There has been much talk of the “new normal” as we shake off the dust of the recession. For the past year and a half, financial analysts and economists from Forbes to neighborhood CPAs have been telling us that if we want to succeed in the world as we have made it, we must look for new, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Enter food waste. According to Rutgers University, food waste recycling as a new green industry offers vast financial opportunities, particularly in New Jersey, where food waste and population are as dense as they come. On Wednesday, June 16, Rutgers will host the state’s first investment forum for food waste recycling, starting at 8 a.m. at the Cook Campus Center in New Brunswick. The forum, an offshoot of the school’s Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group (SWRRG), will focus on the rapidly growing market in converting food and other organic wastes to soil, fertilizer, and energy products. Cost: $40. Call 732-932-9155, ext. 233, or E-mail hayes@aesop.rutgers.edu.

According to the school, food waste recycling is among the fastest-gowing trends in environmentalism, having caught the eye of even giant companies like Walmart. The retailer, in fact, is planning to unveil its 50-state food waste recycling program for its stores sometime later this year. And as major changes tend to happen more rapidly once major companies become involved, Rutgers is hoping that Walmart’s example will spur competition for green business advantages across the board.

Rutgers scientists also hope a large-scale recycling plan can answer one of the more vexing questions of our new normal — that of energy security. A major aspect of waste recycling involves the extraction of wastes to fuel gases, such as Rutgers does at its EcoComplex and landfill in Bordentown. There methane gas is syphoned from composting waste piles and funneled to several customers, the largest being the U.S. Air Force at FortDix/McGuire/Lakehurst.

A successful system requires successful coordination between businesses and various state and local agencies, of course. Food waste generators — restaurants, retailers, cooking schools — need a place to take what they separate, and the SWRRG has already completed forums in each county in the state explaining how our famed American-size diet can lead to a healthier planet.

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