BioCycle World

BioCycle January 2004, Vol. 45, No. 1, p. 6

Federal Procurement Of Biobased Products

In mid-December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced publication of a proposed rule to implement the Federal Procurement of Biobased Products program. The provision requires Federal agencies to purchase biobased products that meet price, availability and performance standards; provides for a voluntary labeling of certified “Biobased Products;” and provides financial assistance for testing of those products by manufacturers. The proposed rule will also define what biobased products are. As explained by the USDA, “Once an item is designated, every manufacturer and vendor producing and marketing products contained within that item are eligible for preferred procurement status by federal agencies. Further details are available from Marvin Duncan, Office of Energy Policy and New Uses at (202) 401-0532 or email:

EPA Proposes To Revise Compost Definitions For
Federal Procurement Guidelines

In a December 10, 2003 announcement in the Federal Register, EPA proposed to revise its current compost designation to “compost made from recovered organic materials.” The amendment would revise the 1995 definition in the Executive Order, “Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition,” where the compost designation specified compost made from manure or biosolids. EPA is required to designate items that are or can be made with recovered materials and to recommend practices that procuring agencies can use to procure designated items. Once EPA designates an item, any procuring agency that uses appropriated federal funds to procure that item must purchase the items containing the highest percentage of recovered materials practicable. The proposed action will use government purchasing power to stimulate the use of these materials in the manufacture of new products, thereby fostering markets for materials recovered from solid waste. EPA will accept public comments of this proposed rule until February 9, 2004. Comments may be submitted by mail to OSWER Docket Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 5305T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention ID No. RCRA-2003-0005. For technical information, contact Sue Nogas at (703) 308-0199. Email:

In explaining the rationale for the proposed revisions in the Federal Register, EPA noted it is proposing to define compost as “… a thermophilic converted product with high humus content. Compost can be used as a soil amendment and can also be used to prevent or remediate pollutants in soil, air, and storm water run-off,” and define organic fertilizer as “… a single or blended substance, made from organic matter, such as plant and animal by-products, manure-based/biosolid products, and rock and mineral powders, that contains one or more recognized plant nutrient(s) and is used primarily for its plant nutrient content and is designed for use or claimed to have value in promoting plant growth.” These new definitions are based on common industry and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) definitions. EPA specifically requests comments on each of these definitions.

According to the Register, the information obtained by EPA demonstrates that compost made from manure or biosolids is commercially available, whose procurement will carry out the objectives of section 6002 of RCRA. Furthermore, in order to simplify the designation of compost and make it easier for procuring agencies to track and report their purchases of compost, the Agency is also proposing to amend the previous designations of yard trimmings compost and food waste compost and consolidate them with the designation of compost made from manure or biosolids into one item called “compost made from recovered organic materials.” EPA believes that these four organic materials (i.e., yard waste, food waste, manure, and biosolids) are the most commonly used in commercially available compost. EPA is also aware that other organic materials could be used in compost, but these are generally mixed with one or more of the aforementioned materials. For this reason, EPA is proposing to use the general term “organic materials” in its compost designation, rather than limit the designation to specific types of organic materials.

Digester Industry Helped by $3.75 Million “Climate Friendly” Grant

Helping farmers ease global climate change by reducing farm-produced greenhouse gas emissions is the goal of a $3.75 million research grant from the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation to the Washington State University (WSU) Center for Sustaining Agriculture. (Allen is a Microsoft cofounder.) The research with dairy farmers will focus on anaerobic digester systems. An interdisciplinary team will evaluate alternative farming approaches for their ability to reduce emissions and increase carbon storage, while also monitoring the economic and environmental impacts.

“In the last 30 years, scientists have charted rapid increases in atmospheric concentrations of carbon-based greenhouse gases, and these are seen as likely contributors to global warming,” said David Granatstein, a WSU sustainable agriculture specialist who led the development of the project. “Although farms represent a relatively small source of greenhouse gas emissions, by using new practices we’ll study in this project, agriculture has the potential to also act as a ‘sink’ for carbon-based emissions,” Granatstein said. “We’ll gain a better understanding of how farms trap carbon dioxide in the form of soil carbon, thus potentially removing significant amounts of carbon from our atmosphere. Farmers may be able to get paid for this carbon storage, and our project will produce the data necessary to place a value on carbon credits.” Granatstein can be contacted at (509) 663-8181 ext. 222.

Project research with dairy farmers will focus on anaerobic digester systems. “Digesters can capture methane for power generation while producing a usable fiber by-product,” said Shulin Chen, a WSU biological systems engineer. “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that currently escapes to the “atmosphere from open manure storage. We’re hopeful the digesters will allow us to capture this methane and put it to good use for on-farm energy generation.”

Meanwhile, other funds for supporting research and education on biobased products and bioenergy are available from the National Research Initiative (NRI) Competitive Grants Program. For details, go to

Biosolids Report From National Research Council Gets Final EPA Response

The final action plan to address recommendations on land application of biosolids made in the National Research Council’s July 2002 report have been announced by EPA. In the plan are 14 specific projects to enhance research and outreach activities to be initiated in the next two to three years which include: Biennial review under a section of the Clean Water Act; Compliance assistance and enforcement actions; Optimization of the method for determining the viability of Ascaris Ova in biosolids; Improved methods for detecting viruses in biosolids; Validation of analytical methods for fecal coliform and for Salmonella in biosolids; Field studies of application of treated biosolids; Targeted national survey of pollutants in biosolids; Conduct exposure measurement workshop; Assess quality of microbial risk assessments on pathogens; Support pathogen equivalency committee; Detecting pharmaceutical products in biosolids; Review criteria for molybdenum in land-applied treated biosolids; and Improve stakeholder involvement and risk communication.

