BioCycle March 2005, Vol. 46, No. 3, p. 6
PREVENTING PHOSPHORUS OVERLOAD WITH SPECIALTY COMPOSTS
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agronomists are reported to be studying “environmentally friendly composts that help keep phosphorus from seeping into water supplies.” Rufus Chaney and Eton Codling – with the Animal Manure and By-Products Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland -have been investigating inexpensive methods to make phosphorus less water soluble, or to increase the ability of manure, biosolids and composts to hold onto the phosphorus. They found that composts high in iron could markedly help the manure and compost retain phosphorus, since both iron and aluminum oxides increase adsorption of phosphorus. “These can be added as additives or by mixing by-products rich in iron or aluminum with the manure or other feedstocks before composting,” note the scientists.
A management tool called the Phosphorus Index (PI) is used to assess the risk of phosphorus loss from agricultural fields to surface waters. In some states, the PI is based on plant-available phosphorus, but the scientists found that adding iron and aluminum oxides to manure or composts reduced the water solubility of phosphorus much more effectively than the PI test indicates.
SOARING OIL PRICES IMPROVE ECONOMICS OF MAKING PLASTICS FROM CORN
“When Dow Chemical Co. and Cargill Inc. began a major push two years ago to market a plastic made from corn instead of oil, they thought they were tapping into consumers’ growing worries about the environment,” begins a Wall Street Journal article. “As it turn out, makers of the alternative plastic may get their biggest boost from soaring oil prices and fears of global energy shortages.” Evaluating the biodegradable plastic benefits, one Cargill executive says it’s a simple choice: ‘Iowa or Iraq? Nebraska or Nigeria?’
Under the headline, “No Petroleum Needed,” the Journal graphically presents the methods used to refine corn into compostable plastic: Corn kernels are soaked, ground and starch from the endosperm is separated; Enzymes are added converting starch into dextrose; Bacterialcultures are added to ferment dextrose into lactic acid; Water is removed yielding simple molecules called lactides; Result is a small pellet that can be spun into fiber; Cups, containers and bags can be composted.
METHANE AND HYDROGEN GENERATED FROM BREAD WASTE
According to a report from Japan for Sustainability, Sapporo Breweries Ltd., Shimadzu Corp. and Hiroshima University have developed a technology that can efficiently generate hydrogen and methane from bread waste. The system, which has run successfully for six months, separately produces sulphur-free hydrogen and methane by controlling the fermentation process. The experiment successfully decomposed and dissolved about 80 percent of bread waste in a quarter of conventional processing time – yielding over 10 percent more biogas. Last fall, the research group applied the technology to other residuals such as agricultural and forestry wastes.
DON’T WEAKEN CLEAN WATER ACT WITH UNTREATED WASTEWATER, U.S. REPRESENTATIVES TELL EPA
Last November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a draft policy that would allow filtered wastewater to be discharged without chemical treatment directly with fully treated wastewater. Some EPA staff along with the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies say this approach to blending would help prevent overflows of raw sewage, polluted storm water, etc. after heavy rainfall. But Republican and Democratic members of Congress – 135 of them at least – see that approach far differently. In a letter to the EPA acting administrator, the Representatives wrote that if EPA fails to act against blending, legislation would be introduced in Congress preventing the blending policy from being implemented. “We are sending a strong message to EPA that we will fight to block them from weakening the Clean Water Act and turning back the clock on water protection,” declared Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, one of the signers of the letter. Maybe this is the beginning of a policy called “No Sewer Left Behind.”
PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF BIOSOLIDS RECYCLING
People involved in biosolids recycling management and policy need to pay attention to public perceptions and how people learn about biosolids. That’s the recommendation of the new Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) report, Public Perception of Biosolids Recycling: Developing Public Participation and Earning Trust. The report’s recommendations were developed from analysis of the experiences of representative biosolids recycling programs and the findings of social science research in areas of risk perception and risk communication. Tools for understanding development of current public perceptions of biosolids are provided. For example, if a neighbor first learns about biosolids through a bad smell, that will create a different perception than if he or she first learns through contact with a helpful biosolids manager.
Twelve steps are recommended for developing public participation and earning trust and support for a biosolids recycling program. The six most critical are: Build commitment within your organization; Determine who your stakeholders are; Get input from stakeholders as soon as possible, early in the process; Build public relationships; Improve communications, especially listening and dialogue; and Continue to monitor public perceptions and public relationships.
