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Re: GSBN:Hey Californians!

At 1:15 PM -0500 11/4/03, Chris Magwood wrote:
This email just came to me at the TLS address from the California Department of Highways... any takers out there? If the bales are at all appropriate, they're probably cheap and arguably pretty sustainable.

To: TLSEditor@...
From: Joel_Allen@...

HI, I work for the Calif. Dept. of Transportation and last summer we
performed a pilot program of swathing and baling the vegetation along the
shoulders and medians of a couple of our major routes in an effort to
reduce roadside fires.  One problem we had was the disposal of the bales as
they contained everything you would expect to find along a roadside, with
the majority of their contents being annual grasses and weeds.  We ended up
disposing of these bales in a number of ways, but one question that came up
was if these bales would be viable for straw bale home construction?

I don't like being a naysayer, but isn't this similar to the standard question about hay vs straw? It strikes me that there's probably a fair bit of nutritional value in those bales (as opposed to the typical grain straw), and therefore they'd be subject to all the associated problems - self-composting, spontaneous combustion, insects & vermin, etc - that come along with that. One of the important reasons that straw works is that it is primarily cellulose stems, with little nutritional content and low nitrogen content, making it unlikely to be food for anyone and equally unlikely to self-compost.

They'd probably be useful for erosion control, if they don't have too much trash in them and they're used in an area where nobody would mind seeds germinating from whatever was growing on the roadside.

Or they could be composted along with wastewater system sludge and resold as landscaping soil (the City of Austin has such a program which uses household lawn and garden debris, keeping it out of the landfill and turning it and the sludge into a useful, saleable product.)

Bill Christensen

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