“The first shared composter in the world” was introduced on the 11th of October in Nantes. This fine piece of urban furniture is technologically advanced and could well multiply in Europe. But Ekovore seems more of a political symptom than a green technological innovation.
This afternoon of the 11th of October 2014, the presence of Johanna Roland, mayor of Nantes, sanctifies the launch of the “first shared and community urban composter in the world”. Located in a pleasantly renovated council estate, the Ekovore composter disseminates among a converted crowd the feverish enthusiasm of all the actors who presided over its design. Enthusiasm, however, that can be puzzling.
The success story is simple: the association les Idéelles contacts two designers of the Faltazi agency in Nantes, Victor Massip and Laurent Lebot, self-proclaimed “a little nuts”. They were designing urban furniture and had been coming up with utopian ideas since 2011 on subjects like the city of tomorrow and waste processing. Self-named the Ekovores, the designers want to establish a “local and resilient system to serve the town”.
Les Idéelles initiated many solidarity initiatives like public ornamental gardens to “revive the districts”. They convinced the designers of their ambition to create a place of social links, gathering and sharing just outside the apartment blocks. So why not around a composter? This new age urban furniture would become a meeting point for the locals. The Ekovores said they’d go for it.
The divine Ekovore composter that turns over and humidifies your materials itself was born, with help from Nantes Métropole, Ademe (Agency for environment and energy control), Compostri (the non profit organisation that has been campaigning since 2002 for compost in town and flatters itself to be the initiator of 120 composting spots in Nantes), Atao a rehabilitation non profit organisation, and a group of eco-citizens.
Moloch of steel, wood and pieces of machinery, it absorbs and recycles our shameful waste from food consumption. It sits in the district with its overhanging plants and kiwi tree on the water tank roof. The different energies and visions (here make the district lively, there reintegrate the job market, there sell urban furniture, and there again be the state of the art green city of France…) thus converged into the worm machine. One is however tempted to find these praise-worthy intentions a tad too angelic or else misguided…
Compost as a fertiliser for everything, maybe even for plants
We had to ask the communication officer why the press pack made no mention of “who collects the compost” and “how it will be used”. She admits it is an oversight before adding that “out of ten kilos of collected waste, three kilos of compost will be distributed for balconies, the community garden across the street or else retrieved by the SEVE, service for green open spaces and environment in Nantes”.
What if green technologies risked being used to address problems other than those for which they were designed, ecologically speaking? In terms of compost, Nantes Metropole with Compostri manages 120 composting spots, 82 of which are shared composters in the districts and 38 in schools. According to the city council, 3,000 people sort their organic waste in Nantes, 150 tons of which are recycled.
Turn compost around, but also the raison d’être
“If we get 10 orders in Europe as hoped, said Victor Massip on Saturday, we will lower the cost of such a composter to 20,000€ a piece… It isn’t much when you think a bus stop costs 15,000€.” It still is a bit much for a palaver tree that will require the intervention of a compost administrator each Saturday from 11 to 12 o’clock (when to empty your bio-bucket).
According to the representative for the Atao rehabilitation NPO, the composter will have usefully employed “for 5,000 hours” people in rehabilitation on metalworking trades. One will also add civil servants and the incalculable number of hours put in by the volunteers. Our rough calculations place the investment cost for this prototype between 300 and 400,000 euros (the town council announcing the sum of 109,000 euros).
Strange case of technology misuse
The benefit from the composter is elsewhere. We will see if the sharing and small talk experience works out. We even wish we were wrong. But for the time being, the green technology machine performs other functions even though it is well designed for its presumed environmentally friendly use. In her speech, Johanna Roland, young and recent mayor of Nantes, laid it on thick on these aspects. The Ekovore composter was adorned with so many human virtues with its salad leftovers that one asks oneself if it were not a lighthouse of the civilisation of tomorrow, the solution to every problem of our society of classes, of districts.