There’s gold in them thar hills, er, I mean landfills

November 6, 2012 |

Where’s the future? Well, as John D. Rockefeller discovered, it’s in waste. As elections loom, who’s got vision, who’s got game?

You might have noticed that the weather has been changing. Or, rather, that the usual weather is happening in unusual places. Frankenstorms, droughts — the water hasn’t been arriving where it is supposed to be arriving — and the problem of cities and agriculture is that they aren’t as mobile as the clouds.

Probably some good friend of yours, in the past ten years, has ruined a perfectly good cocktail party by announcing, probably loudly, that human activity is responsible for all this climate change.

Boy, oh, boy — you were informed — do we have it coming to us.

Maybe the next morning, wracked by guilt, you turned down the air-conditioning, until you might as well be taking a shower in your shirt. Then you tried to think only good, pure thoughts while pumping $4.59 gasoline into a car that you bought when gasoline was $1.89.

If you were still feeling like a warrior for a newer, cleaner world by around the lunch hour, count yourself ahead of the pack.

It’s just darn tough to maintain resolve in addressing the problems of the world by regulating the amount and type of energy flowing through your toaster. Or downshifting into lightbulbs you don’t like, fuels that make you suspicious, and cars that don’t travel anywhere.

So, what’s a good-minded person to do?

Here’s something. Think residues.

You see, someone has been telling you that there’s a problem with burning fuel, or coal, or oil or natural gas. The problem is not in the burn, but in the capture and reuse of the residues.

One man’s meat is another man’s pudding, and one technology’s residue is another technology’s feedstock. So that’s the good news – technologies are out there that can use just about anything. Making them work on a cost effective basis, and aggregating the residues — that’s the difficult part.

So, what do we do? Nothing? Hardly. One begins with the low-hanging fruit. As it was, many years ago, with the oil industry. First, all they went for was the kerosene, to replace lamp oil that was, to a great extent, coming from whale oil.

Most people figure that John D. Rockefeller made his money in the oil business. Nope. He made his money in figuring out what to do with the oil residues. For instance, packaging a low-value range of hydrocarbons into “gasoline” for automobiles.

Today, the low-hanging fruit is municipal solid waste.


It’s aggregated, nasty, and there has to be a better way.

Election Day

Of course, you might be thinking that the same three attributes apply to the United States Congress.

Today, in the United States, is election day, and you might be thinking of fun ways to throw your Congressional representatives, or current sitting President, out with the trash. As is your democratic right.

We’ll not give you endorsements – you’ll know far better than we can know, who among the candidates is the best fit for you. But we will pose a question for you.

What is it, waste? It is the thing that no one has found a way to make money from.

Opportunity overlooked – that’s un-American. Waste puts into the sky or the rivers what ought to be in your wallet. Using our noggins to unlock the value of waste – well, that’s what can make industry competitive, even when paying a living wage to the workers instead of locking them up in a factory and creating Oliver Twist all over again.

Solve the waste problem, you solve the financial problem and the climate problem all at one time. Might improve the conversation at cocktail parties too.

It takes a few rainmakers to put the rain back where it is supposed to be. Who – on your ballot – is going to make sure “we, the people” turn waste problems into profit centers? The person with that vision — that’s your new best friend.

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