EPA stated that these projects will strengthen the biosolids program by improving the Agency’s ability to: Measure pollutants; Determine risks posed by contaminants; Better understand and characterize odors, volatile chemicals and bioaerosols that may be emitted from land application sites.

British Composting Association Gives Awards To Outstanding Recyclers

At its annual awards meeting in Nottingham, United Kingdom, The Composting Association recognized the accomplishments of Eco Composting Ltd. of Dorset which markets 55,000 cubic meters of composted materials in 11 different products. The company also blends its compost with subsoil which is then sown with a special mix of turf grass seeds. Once turf is grown, it is harvested and the cycle repeated, with turf production in 2004 estimated to reach 250,000 cubic meters.

An award for Best Local Authority Initiative was presented to Wakefield Metropolitan District Council for promoting composting to its community – including home composting programs and curbside collections which have almost tripled recycling rates. The Innovation in Composting Technology award went to Rainbow Wilson Associates for its accomplishments in promoting composted green waste as commercial growing media.

The Best Community Initiative award went to Fairfield Materials Management for its New Smithfield Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market project, which uses a Vertical Composting Unit to process organics generated by the market. For details on the projects as well as the U.K. Composting Association, e-mail Tony Breton, Communications Manager, at

Aerated Compost Tea Evaluated For Disease Suppression In Horticultural Crops

As part of a grant from the Sustainable Agricultural Research Education (SARE) program in the Northeast, aerated compost tea is being evaluated as a disease suppression tool and health stimulant in horticultural crops. Last year, field trials were conducted at The Rodale Institute® in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and at three collaborating vineyards. Goals are to have 50 farmers using compost tea (CT) in their operations within two years with “at least ten Cooperative extension agents incorporating CT practices into recommendations.”

According to Matt Ryan of the Rodale Institute, the three vineyard trials were designed with assistance from Dr. James Travis of Penn State University’s Fruit Research and Extension Center. “To date, we have had mixed results in the various experiments,” reports Ryan. Compost tea clearly affected disease incidence and severity in these trials. “We observed approximately 50 percent suppression of powdery mildew on Chardonnay and Chambourcin grape clusters at two vineyards. Due to high disease pressure, fungicides were used effectively to control black rot and downy mildew in all plots at these vineyards in late June and early July.”

In potato trials which measured plant stimulation, weekly applications of CT were shown to increase marketable yields, reduce the number of cull potatoes, and increase nutrient levels in tuber tissue.

Tests for microbial colonization of the leaf surfaces following CT foliar applications were performed by Paul Wagner at the Soil Foodweb Laboratory in Port Jefferson Station, New York. Test results indicated that adequate levels of bacteria and fungi were present in the CT.

Overall, Ryan concludes, “the ability of CT to suppress plant pathogens is very complex and should be viewed on a crop- and pathogen- specific level. Based on information generated from the first year of this project, CT could be considered as part of a comprehensive disease management program for certain crops with specific pathogens.” Research and outreach will continue this year with more experiments and two field days.

Appreciating The Value Of Beneficial Reuse Of Biosolids

The latest issue of Biosolids Bulletin, published by the Northwest Biosolids Management Association (NBMA) describes specific methods used by Portland, Oregon’s wastewater treatment plant. Following anaerobic digestion, solids are dewatered via belt filter presses (? 18.1 percent cake), transported (via contract hauler) approximately 200 miles to Madison Farms dryland pasture sites in north central Oregon and land distributed (via contract applier) within agronomic rates. Typically, 2,000 to 2,220 truck loads of 13,000 to 14,220 dry tons) biosolids are sent to Madison Farms annually. Biosolids land application at Madison Farms has stopped wind-induced soil erosion and dramatically increased site productivity, as evidenced through increases in soil organic matter, nutrients, biomass (six to 12 times, depending on annual precipitation) and feed quality (12 times higher edible protein and four to 30 times higher essential nutrients), appreciably improving beef yield (2,000 percent gain).

Neighbors within a two mile radius of Portland’s biosolids land application operations are invited to a Farm Field day where biosolids and forage experts from Oregon State University, City representatives, the farmer and solids transporter provide a discussion of the biosolids land management program. Radio announcements and advertisements in two local newspapers are used to invite the public. Typically, proactive news coverage emerges from field days. Farms tours are also available by appointment.

To aid in the understanding of the nature of biosolids, an agricultural lab periodically tests Portland solids, soils and forage for plant essential nutrients and are evaluated for pathogen indicators and trace contaminant levels.

Three essentials to sustainable biosolids management are emphasized by NBMA which are: 1) Know your product; 2) Cultivate active communications between all those involved in your biosolids program and the general public; and 3) Be candid in sharing information and data characterizing the program and its environmental and economic impacts on others, including regulators and the general public.

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