Written by Crystal Davis (Chief Creative)
The Whealth and Co team is introducing a new monthly Instagram/Facebook live event called Whealth Conversations. Our conversations involve great food and thoughts that are coming up in the community and bringing together some great people. Joining us on our first segment from Michael Place of EntoHack 7G and Jenna Firshein of Growing in Jersey City.
Much of America is busy with their daily agendas that when it comes to being waste conscious, this often gets pushed to the back burner.
Michael, Jersey Native – Jersey City, 15 years. The man with the bike, “I love where I live, I love Jersey, I love biking around. I’m trying to turn this into as much as an outdoor community as the Rocky Mountains. I’m from the burbs so coming here is something I did many years ago. Urban living to me is so much better. Years ago, I spent some time in Amsterdam, I guess you could say I’m trying to turn this into my own version paradise, a bikeable, walkable place with growing ecological concerns and we’re doing things about them and eating well. But who am I? Nowadays, I’m an entrepreneur.”
Michael is the owner of the geological brand Entohack7G. “Entomology is the study of insects, and ‘Ento’ is that reference to bugs, and I have a unique process that works with insects to upcycle food waste. If you think about waste, nature doesn’t understand it; we do because we invented it and go piling it up in landfills. Nature, even if it’s a piece of plastic that will take 500,000 years [to decompose], it still doesn’t see it as waste, it’s just what microbes, what bacteria, what organism is going to break it down back into its own essence.”
Michael went on to talk about the positivity of detrivores which are insects (and other organisms) that are known for breaking things down. Michael currently works with the Black Soldier Fly, considered to be nature’s most voracious waste consumer.
“Food waste is a huge problem, but then we have other problems with feeding animals, and our food system is really terribly inefficient. So Black Soldier Fly, what they do with waste is not only eat it and get rid of it, but their bodies are a fantastic food source for livestock,” said Michael.
Black Soldier Fly takes in all the vitamins and proteins that we throw into a landfill, and they turn it into livestock feed that doesn’t require chemicals or antibiotics.
“The Black Soldier Fly larvae thing for me started five years ago. They showed up in my compost pile because they’re native to North America and they’re all over the world except for Antarctica. I will have a permanent location here that is not up and running yet, and I am going to build another facility in Tanzania, and we’ve already got a pilot going there. We’re pulling Black Soldier Flies directly from the landfill where we estimate that 1% of the pile is Black Soldier. They’re naturally there working on the portion of the waste that’s organic,” Michael explained.
America produces 64 million tons a year of food waste. Each bit of plastic that makes it into our landfills are considered contaminants. Source separation of organic waste and plastic waste and other waste streams such as plastic is slowly growing in cities all around the world.
“The big thing that’s driving what I’m doing is that food waste is becoming illegal nationwide. It’s becoming illegal to put it into the waste stream. New Jersey’s got a bill that’s been in committee for a month and that’s been introduced over the last two successive years. New York’s got a bill, Connecticut passed a bill, Massachusetts passed a bill, California has a whole series of bills. So food waste is going to be the responsibility of businesses to take care of on their own,’ Michael said. ‘Some businesses are investing in small scale stuff on-site because they know that they’ll have a fine and the waste is a liability. The infrastructure isn’t there, but the legislation is way out ahead of the problem. There’s a federal bill that hasn’t been passed yet, but it covers food waste, it’s called the Food Recovery Act of 2015. It deals with everything from farm waste to how we classify waste in schools.”
“France has passed a law, Canada has passed a law, Italy just passed a law, and one of the Nordic countries has as well – they’re importing waste because they have solved this issue. They have addressed it systemically as a country, and so other countries are passing laws to do the same. You have to start somewhere, but you also have to look at who’s on the bleeding edge and figure out where do we need to go and where’s our role model. We have 270,000 people here (in Jersey City), we’ve got 8 million in New York, and they’re eons beyond us in bike lanes, in dealing with organic waste. Here we are, a smaller city, we have a less daunting challenge, and we’re not doing it. Why?” he said.
After American and China, the third largest source of greenhouse gas on planet earth is rotting food waste. Michael explained that if New York wanted to get rid of 3,000 tons of organic waste tomorrow, they have no place to put it other than landfills. Composting small scale can help reduce the amount of waste that makes it into a landfill.
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If you would like to learn more about Michael Place and EntoHack7G you can find him on: