Pullet to Pellet: Scooping Manure to Sell It
The announcement last week of a new plan to process chicken waste rather than dump too much of it on Maryland farmland is welcome news for the Chesapeake Bay.
It was perhaps coincidental that the announcement came on the same day that scientists declared that Pfiesteria has been found in five Maryland rivers.
But the timing couldnt have been better. Why? Because the Bay unquestionably is threatened by the thousands of tons of manure that are spread on Eastern Shore farms and wash into Delmarva waterways. Finally, the state is beginning to come up with solutions to one of the clearest and most vexing environmental problems confronting the Chesapeake.
First, Maryland and Delaware announced last month that they were considering a joint project to burn manure to produce energy much like a British company, Fibrowatt Ltd. We were especially pleased to hear this news because New Bay Times wrote about the 700,000 tons of manure processed annually by Fibrowatt after a trip we made to Europe last year.
Then last week, it was announced that Maryland will put up about $500,000 over the next two years in a separate project with chicken giant Perdue Farms Inc. and a company in Missouri called AgriRecycle.
This project will convert poultry litter into pellets that will be sold back in the Midwest for fertilizer.
Cynics might wonder how a small Missouri company with $1 million in sales last year latches on to such a bonanza.
One answer is that they have been smart enough to come up with a technology that helps to solve a problem crying for solutions.
Note that we say "helps." These are good first steps, but many more steps are needed. Sooner rather than later, the main step is legal responsibility by the poultry industry for the manure in its contract farms.
As it stands, the poultry industry gets billions in profits while the farmers get a few cents per pound for chickens they raise -- plus the onus of dealing with piles of contaminated manure. That is not acceptable in our region where so many people and businesses depend on the Chesapeake Bay for our livelihoods.
Making pellets and power from pollution is a wise beginning, until the
responsibility lands where it belongs.