latest certainly makes sense to me and I tend to stick with my initial views. But I am sure there will be more to come. This seems almost as charged as climate change!

ADDENDUM 2 - I have now had a reply - a most helpful one (well, bar the 53 page bit!)- from the local council:

You could point people towards our Environmental Impact Study for all this info, environmental and financial etc. It was funded by the County Surveyors' Society. It's 53 pages long so we've also published a 3-page synopsis.

REPLY 10 - A polite, if still rather dogmatic response from one who seems to be very much in the 'compost' camp. I could also cock an eyebrow at the first and last of his company's interest area: a CONSULTANCY on LIVING TECHNOLOGIES, SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND CARBON OFFSETTING. Me, I do it all for free. Also he has missed, or avoided, some of my points. I do compost the garden waste. It's the few meat and non-compostable scrapings I am looking at. And it's between a green cone and FWD on an enviROI basis (I'm guessing the cone will be cheaper than the unit, and not incur any subsequent operating costs) I am interested in. There is really not a difference in effort between them. He also seems to again ignore the human element on a pragmatic basis, especially when thinking on flat dwellers. Worth replying to? Not sure. I have enough fun with such mindsets on Guardian CiF.

Peter, I am sure many can relate to and appreciate your dimemma and voyage of discovery. Thanks for sharing the process so openly, I think it helps the rest of us.

As for those with or without access to gardens, I believe that part of what we need to change about our strategies and cultural mindset is the idea that a solution is only viable when it is universal. One of the big lessons about sustainability is the importance of nurturing diversity. In this instance, it's about the diversity of situations, personal specifics, options and ideas. The fact that some have space for a composter and others do not does not minimise the value of a home composting solution. If you subtracted all the homes with garden or balcony space from the total kitchen waste production, it would have a significant and positive impact. If you subtract even a few, it's still worth doing.

If you limit your composting to grass clippings, bits of paper and cardboard (for the carbon balance) and uncooked vegetable and fruit scraps, the rats will have less interest. A wire cage around the composter would deter them anyway. A worm bin would happily dispose of pretty much all the cooked scraps, meats and other 'smellies', and if caged, would keep out the rats anyway. Finished compost can be raked into the lawn as a top dressing, or offered to gardening neighbours.

Don't forget that the value of compost making is much more than simply disposing of waste.

ADDENDUM 21/Nov: Press release (as is, at tad editted for space, but I really need to fight through the 'shock' copy a tad when I get a 'mo):

GREEN CONE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT OVER NEW GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION FINDINGS -centralised treatment of food waste produces between 10 and 40 times more CO2 emissions than garden food waste digesters-

According to garden Food Waste Digester (FWD) company Green Cone, transporting and treating food waste at a centralised treatment facility produces between 10 and 40 times more CO2 emissions compared to disposing of waste in a householder’s garden using a digester.

The shock statistics follow a recent paper by environmental consultant Dr Alan Knipe (previously group managing director of Nuclear Technology at international energy and environmental company AEA Technology), which has been peer reviewed by SLR Consulting.

Furthermore, the significant environmental findings are in addition to annual cost savings identified in earlier studies illustrating that by introducing FWDs, local authorities could expect to save between £3-4 million per 250,000 households.

In his latest study, Dr Knipe compared greenhouse gas emissions from the life cycles of specified centralised and household management strategies in terms of CO2 equivalents (CO2E). Whilst anthropogenic (manmade) greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing and end-of-life disposal of both treatment plants and FWDs were shown to be relatively small, emissions arising from the day-to-day operation of the treatment plant, and transportation of waste to the plants, were proven to be alarmingly high.

Dependent on household dispersion and waste management strategy employed, total emissions from the day-to-day operations of a centralised approach typically generated between 50 to 214kg of CO2 per tonne of food waste each year. This figures reduces by 14kg of CO2E per tonne if the resulting composting were to genuinely replace existing emission-intensive inorganic fertilisers, soil improves or peat.

By comparison, household treatment generates around 5kg CO2E per tonne of food waste annually and produces zero day-to-day greenhouse gas emissions.

The study’s findings based on the uncontaminated segregation of food waste and all significant components of the life cycles of both the centralised and household management strategies for food waste, were included in the calculations. A copy of the paper: “The Comparison of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Centralised and Household Treatments of Food Waste” can be found here

Link - Sink Your Waste

Let's Recycle - Ruddock backs anaerobic digestion for food waste - that settles it; it must be a con!

RWM - "Food waste disposal systems are like fly-tipping" says water company

MRW - Environment Minister says AD is the best process to tackle food waste