As U.S. military bases shut, what is the Pentagon to do with the tons of sludge contaminated with TNT? Enter Will Brinton, of Woods End Research Lab in Maine, who concocts recipes to induce naturally occurring bacteria to gobble up hazardous waste. Says Brinton, compost adviser to both Prince Charles and the Pentagon, “Instead of building plowshares from weapons, we’re actually building soil”abalm to environmentalists worldwide. Brinton, whose work is in growing demand, can even break down stubborn toxins like pesticides, industrial polymers, and paper-mill sludge. Some examples:
- Bombs Away:
- Blend a ton of waste from any mint (the plant) processing factory with TNT sludge. Mix well. Sprinkle in one ton of carbon-rich sawdust from a local lumber mill. Let stand. Spoon in a ton of buffalo manure. Bake for 30-90 days. Feed your flowers. (Warning: “Composting can produce an intense heat,” says Brinton, “which is the last thing you want with explosives.”)
- Dancing with Cows:
- A byproduct of the information age, ink from newspapers, magazines, copiers, faxes, and laser and ink-jet printers is everywhere. Its critical ingredient, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon), also causes cancer. Brinton’s elixir: Shred newspapers, out-of-date phone books, Yellow Pages, and scrap paper. Knead into in situ dairy farm manure. Have mixture trampled underfoot by a herd of cows. Fertilize your crops.
- Mudfish Stew:
- Gas station owners are being increasingly pressured to remove their gas tanks, dig out contaminated soil, and dispose of it as hazardous waste. Cost per ton: $100. Brinton’s budget-stretcher is to combine six parts fish waste with diesel-contaminated soil. Ladle in four parts sawdust. Stir vigorously. Let marinate for a couple of months. Serve to plants.
- Chicken Soup:
- After fire ravaged an egg farm and smothered a flock of chickens, Brinton came up with this classic: Take 1,000 tons of rotting chicken carcasses and whisk in 1,000 gallons of sawdust. Stir thoroughly until chicken is coated, then pour in 1,000 gallons of chicken manure. Let mixture stew for eight weeks. Stir often. Yields enough fertilizer for one small farm.