Green Innovations

April 26, 2011 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2011 Green Innovations conference put on by UW Green Bay’s Environmental Management and Business Institute. The theme for this year was Waste management: Waste or wasted opportunity. I was fascinated by everything I learned and was pleasantly surprised by the content. My usual experience with these conferences include learning about issues going on and problems that we are facing. This conference, however, focused not on the issues, but on the solutions. Each presenter brought a solution to the table and an action they were taking in order to help. It was very refreshing to see real action taking place with creative businesses.

The conference started out with a brief intro to waste management in history. I was happy to hear that WI was the first state to have their solid waste program approved by the U.S. EPA. Another highlight is that the e-waste sector (electronic waste) is acting as a leader for producer responsibility, which puts the responsibility of making sure materials are recycled on the manufacturer. It was also a surprise to hear that recycling plants deal with a large amount of exports. Countries like China have a high demand for our recycling material and it is very cheap to get it over there.

Next up we heard from 3 businesses in the waste management department. The first was ENCAP, a company that takes waste and makes landscaping and agricultural products. An interesting thing he was was that when figuring out how to recycle or reuse something, sometimes it is important to not focus on the attributes of the waste itself, by what can you add to it or take away to make it an entirely new product.  Next up was Greendwood Fuels, who takes industrial waste and makes fuel pellets that can replace coal in burners. This is a great solution since it not only recycles, but creates a replacement for coal without forcing the company to change infrastructure drastically.  The last business was Cascade Asset Management, an e-waste business. They mainly do large scale jobs with corporations. They strive to be a leader in quality and sustainable e-waste recycling.

One of my favorite panels was on Agricultural Waste. We heard from the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative about their work in the development of a biogas infrastructure in Wisconsin. What a better way to solve Wisconsin’s energy deficit and debt than by utilizing manure and agricultural waste as an energy source. Their strategic plan has just been published and can be accessed on their website. Here’s a budget solution that would be constructive, instead of spending 18 billion a year on energy imports, we could be making millions in production and also save on clean up due to agricultural pollution. Dane county also spoke about their anaerobic digester that they just put up in Waunakee for a few farms in the area. They are starting the planning on the next digester soon. This will help with the chemical structure in the ground and lakes as well since it eliminates much of the runoff.

For all you sports nuts out there, we had a great talk from the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Popkey on their green initiatives. It was refreshing to know they are making valiant efforts to lighten their footprint. Joe Van Rossum also spoke from the Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center on how they help people with recycling questions and issues. Wastecap was also their and spoke about construction recycling. They were even used in a project by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Mike Lizotte spoke about UW Oshkosh’s inititatives. The highlight of which is their proposed composting facility which would eliminate most of their organic waste.

They also did a dumpster dive and found very interesting results. In area’s where recycling was readily available, there was very little material in the waste. An interesting fact was how much liquid was left in bottle being thrown away. The liquid adds considerable weight, causing their hauling fees to be more and the bottles aren’t being recycled.

The one thing to remember from all of this is that waste is in no way useless or ‘waste’ really. One man’s garbage is another man’s opportunity. Every bit of recycling helps, but more and more is needed to offset our waste production. Solutions like these to our issues are in high demand.

Make sure you check out the compost sale on Saturday, May 7th if you aren’t already composting your organic waste! Info is on the calendar on our website.

~EnAct Intern

Kayla Baake

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