Garbage In, Valuable Garbage Out

Garbage isn't bad. It may even be valuable. A Mentor, Ohio, company called Microtech Research Inc. has come up with a sort of alchemy that turns garbage into salable, environmentally friendly chaff.

After glass, plastic, and metal are separated by hand, the food, wood, paper, and other organics go into a toxin-neutralizing bath. The "clean" organic matter is then vacuum-dried in a thin layer. "It comes out like peanut brittle. Then it's granulated into a fine powder that becomes a rich protein mulch," says Microtech President Patrick F. Riley. The resulting powder can be sold as fertilizer or simply stuck back in the landfill, where it will quickly decompose.

Because Microtech's system allows waste handlers to sell the protein-rich brittle, the system could help to pay for itself. A metric ton of consumer rubbish typically yields about $786 worth of solid recyclables. Riley figures his new system can more than double that figure.

By Adam Aston

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