Justin Nguyen is prepared to move beyond theory and into practice with his innovative approach to the environment and waste management. The market, he says, can do a better and more efficient job, and more creatively to boot, than the state.
I’ve had a number of different jobs in my life where I encountered puzzling things and behaviors. The first time I became aware of food waste was during a summer job as a helper with a tree-trimmer when I was 16. We took the cut down tree to a landfill in Ventura County once time and I saw what must of been dozens of truckloads of lemons just dumped there. Now, when anything goes into a landfill, it enters an anaerobic environment where it does not rot but remains nearly unchanged virtually indefinitely.
I still remember a 1980s study where they drilled down into a Los Angeles County landfill and brought up heads of lettuce and vegetables from the 1960s. Which they dates because a newspaper from that year came up with it. The vegetables had not rotted but had become almost mummified. Again, when food goes into a landfill, it is lost forever as far as any nutritive value it could return to the earth via a natural process.
I worked in Central California fruit packing sheds and saw the same thing. While a lot of “windfall” fruit is salvaged for fruit juice, much is lost to storage damage. Meaning, it sits without a buyer and begins to decay and get moldy in cold storage warehouses. This is all generally trucked to a landfill and entombed forever. And I thought to myself, “Isn’t there some way something could eat this? We’re literally burying part of the food chain here.” And I saw this again volunteering for a program by which cold storage overstock headed for the landfill was distributed to people who wanted it. We’d have some of it that had already gone bad and people would still take that to feed goats and chickens. This food perceived as “garbage” is not garbage. It has value. Even the smelly, rotten, spoiled food still has value in the food chain and can be recycled into more food. Energy is never created or destroyed. It merely changes forms. But not if we entomb it into landfills. There it remains in stasis.
I heard about a new organization called Recycle Revolution that is providing a free market solution to returning this energy back into the food chain. They have rightly discovered that, truly, there is no such thing as “waste”. Waste only becomes waste when it is perceived as valueless and, thus, can be put into a landfill and forgotten.
Waste is an economic calculation that denotes a lack of perceived further value in a resource. However, the old saying, One man’s trash is another man’s treasure means that while one may find no use in a given resource, an entrepreneur may find value in the leftovers. The Recycle Revolution project is doing this with food “waste,” using it as raw materials to feed the black soldier fly (BSF). BSF have voracious appetites that eat everything that humans eat, only after we are done with it: meats, cheese, vegetables, fruits, breads etc. They are especially interesting because they are also protein rich and provide a great source of nutrients to fish, shrimp, poultry and swine. The Recycle Revolution project focuses on shrimp.
The concept is this: Pick up food waste from restaurants on a daily basis and deliver it to the BSF facility. Food waste is then mixed and distributed to each BSF bin, a cubic square meter container designed to house BSF. Food waste is added according to the concentration of BSF in each bin, enough for them to eat fresh food for one day. Larvae will eat for two weeks and begin to “self-harvest” by instinctively crawling away from the colony, up ramps and collected in baskets. At the time of self-harvest, BSF are of optimal protein content. BSF are then washed, sterilized, dehydrated, ground in powder, mixed with other ingredients and formed into pellets for shrimp.
While this sounds like something weird, it really is catching on in parts of the world. I’ve already seen one story about a similar operation on Al Jazeera news online. I think these guys at Recycle Revolution have invented the better mousetrap for capturing the possibilities of food waste and returning it into the food chain without incurring point-of-diminishing returns of intensive energy use to salvage it. I think these guys have done their homework, sharpened their pencils, and are ready to take this to the next level. And without some law, tax, or government agency getting involved.
I don’t normally discuss things such as this unless it’s something I have personal knowledge of and care about. I’d like to see these guys succeed. We need more people willing to think outside “The Box” and find solutions rather than sit and whine about the “way things should be” and never doing anything to make things the way they should be.
STAY UP TO DATE WITH NGUYEN SOLUTIONS
Subscribe today for the latest videos, promos, and information about our campaign.