BioCycle February 2004, Vol. 45, No. 2, p. 6
WASTE REDUCTION IS GOAL OF GREENSCAPES ALLIANCE
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a program called GreenScapes Alliance to get companies involved in large land use applications to waste less, recycle more and use more ecofriendly products. More than 100,000 businesses are targeted – firms whose land use activities include roadside landscaping, brownfields revitalization, golf facility management, highway construction, etc. According to the EPA, GreenScapes participants fall into two categories: Partners – businesses and agencies that will achieve actual pollution prevention results; and Allies – supportive associations that will advertise and promote GreenScapes philosophies to their membership and others.
EPA plans to publicize “success stories” to show what companies can do. For example, to show how golf courses can save money and improve turf, this example is given: “The soil on the North Shore Country Club (Glenview, Illinois) golf course had elevated sodium levels – too high to maintain quality turf. With a little research, North Shore found compost to be the economical alternative to enhance the quality of its soil.” To learn more about GreenScapes Alliance, visit www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/green.
HOT COMPOST RECIPES FROM VANCOUVER’S CITY FARMER
In her delightful new book, Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator (New Society Publishers), Spring Gillard recounts her experiences advising gardeners on how to make better compost – a key part of her work at City Farmer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here’s her hot compost recipe, which she calls “wet and dry, brown and green.”
Create a base of three to four inches of woody, brushy material to promote aeration (do not mix into pile); Alternate layers of green and brown materials, keeping layers two to four inches deep. Common green (nitrogen) and wet materials are grass, food scraps (uncooked fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, and eggshells), and garden trimmings. Common brown (carbon) and dry materials are fall leaves, straw and newspaper strips. Chop up larger materials for faster decomposition.
Whenever you add a food scrap layer, sprinkle it with soil and then cap off with a brown layer to prevent smells and flies. Mix bin contents often (a minimum of once every two weeks). This introduces air and gets bin heating up again. Mix older materials with new materials for faster decomposition. Moisture content of bin should be like a wrung-out dishrag. Only add water if pile is very dry after mixing.
Pile will shrink. Continue to add and mix until bin is almost full. Compost is generally ready to use when it looks like humus (after about two to three months). However, aging the compost for another one to two months is recommended. (City Farmer staff, including Gillard, can be contacted via e mail at: email@example.com.)
FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE REGARDING COMPOST PROCUREMENT CAUSES STIR
On December 10, 2003, the U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste proposed revisions to the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) that would expand the types of compost eligible for procurement by the federal government. Currently, the guidelines only include yard trimmings and food residuals compost, as they are made from feedstocks in the municipal solid waste stream, explains Jean Schwab of the Office of Solid Waste. “There are areas in the U.S. where the federal government may not have access to those types of compost but where there are excess manures or municipal biosolids that could be mixed with bulking materials from the MSW stream such as wood chips to make compost,” says Schwab. “The idea behind revising the procurement guidelines was to give federal buyers more options to meet their needs, e.g. to deal with deforestation or strip mined soils.” The Federal Register notice also referenced “organic fertilizers” and how other materials in the waste stream, such as chicken litter or biosolids, could be used in place of chemical fertilizers in some applications. The reference to “organic” was interpreted by some individuals as meaning organic agriculture, and that this Federal Register notice was proposing that biosolids use be allowed by organic growers. “We were not referring to organic agriculture in the notice,” adds Schwab, “but instead organic-based fertilizers – to distinguish them from chemical fertilizers.” This misinterpretation stirred up strong emotions that surfaced a number of years ago when USDA began developing its National Organic Program requirements and proposed that biosolids could be an acceptable input. The final NOP rule did not allow biosolids, and the issue was for all intents and purposes settled – until the recent EPA notice. The public comment period ends on February 9th. Schwab expects that the confusion with the verbiage will be fixed in the final document. For more information and updates, go to www.epa.gov/ docket and select “view open dockets.” The docket ID is RCRA-2003-0005.
STATE CLARIFICATIONS TO STATE OF GARBAGE IN AMERICA 2003
Several states have contacted BioCycle and the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) at Columbia University with regard to the findings of the State of Garbage In America 2003 survey (see BioCycle, January 2004). New methodology was used to calculate MSW generation tonnages and state recycling, combustion and landfilling rates for 2002, based on data reported by state solid waste and recycling offices. The report calculated that Oregon’s recycling rate was 48.8 percent in 2002. However, notes Peter Spendelow of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), “our rate is closer to 42 percent.” He notes that BioCycle/EEC calculations subtracted “industrial waste” from the total tons landfilled number provided, whereas that deduction already had been taken. Thus the total tons of MSW landfilled (in-state and exported) should be reported in Table 4 as 2,546,837, not 1,886,538 tons. “In summary, the number that I think should have been reported in Tables 3 and 4 for Oregon would equal 42.0 percent recycled, 4.3 percent combusted in waste-to-energy plants and 53.8 percent landfilled. The total estimated MSW generated are 4,735,384 tons or a rate of 1.34 tons/person.” (The per capita rate reported in Table 3 was 1.16 tons/person.)
Michigan also sent in a correction. BioCycle/EEC reported a per capita MSW generation rate of 1.68 tons/person, based on an estimated MSW generation of 16,916,076 tons in 2002. However, that tonnage includes nonmunicipally generated waste that is going to municipal solid waste landfills, explains Matthew Fletcher of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Therefore, the estimated MSW generation rate should be 14,235,985 tons, or a per capita rate of 1.41 tons/person. Coincidentally, right at press time, the Michigan DEQ released its 2003 solid waste management report, which is available at www.michigan.gov/deq.
