Where does Emerson’s organic waste go?

By Eco Ambassador Katie Koenig

Emerson’s Eco Ambassadors took a field trip to the Waste Management plant in Charlestown, Massachusetts on October 28. We visited their CORe facility and learned about their process for turning food waste into an organic slurry that is transported to the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District in North Andover. The wastewater plant captures the resultant biogas for energy, cleans the water present in the mixture for further use, and turns the organic waste into compost for locals to use.

We got a tour of the CORe facility by one of the only three workers present on site. We walked through piles of cardboard bales, paper recycling, plastic bins and other waste to get to the warehouses that housed the CORe facilities. One of the warehouses, shown to the left, had an open wall where a backhoe was shuffling a large, wet pile of food waste between the concrete ground and a strange metal contraption that filtered the waste. Cargo containers of organic waste are transported from local facilities like Emerson and are dumped straight on the ground for processing.

The facility only needs to be manned by three workers who split the duties of monitoring the deposited organic material for the amount of contamination. If it is too contaminated with nonorganic waste such as plastic bags or bottles, the deposit is packed back into a storage container and sent back to the organization that sent it, along with a fine for breaking regulations. Afterwards, workers put the organic waste in the processors that separate the little contamination that is left and mixes it with waste water from other sources like factories.

Later, we were taken to the second warehouse where we got to see the three large silos holding the food slurry, one hidden behind the other two in the picture to the right. They were massive, stretching all the way to the ceiling of the warehouse, with ladders and large pipes scattered around the floor. The slurry is piped from the processor in the first warehouse, right next to this one.

We actually got to see the slurry—one of the workers took out a small batch in a blender container to show us, bizarrely enough.

The workers also monitor aspects of the slurry, such as the pH and liquidity, so that once it’s sent to the Greater Lawrence wastewater treatment plant it has the optimal qualities for the plant to process it.

Want to learn more? Check out Waste Management’s educational resources and read more about the CORe facility.


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