Production, storage, processing and consumption of food and fiber inevitably generates wastes; 16.9 million tons in Washington state each year (Frear et.al. 2005). Some of this is the natural byproducts of crop and livestock production, such as crop residues and manures which in many cases are readily recycled through natural ecosystem processes. However, other organic wastes are generated (and often concentrated) at steps along the market pathway, including storage and processing, retailing and consumer end use and end up diverted for recycling, treatment, or disposal. Since these wastes represent both inefficiencies in the supply chain and potential resources for recovering energy, carbon, nutrients and other materials, CSANR has invested in research focused on reducing the generation of organic wastes, improved management of on-farm and off-farm organic recycling technology, recovery of value-added products, and restoration of organically derived amendments to soils.
Use of organic residuals represents a win/win in regard to simultaneously producing valuable renewable products while also partly resolving existing environmental concerns from disposal and storage of organic wastes. Our vision is to move “beyond waste” – whether it be low-tech, on farm strategies for recycling crop and livestock production wastes or high-tech, community and regional strategies for completing the carbon and nutrient cycle at a regional level.