POPLAR TREES COULD BE “TRANSITIONAL USER” OF HOG WASTE LAGOON SLUDGE
Currently hog manure lagoons are closed by using bulldozers and dump trucks, notes Frank Humenik of North Carolina State University’s animal waste management department. But studies have found that fast-growing hybrid poplar trees can efficiently suck up the waste – absorbing nearly 3,000 gallons of effluent per acre per day. The result – ammonia and nitrogen compounds are safely metabolized in the woody tissue of poplars. “Over time, the trees take up the nutrients, and it is natural purification,” Humenik observes. “With the trees, you have a harvestable product.”
Under current methods for cleaning up hog lagoons in North Carolina, the liquid is first drained from the top of the lagoon onto existing sprayfields of grass. Then the farmer pays to have the sludge trucked away for spreading thinly on fields. A recent Associated Press article estimated costs for cleaning out a typical lagoon at up to $40,000/acre. Humenik estimates lagoon cleanup using poplars at between $15,000 and $20,000 for a two to three acre lagoon.
FEASIBILITY STUDY EVALUATES MARKETS FOR DAIRY MANURE SOLIDS FROM ANAEROBIC DIGESTER
A report recently prepared for the King County. Washington Solid Waste Division by Terre-Source, LLC evaluates the price and markets for residual solids from a dairy cow manure anaerobic digester (AD). King County is considering AD technology to help dairy farmers “survive manure management challenges. The feasibility study (FS) recommends a centralized complete mix, thermophilic process to produce methane for energy, liquid effluent and a high quality residual solids product. Economic feasibility relies greatly upon sales of the solids. Assumptions and projections in the study sent to BioCycle by Doug Howell, special projects manager for the county’s Air Quality and Climate Initiative, included: About 250,000 tons of organic fertilizer; Capital costs for AD facility would be $1.2 million; Processing costs for solids would be $5/ton; Average revenue for processed solids would be $20/ton. No allowance has been made for sales and marketing expenses to sell the residuals.
PENNSYLVANIA CREATES RECYCLING MARKET CENTER
The Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (RMC) has been created to stimulate demand for products with recycled content, maintain timely market trend data and boost continued growth of recycling industries. Launched by the state’s environmental protection department, the initiative will be funded as part of a $2 per ton statewide fee on landfilling. The RMC – designed to overcome market barriers and inefficiencies – is the most ambitious part of the state’s Market Development Program, providing support to generators, haulers, processors, manufacturers and end-users. The Department of Environmental Protection is soliciting applications from all nonprofit corporations to establish, support and oversee development of the RMC. Grant applications must be submitted by March 5, 2004. As part of the funding, the Market Development Program is offering two additional grants to help increase recycled content in products and for composting infrastructure development. Visit www.dep.state.pa.us. (Keyword – “market development.”)
THREE STATES COMPLETE TRANSITION TO ETHANOL, BAN MTBE
At the end of 2003, California, New York and Connecticut banned use of MTBE because of its creating a drinking water contamination problem. “Ethanol-blended gasoline seamlessly replaced MTBE blends as gasoline prices held steady or even dropped,” reported the Ethanol Report, published by the Renewable Fuels Association. “The ethanol industry really stepped up to ensure adequate and affordable supplies were available coast-to-coast,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen. “New plants are built and more are under construction. There would be no doubt about the ethanol industry’s ability to supply any state wishing to switch from MTBE.” The RFA National Ethanol Conference, to be held February 16-18 in Miami Beach, Florida provided further details on “Synergy in Energy.” Visit www.ethanolRFA.org.
NITROGEN DYNAMICS OF COMPOSTS PROBED BY RESEARCHERS
Nitrogen (N) is a key element in composting, compost use and the environment at large, so there is keen interest in its conservation as well as determining how effective compost is at delivering N. The Winter, 2004 issue of Compost Science and Utilization includes a grouping of papers concerned with N transformations during composting and the N dynamics of compost. Following are brief descriptions of three of the research projects featured.
Researchers at Washington State University in Puyallup examined the three-year history of N availability from mixed yard trimmings incorporated into the soil without composting. The yard trimmings were obtained in the spring from curbside collection and landscape maintenance crews. Before being applied to the soil, trimmings were screened, shredded, piled and allowed to heat from three to five days. The trimmings were incorporated into the plots growing silage corn for three consecutive springs at three application rates – 10, 20 and 30 dry tons/acre. The C:N ratio and N content of the yard trimmings ranged from 17 to 19 and 1.5 to 2.3 percent, respectively.
Researchers in Japan investigated the fate of N derived from rice straw compost, cattle manure compost and urea fertilizer for the cultivation of rice. The rice straw compost had a C:N ratio and N content of 26 and 1.4 percent while the values for the cattle-manure compost (which included sawdust) were 34 and 1.2 percent. In this work, greenhouse pot experiments were conducted to explore the uptake of N by rice plants, N recovery in soil and the evolution of N as nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. Two different soils were used – one with a history of receiving organic amendments and the other having received chemical fertilizers.
A research project conducted in Israel examined N conservation and availability in composts intended for organic crop production. Investigators composted cattle manure solids (separated from liquid manure) alone and with an amendment, either wheat straw, orange peels or grape marc. The initial C:N ratios were 23, 30, and 43 for the grape marc, orange peel and wheat straw mixtures respectively. The N loss from composting the mixtures were 18, five and two percent, in the same order. The composts made from these mixtures were used in greenhouse growth experiments with cherry tomatoes.
The Winter, 2004 issue of Compost Science & Utilization can be obtained – as the first issue of a trial subscription – by calling (610) 967-4135 x 21 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.compostscience.net. No-risk trial subscription (4 issues) is available at $99 – U.S., $121 – Canada; and $127 Foreign.