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Years after divisive vote, Palo Alto proposes sharp shift on composting

Original post made on Apr 24, 2014

Palo Alto's contentious plan to build a Baylands facility for turning food, yard and other waste into energy is about to take a radical turn as the city prepares to toss aside the proposals it has received from the private sector and assume a more central role in building and managing its composting operation.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 24, 2014, 8:41 AM

Comments (17)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:08 am

Seems like the City is about to start up Mitchell Park II.

Why in the world would anyone believe that they know what they are doing. These are unaccountable employees than can not be fired, or sued, for incompetence.

Mitchell Park should be enough to say NO!!! to any more City-run projects.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

> Palo Alto would build a preprocessing facility to remove contaminants from food scraps.

And just how would they do that?

People do not seem to be willing or able to sort their garbage. Hell, in an unnamed public facility I was recently at they could not be bothers to put garbage in the garbage and recyclables in the recycle. Someone has to do this or what point is there in trying to recycle if the sorting costs are going to be high. Let's just ship it to China.

There are so many people these days and so much different stuff coming together that I'd just like to know how they plan to sort it out, clean it up, and what the statistics are on the quality of that?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

not sure if I should laugh or cry...


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

I'm sure this will go as well as Mitchell Park. Remind me again how many years late that is!

How much is this garbage going to cost us? How high will our utility bills soar?


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Posted by Ellen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 2:59 pm

While I too wonder when Mitchell Park Library will open (but it looks great from the outside, doesn't it?), I am tired of reading carping comments about how the city does nothing right. What about the other libraries - College Terrace, Children's, Downtown, each distinctive and delightful - and now "Rinconada" seems to be coming along well. Plus the Art Center and the quiet but steady refurbishment of parks.

If you don't like what's happening, be sure you vote in the City Council election in November - or even consider running.


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Posted by Yes. Consider running.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Yes, consider running. Some Council members are at the end of their terms and so there will be vacant seats. Put your infallible vision to use in service to your community. It's easy to be a critic. Hard to be a leader.


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Posted by guest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

"While I too wonder when Mitchell Park Library will open (but it looks great from the outside, doesn't it?) ..."

What is so great about it? A hideous crazy colored monster twice as tall and large as the old nice library and community center. For that they destroyed the old pine trees out in the parking.
This council must be accountable for the ugliness they are bringing into this city.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm

>The report cites as an example the San Jose/Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, which recently approved a one-year project to gasify wood waste and biosolids.

I hope they are talking about thermal breakdown to break molecular bonds (e.g. plasma arc gasification). This is a rational approach, long blocked by the environmental ideologues, including our own (PA Green Energy).

Measure E (un-dedicating 10 acres of our parkland) was sold as necessary to build a dry anaerobic digestion (AD) industrial plant to handle vegetation trimmings and de-wetted "biosolids" (which is just a euphemism for human sewage sludge). Now, once the campaign was successful, it became wet AD, apparently because the proponents could toss in another flavor of the day, food scraps (which we will be forced to store in a separate waste container). So it was a bait and switch...happens all the time in politics.

Leaving the financial costs (which are substantial)aside, there remains the issue of what to do with the human sewage sludge residues, which contain most of the toxins they arrived with at the sewage plant? Hint, hint: Plasma arc gasification, same as for the plant trimmings...throw in some used tires to increase the heat content of the incoming 'fuel' stream (to compensate for wet feedstock)...then use the resulting syngas for electricity generation...with all the toxics destroyed in the process.

I oppose the CPA owning/running this project (way too high of labor costs and bureaucracy), but I do applaud the staff for edging closer to a rational approach.


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Posted by JO
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I've learned to not believe anything the city staff says.If they are reccommending this, I am against it.


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Posted by Julius M.
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

Web Link


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Palo Alto cannot possibly provide any service themselves at a reasonable cost because of its pay scale for employees. But the problem with outsourcing is the incompetence of the employees they already have...they don't even seem to be able to supervise contractors. The answer: just keep blackmailing Stanford for more undeserved money, and hope blind PA accidentally runs into honest and competent contractors.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm

>If they are reccommending this, I am against it.

City staff has many issues, but sometimes they get on the right track. I think they are edging towards the truth on this one. After all, they are standing up to the PA Green Energy ideologues, and suggesting an alternative approach.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm

@ Craig

Has anyone built a plasma arc on the scale you're proposing? They're pretty common for small scale medical waste processing. You've been a long-time advocate of the technology. Curious if anyone uses it the way you would like. Couple references would be helpful. Thanks!


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2014 at 9:26 am

>Has anyone built a plasma arc on the scale you're proposing? They're pretty common for small scale medical waste processing. You've been a long-time advocate of the technology. Curious if anyone uses it the way you would like. Couple references would be helpful. Thanks!

Probably best to start with this Wikipedia review...lots of commercial waste-to-energy stuff happening at this point. There have also been some large scale plants in Japan.

Web Link

Given that the environmental extremists have fought plasma arc for so long, I think it is impressive that it is finally breaking through. I sounds like the PA staff is starting to take it seriously, too.


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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2014 at 9:47 am

The affluence of this area leads to arrogance (everyone is so darn intelligent). Thus, Palo Alto officals and the rest believe that everyone else is pretty stupid and only they can make things work, history of failures notwithstanding. The good news is that the area's affluence can cover up for the waste that comes about during amateur hour. Oh, well , that's who we are.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2014 at 1:09 pm

The resistance to sewage sludge 'biosolids' compost is growing:

Web Link

Certified organic farmers are not allowed to use the stuff.

Palo Alto should not put itself into a position to have to get rid of this stuff...might be very expensive. Anaerobic digestion, if it leaves us with this stuff to dispose of, should be rejected.


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Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

As a community, we already generate a great deal of 'stuff' that must somehow be dealt with. I agree with above comments about Mitchell Park being not only not attractive, but also, we can't deny that we have no library there yet, nor anything we can use. However, shipping our giant amounts of waste over the long term will be very costly, and create a lot of traffic and greenhouse gas. We do need to find a way to deal with the waste that is local and green. All we can do is try and become educated and influence the decision makers we have elected. The bright spot is, we don't have to be too concerned with this being hideous, a sure outcome with these folks in charge, as waste treatment plants are not supposed to be pretty, only effective.


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