As the climate struggles to maintain equilibrium, the idea of a linear economy – one that depends on the continual extraction and conversion of raw materials into finished goods – is no longer viable. Landfills are now a last resort, giving way to a circular economy that is not only viable but scalable. Through this, goods are produced in a sustainable way, one where materials are recycled and reused whenever possible, and resources (raw materials, water, energy, etc.) are used sparingly to turn old into new.
The advantages of a circular economy are many. From an environmental standpoint, waste and greenhouse gases are reduced, recycling is systematized, and the dependence on raw materials is decreased. From an economic standpoint, a circular economy stimulates innovation and creates new opportunities for businesses.
Circular Economy Development Director
Phone: (206) 837-2622
Commerce has funded the following projects, from research and development to implementation, in Year 2 of the program:
- Cascadia Produce (Auburn) – $250,000 to establish a retail rejection hub and distribution center for rescued food, and develop an online marketplace to serve as a market outlet to an expanded number of organizations with direct access to rescued food. Additionally, they will explore whether delivery of case quantities of rescued product can be implemented in a cost-effective, self-sustaining way to support ongoing logistics. Project partners will include Cedar Grove and Seattle Good Business Network.
- Qualterra (Cheney) – $206,857 to turn downstream material from Washington industries into a useful biochar product to bolster crop and soil health. The study aims to further cultivate symbiotic relationships with industries aiming to recycle biomass waste streams, as well as with growers and farmers seeking to produce crops in a profitable and environmentally sustainable way. Additionally, the pyrolysis of these industrial waste streams will serve as the basis for generating renewable energy utilized to power the greenhouse where the biochar trials are conducted.
- Waste Loop (Leavenworth) – $157,326 to further develop the Wenatchee Valley Reuse Innovation Center (RIC), a facility dedicated to promoting and facilitating the reuse of materials from construction and agricultural industries. The primary goal is to promote a circular economy by diverting waste from landfills while encouraging the repurposing or refurbishment of materials into beneficial reuse through direct resale or value-added production.
- Washington State University (Pullman) – $235,817 to manufacture biochar from waste biomass such as forestry residues and municipal biosolids, and incorporate it into concrete to develop durable, carbon-negative alternative for the construction sector. Diverting waste biomass to beneficial use (biochar as building materials) in concrete aims to stimulate the local economy and create jobs while mitigating climate change.
Early Support – 2022 Grantees
Commerce is funding new and exciting efforts through the first year of the program ranging from research and development to on-the-ground implementation:
- Inland Empire Paper (Spokane), Qualterra (formerly NuPhY) (Pullman), and Washington State University are collaborating to improve soil health with biochar and fly ash as soil amendments to increase crop yields.
- Washington State University is testing biochar waste from the Kettle Falls Power Generating Station as a filter medium to remove odorants from municipal compost.
- The City of Pasco is exploring the beneficial reuse of food processing wastewater through an algae denitrification system that can reduce nitrate levels in wastewater while generating a value-added product.
- Myno Carbon (Bainbridge Island) will not only create biochar and capture the biogas, but also explore the capture of CO2 using crushed basalt to create a liming agent beneficial to soil health.
- Impact Bioenergy (Vashon Island) will deliver renewable natural gas (RNG) to a local food manufacturing plant and capture waste heat from the facility to manufacture certified organic dry fertilizer.
Capitalizing on new opportunities.
Businesses, public utilities and other organizations throughout Washington state are expanding existing technologies for the beneficial reuse of industrial waste, while others are starting new and innovative efforts:
- Beta Hatch, Cashmere, WA – Applies waste heat from nearby businesses to grow meal worms for livestock feed.
- Columbia Pulp, Starbuck, WA – Uses crop stubble to make recyclable food containers.
- Cosmo Specialty Fibers, Cosmopolis, WA – Recognizes the value of its lignosulfonate (red liquor) waste, and is experiencing success in finding customers outside the state.
- Public utilities – Specifically, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), are a longtime practitioner of industrial symbiosis. Whether its biosolids, reclaimed water, anaerobic digesters or waste heat, WWTPs are using this type of municipal waste for multiple benefits. Facility upgrades are an opportunity to invest in processes that achieve multiple benefits and better serve communities.
Industry highlight – Anaerobic digestion, which is the process of taking organic waste and converting it to reclaimed natural gas (RNG) and nutrients, has been in practice at Washington dairies for many years. DeRuyter and Sons Dairies (Yakima, WA) is a large example and smaller-scale digesters are operating in Whatcom County such as Edaleen and Vander Haak Farms.
The next industrial revolution.
Washington state is building a stronger circular economy – one that is sustainable, integrated, climate-friendly and profitable – by decoupling growth from the consumption of finite resources. Industrial symbiosis is one tool in a box using future forward ideas and applications, demonstrating that growth does not have to equal waste.
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