The Public Perception of Biosolids Recycling investigating team was led by Ned Beecher of the New England Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) and included Nora Goldstein (BioCycle), Barry Connell (Center for Environmental Communications), Eliot Epstein and Jennifer Filtz (formerly of E & A Environmental Consultants) and Maile Lono (Northwest Biosolids Management Association). Two advisory panels provided input-one of biosolids professional stakeholders and one of social scientists. The final report is made up of a paperback book and a CD-ROM that includes an annotated bibliography and literature review, plus case studies. It is a valuable tool for anyone involved in residuals recycling. For more information, contact WERF, 635 Slaters Lane, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314; www.werf.org.
WASTE PAPER IS FEEDSTOCK FOR BIOETHANOL PRODUCTION
A technology to create bioethanol from waste paper and other organic residuals using a special kind of bacteria is underway by a package material manufacturer in western Japan called Shingoshu Co. According to Japan for Sustainability, joint research is being conducted with two universities and the Energen company that sells biomass energy. Some countries have already been blending gasoline with bioethanol produced from such materials as sugar cane. In Japan, a blended fuel containing three percent bioethanol was introduced in 2004.
Production of bioethanol from sugar cane and corn requires large facilities, and Japan would need to import the raw materials. In contrast, the technology currently under development uses waste paper that cannot otherwise be recycled, which makes it possible to reduce costs and to use resources effectively. The existing bioethanol manufacturing methods require much time and involve high costs for the processes of fermenting and distilling starch. Shingoshu is developing the technology, aiming to enter the market in 2007, and is expecting an annual production of 36,500 liters of bioethanol by 2012, which would mean an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by about 51,700 tons.
BOROUGH NEAR LONDON, UK COLLECTS FULL RANGE OF ORGANICS – “FROM HEDGE TRIMMINGS TO PORRIDGE”
A recent issue of the United Kingdom’s publication, Composting News, has a report by project manager Richard Rand on how the Borough of Bexley has been using a kitchen bin and outside wheeled bin for organic waste collection. As explained by Rand, a 12-month trial has demonstrated “that use of this two bin aerobic system is a practical, commercial and acceptable long-term solution.” The full range of organics waste – from hedge trimmings to porridge – from household kitchens and gardens was collected. According to Rand, the trial is based on a kitchen bin with a 10-liter net capacity paper bag; Average number of bags used is between five and six over a two-week period; Supplied by Korsnas Packaging, bags are standard products made from wet strength kraft paper; Methods are compatilble with the requirements of composting facilities; 12-month trial began in January 2004; Composting studies showed 61.8 percent of food waste diverted in February, with May analysis showing 58.8 percent. The trial included 289 households. For additional data, visit: www.integratedcomposting.org.
PRODUCT QUALITY EVALUATION COMPARES COMPOST AND VERMICOMPOST
The latest issue of Compost Science & Utilization features a report, “Composting vs. Vermicomposting: A Comparison of End Product Quality,” by researchers in Argentina and Spain. Composts and vermicomposts from a municipal composting plant in northwestern Patagonia were studied – both having undergone a thermophilic phase (with the vermicompost being inoculated with earthworms after the thermophilic stage) and a nonthermophilic backyard vermicompost. Their effects on soil biological and biochemical properties and plant growth were evaluated in laboratory incubations and greenhouse trials. Their conclusions follow: “Our results highlight the importance of the original material and the processing technology employed. Comparing the two products derived from the same original material (organic fraction of municipal solid waste), the vermicompost, which complied with a thermophilic phase to reduce pathogens, had a better performance (higher ryegrass yield) than the traditional compost, possibly due to higher nutrient concentrations and to enhanced soil microbial size and activity. Nevertheless, no generalization can be made regarding the superior quality of vermicompost vs. traditional composts, as the backyard vermicompost, with a high grade of original material selection but no thermophilic phase, had lower ryegrass yields than municipal compost.” For information on how to receive the latest issues of Compost Science & Utilization, e-mail: email@example.com, or call 610.967.4135, ext. 22.
DRY PROCESSING AND BIOPROCESSING COMPOSTERS FOR FOOD WASTE IN JAPAN
After Japan enacted the Food Recycling Law in 2001, different approaches have been taken in households there to reduce food waste, amounting to 30 to 40 percent of nonindustrial waste. The newsletter, Japan for Sustainability, reports that there are two types of popular composters: dry processing and bioprocessing composters. The dry type uses electricity to dehydrate the garbage into small flakes. The bio type utilizes microorganisms to convert the garbage into compost. “Some processors create an environment favorable to microorganisms that then reduce the volume of the garbage, while creating virtually no odor,” continues the newsletter. “Despite high interest, annual shipments of indoor composters dropped to 76,000 units in 2003 from 191,000 in 2000. Manufacturers are in fierce competition to create better products that make less noise and odor, as well as lower prices.”