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The following essay by Malcolm Wells was originally published in Energy Essays, Edmund Scientific Co., and reprinted in Notes from the Energy Underground, 1980, Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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The Birds of Bellazon

Jersey is what most of us call that paradise of asphalt and neon lying between Philadelphia and New York. But there's another Jersey, an island off the coast of France. That other Jersey is about twice the size of Manhattan, which makes it pretty small for an ocean island, but with its population of only 100, 000 people, most of whom are crowded into its quaint coastal towns, Jersey has room for hundreds of little stone-walled farms and miles of wild seacoast. It's quite a place.

Being an island and being dependent on tourism and agriculture, Jersey can afford neither the ugliness nor the land destruction that municipal dumps involve. So, when the island trash problem began to get out of hand 10 or 15 years ago, the people in charge, being a different breed, apparently, from U.S. politicians, decided to find an innovative way to turn their liabilities into assets. Maybe it's just my rose-colored tourist-glasses and my Watergate cynicism, but politics seems more o an honorable profession over there.

Anyway, when they began to run out of trash-dumping space, the Jerseymen looked at all the alternatives and decided to follow nature's ancient example: return the wastes to the land. In a hidden valley, they built a processing plant that not only turns trash, garbage, and sewage into organic mulch but also runs itself-motors, lights, and all-on electricity- generated by the marsh gas that bubbles out of the sewage.

Not all trash can be composted, of course; some must be recycled. Jersey's bulk cardboard and paper arc sold to London papermakers, and the metal and glass are sold as scrap. The plastics are incinerated. That's only sad part--the incineration-even though it's minor compared to the mountains of wastes that aren't incinerated. But it is sad. On the day I visited that valley I saw smoke before I saw anything else.

Bellazon Valley is narrow, wide enough for only a tiny stream, a strip of forest, and a road. Walking toward that valley from Jersey's on1y city. I was soon out among the tiny farms. I congratulated the Jersey men on the fact that one of the world's best waste-management plants was located in one of the .vorld's nicest spots. Then I saw smoke straining the brilliant sky. For tile next quarter mile I could see nothing of the plant but a giant chiimney above the trees-and seagulls, hundreds of them, flying in and out of the smoke, excited by something I couldn't see. Then the plant came into view.

Well, it's no architect's dream, but then what would you expect? It looks like a cell block for the outcasts of Jersey, and that s exactly what it is. The gull-exciternent was caused by all the food scraps in the garbage. The birds were stealing it right off the trucks, and they were screaming their heads off telling me about it.

I won't bore you with all tile details of the Bellazon plant. Just take in% word that It is impressive. I'm cans leap out of the trash and ride away on magnetic conveyors. Big trash is pulverized into little trash. And treated sewage-sludge is vacuum-dried on strange machines and turned into fragrant flakes.

Quite a sight.

Then the whole mixture, tons and tons of it every hour, is dumped into tile top of a six-story building, where the heat of natural composting turns the stuff into useful land-mulch. Each day's mixture is automatically turned and dropped to the next level until, on the sixth day, it falls into the waiting trucks of happy farmers. flow do I know they're happy? They must be; they wait in line and pay for tile stuff. They can't wreck their farms with government-subsidized chemical fertilizers the way we can. Some farmers buy straight sewage sludge; others buy tile full mixture.

Now you know all about the waste-management plant in Bellazon Valley, but I suspect the full relevance of the story to your own town may still be obscure, so let me explain: your town is in deep trouble. It suffers along with mine from over-richness, a disease Our troubled econorny may slowly cure. But for years to come we'll continue to throw away incredible amounts of waste materials while others starve.

Chances are the people in your town still rob the land by putting lawn cuttings and autumn leaves in plastic bags for collection along other "wastes." Chances are your own weekly trash could fill the back of a Volkswagen. A lot of the blame must go to the people who produce double wrappings and Junk mail, but the fact remains we all wastes.

The IsIe-of-Jerscy process isn't the final answer, but just think of the promise it holds! Everywhere that you see desolation, unernployment, filthy rivers, and city dumps you could be seeing lush, green land, gardens, gardeners, and crystal waters again, simply by turning wastes into riches as the Jerseymen do.

Think what a hero your mayor would be if he closed the city dump, turned wastes into compost, and sold it to reduce your taxes! Think about the beautiful waste-processing center that would house the process: a manmade park-trash and sewage going in one end, wealth and jobs coming out the other. It will happen, you know, when we care enough. All you have to do is put the squeeze on city hall.

Then you can tell me about the happy birds where you live.

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