Sunday, March 26, 2006

Word of the Day: Anaerobic Digester

One of my passions, besides craft, happens to be garbage. In my pre-Greenjeans life, I studied with and worked as research assistant for anthropologist Robin Nagle at NYU who teaches a class called "Garbage in Gotham" and is writing a book about sanitation workers and the "labors of waste."

So yesterday when an old colleague from Jae's pre-Greenjeans life (working for a green architecture firm) happened into the shop and told us about a new office building that converts its own garbage into electricity, I was rapt.

He was describing what's called an anaerobic digester, which works like a giant compost pile in the building's basement. He said that paper, food waste, and other organic material gets collected and special bacteria work to break it all down in an oxygen-free (anaerobic) environment. The methane generated from this process gets funneled off and used to produce up to 75% of the electricity the building needs to operate. 75% from garbage!

Obviously, I'm pretty new to this anaerobic digester stuff, but Jae found a few websites to read (click here and here) to learn more. From what I can tell, it seems to be a technology used sometimes on farms but not so much in urban environments, so this new building is quite cutting-edge.

I can't mention the architect's name nor the building's identity, but once completed it will be a major achievement for green architecture in New York City. Yay garbage!

1 comment:

lee said...

Oooooh! I so wanna knwo what building that is!! (but understand the privacy and besides anything is findable if your obsessive enought)

but know what? ok, i live (for the month) in Toronto, and theres a new system much liek recycling pick up but for organic waste (dog poop, kitty litter, and all the food scraps/bones you want to toss). the way they got an insane 90% participation in the city was to allow plastic bags to be tossed in.

well i was at that plant two weeks ago-- (boy does it stink!) everything gets shredded by these massive drill presses and then there's a tank where it gets turned into a soup (thats where most of the plastic gets collected), the sloup tyhen goes into a digester for 14 days and they even collect the methane (methane from a few million people's garbage composting)

it is pretty incredible. And doable on any scale, so I can't wait to hear more about that NYC deal... wow nice! thanks!