Letters 3/18/21

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Better composting facilities are essential

Ken Robinson wrote a persuasive Guest Opinion (Re: “Why the industrial compost facility in East Boulder County should not be built,” March 4) against building a composting facility in Boulder County. Indeed, the old Rainbow Nursery location in east Boulder Open Space is very problematic for a centralized compost facility. However, the article does not acknowledge the benefits and necessity of building a well-designed County composting system, somewhere closer than the Keenesburg plant, 50 miles away. The main question now is not whether we should build compost facilities, but how and where.

First, there is little motivation to consider building compost facilities, unless we recognize their purpose and benefits. For example, the facilities would:

• Reduce expansion of landfills around our county. A third of our landfill waste could be composted.

• Prevent methane emissions from buried decomposing organic matter in landfills. They cause 11% of our nation’s methane emissions, being about 36 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

• Produce tremendous amounts of valuable compost to improve fertility and water retention for our depleted top soil. For example, increasing the organic matter content from 1% to 2% can increase the water retention to 3 quarts per cubic foot of soil. As Colorado’s drought worsens with climate change, soil water retention is critical.

Furthermore, the improved soil fertility helps green our planet, with more plants converting CO2 to oxygen. This is essential to combat “runaway” climate change.

Hence, instead of halting plans for compost facilities, we need to redouble our County efforts to include all valuable local expertise to design a much better composting system. Some challenges are:

• How to design a plan of distributed smaller composting facilities that both reduce extra transportation but also specialize to better handle different types of compostables. For example, one facility can handle high quality compost that can produce certified organic compost. Another facility could compost the biosolids, being mainly municipal waste treatment plant sludge, and be intended for certain acceptable non-agricultural applications. Small compost facilities could serve nearby organic farms.

• How to best minimize greenhouse gas emissions of CO2, methane, ammonia and nitrous oxide from composting facilities.

• How to better control obnoxious odors and diminish other adverse effects on neighboring communities.

• How to minimize contaminants in the collected compostables, such as pesticides.

Make no mistake by delaying. We must begin expanding our County’s system of composting facilities as soon as possible, but only after the designs have been sufficiently improved, with all of our concerns addressed.

John Bollinger/Lafayette

Inevitable evolution

The Colorado meat industry’s alarm over the global observance of MeatOut on March 20 offers a splendid opportunity to discuss the merits of eating animals.

Consumption of animal products is associated with elevated risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Major viral epidemics, including COVID-19, originated with animals raised for food. Meat and dairy products are laden with saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones, pathogens and antibiotics. They lack complex carbohydrates and fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals.

Animal agriculture is a chief culprit in global warming, responsible for weather extremes plaguing our nation. And, never mind life after death. On today’s factory farms, animals have no life before death.

Fortunately, the shift toward healthy, eco-friendly, cruelty-free plant-based foods is everywhere. Every supermarket offers a rich selection of plant-based meats, milks, cheeses and ice creams, as well as the traditional vegetables, legumes, grains and fruits. Even fast-food chains offer plant-based meal options. 

Rather than cursing the inevitable evolution from animal to plant eating, the Colorado meat industry and state officials should focus on helping farmers and ranchers adapt to the food system of the future.

Shemirah Brachah/Westminster