Turning food waste into power


Could food waste and garden clippings one day power your home?
Perhaps, yes. In fact, Sharon Barnes, vice president of Barnes Nursery in Erie County, believes that in
the future, every home will be fitted with a biodigester to be used for power. For those not familiar,
digesters are currently used commercially to convert manure or other biological products into energy.

Barnes spoke on the topic at the May Agriculture Breakfast Forum held at the Agricultural Incubator
Foundation, west of Haskins.
"You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket," she said, using the cliché to illustrate a
variety of ways to be more efficient. "Some day your house will be retrofitted with a
She suggested much like the idea of a computer being in every home decades ago was unthinkable, the same
thought process may lead to what she believes will be a central figure in every home.
"In 100 years, there will be no central sewer system. This is where we are going," Barnes said.
"The digester will power your lives. It’s not going to be easy, the world of composting will take
us into the next generation. Compost is the magic prescription."
Her business has continued to evolve over the decades becoming one of the largest commercial composting
outfits in Ohio.
They deal with landscaping and yard waste along with scrap food items.
"Getting food waste out of landfills is a primary concern," Barnes said.
One of the challenges to doing that in her area is dealing with political forces.
"The county commissioners see us as robbing them," Barnes said, explaining that in Erie County,
there is a requirement that all trash, including food and other items suitable for composting, be
dropped at the county’s landfill. Wood County does not have that requirement.
The speaker offered a great deal about the ins and outs of operating a commercial composting facility,
explaining it is not as simple as the theory of composting, which involves simple science of breaking
down waste through the microbes to convert that waste into a usable commodity.
Barnes explained how composting is just one component of a continual need to expand green solutions. She
noted how both rooftop gardens and rain gardens reduce runoff into public waterways.
In addition to getting the food waste out of the landfill, she also strives to eliminate yard waste from
such disposal.
For now, she urges all citizens to educate themselves on what is available in their area.
Following the forum, Barnes further explained, "Learn where your yard waste is going. What does your
community have available?"
She also recommends striving for less waste individually and in your own families, taking your own bags
to the grocery and in short, "Take responsibility for your own waste. It’s all part of the bigger
Local efforts
Amanda Gamby, environmental educator, Wood County Solid Waste Management District, was asked about the
Wood County efforts.
Gamby said there is no easy answer.
"There are several options, it depends on where an individual lives," Gamby said. "The
landfill is a last resort."
She said the landfill does take brush and yard waste, but it cannot be mixed with trash, and the brush
must be ground and screened.
The landfill does charge a fee for grass clippings, yard waste and garden debris. The cost is $20 per ton
with a minimum charge of $5.
All such material at the landfill does not get placed with other trash, it is separated and converted
either to mulch or compost.
Bowling Green has a drop-off location off East Poe Road for yard clippings and leaves.
The Wood Soil and Water Conservation District sells bins suitable for composting at home. Because they
buy in bulk, the bins tend to be less expensive than similar products at retail stores. They have both a
simple bin and a more sophisticated tumbler available.
People can also create their own compost bin or pile at home.
Residents can gather more information on composting, yard waste disposal, etc through the following:
• Ohio State University Extension’s OhioLine fact sheet: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1189.html

• Wood County Solid Waste Management District website: www.wcswmd.org; phone: 419-354-9297; or email:
[email protected].
Brochures on composting and vermicomposting can be downloaded from the website. Copies are also available
from the office.
Groups can also obtain a speaker for a meeting through the various offices locally including the waste
management district, OSU Extension and soil and water conservation district.

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