BioCycle October 2007, Vol. 48, No. 10, p. 40
From heavier duty plastic dumpsters to outreach and education that starts with a kitchen countertop container, manufacturers are responding to demand for food residuals collection.
WHEN it comes to figuring out what cities, states and provinces are still throwing away, food residuals from households, commercial businesses and institutions continue to top the list. And as more jurisdictions look to adopt Zero Waste goals and mitigate methane emissions from landfills, the obvious candidate to boost diversion rates is the food residuals stream.
In cities and towns that already have adopted semi- or fully-automated cart-based commingled recycling collection, a move toward household organics collection is feasible. This is especially true in cities where green waste generation occurs just about year-round, justifying the investment in wheeled carts for weekly collection of all household organics, including soiled paper and food residuals. This combination of factors has led to source separated organics collection programs in the San Francisco Bay area and a number of cities and towns in the Seattle, Washington region. Known as the three-stream sort approach, households are given three wheeled carts for commingled recyclables, organics and trash. In some instances, organics are collected weekly, with trash and recyclables collected on alternating weeks.
Several provinces in Atlantic Canada – Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island – were early adopters of the three-stream sort system. More recently, city and regional governments in Ontario have been rolling out three-stream programs for households. In a number of instances, residents are being given a smaller 13-gallon wheeled cart for kitchen and other household organics only; green waste collection, primarily spring and fall leaves, is done separately. “We have delivered close to 1.5 million of our 13-gallon organics cart,” says Doug Hill of Norseman Plastics, manufacturer of the unit. “These green bin programs also distribute our countertop kitchen collector.”
While it is possible to do automated collection with these carts, the majority of programs empty them manually. “There are a couple of pilot projects in Australia that are using a truck to pick up and empty the carts,” notes Hill. “In North America, we haven’t seen that application.” He adds that most bin setouts average about 10 lbs; few are as high as 20 lbs/setout.
When the Region of Halifax, Nova Scotia rolled out its three-stream program in the late 1990s, it opted to use the 240-liter (64-gallon) Compostainer™ aerated cart supplied by SSI Schaefer, Inc. The carts already were in use in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which began its source separated organics program in 1994. The base of the carts has a grate; vents are cut into the sides to provide aeration and prevent the organic waste from going anaerobic prior to collection. The company continues to sell the aerated cart, which is available in 35-, 65- and 95-gallon sizes. “We are seeing increasing interest in multicart setout programs,” says Michael Knaub of SSI Schaefer. “The carts are designed more around the fully automated collection vehicle.”
He adds that the aerated cart has been supplied to several municipal programs for curbside yard trimmings collection. For example, Mantua Township, New Jersey switched to automated trash collection last year, which led to implementation of cart-based commingled recyclables collection as well. The township is rolling out curbside collection of yard trimmings, using 65-gallon Schaefer aerated carts, says Knaub. “There also is a project that has been going on for about five years in Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, where they are using the aerated cart for yard waste collection.”
For commercial organics diversion, the aerated carts may be less suitable given the volumes captured and the need for frequent collection. “We tried them early on, but we found that there was so much moisture that it leaked out through the vents,” says Otto Fasthuber, who works with F&M Distributing, Inc. in Ontario, a distributor of Otto and IPL collection containers. “Because of the volumes, the carts need to be picked up on a more frequent basis, so it is overkill to have the aerated cart.”
The IPL Bio Cart is available in 64- and 95-gallon sizes. It includes air release vents on the lid, and four perforated aeration vents in the body of the cart. There is a rust-resistant raised floor grate to facilitate air flow. Otto also manufactures aerated carts.
KITCHEN COLLECTORS ROUND OUT PROGRAMS
As part of the rollout of its 13-gallon curbside green cart, Norseman Plastics developed a 1.9-gallon kitchen container. The combination of the cart and kitchen collector is at the heart of Norseman’s source separated organics marketing strategy. “Our specialty has been developing food waste programs,” explains Hill. “We don’t view ourselves as a supplier of food waste bins but as a supplier of a program to help municipalities and counties achieve high participation rates. Our package includes a DVD on how to use the kitchen collector and green cart, a magnet, literature and other items that are customized for a municipality. That is part of the program rollout, which helps to achieve higher household participation rates. The education process helps residents see the value and simplicity of recycling organics. If residents understand that, municipalities get a lot fewer complaints.”
Hill encourages communities to start out with the program that they want households to adopt over the long-term. “Some municipalities initially will let residents use plastic grocery store bags in their green bins to encourage participation, and then six months later, not allow them due to contamination problems,” he says. “That requires reeducation. It is better to start them off where you want them to end up. Ultimately, that will achieve the best participation rate.”
Busch Systems offers two sizes of its “Kitchen Compost Carrier” – 5.8 quarts and 9.6 quarts. The containers are sold with an optional charcoal filter. “Organics start breaking down in the container and moisture is released through the filter,” explains Ted Boothe of Busch Systems. “In addition, it also reduces odors.” The company also markets 14.4- and 21-gallon vermicomposting units as well.
SSI Schaefer also has a kitchen container available, which is primarily sold in Canada and Europe. “It can take a while for households to get used to separating food waste, and we think the kitchen pails help in that process,” says Knaub.
In keeping with its convenience-builds-participation theme, Norseman recently introduced a new line of recycling containers for multifamily units. Marketed as the MURFE – Multi-Unit Recycler For Everyone – the system has stackable containers that enable households to separate containers, paper and other materials. Each unit has a 6-gallon capacity, and is equipped with a handle so they can be carried (along with a kitchen organics container) to a building’s recycling area.
DURABILITY AND CORROSION
Most commercial and institutional generators participating in food residuals recycling programs opt for wheeled containers to move heavy organics from the points of generation to the loading docks or waste collection areas. Some use small, non-wheeled bins in the kitchen, which are emptied into larger, wheeled carts. Weight is the critical issue, as containers with food residuals get extremely heavy very quickly.
Cart manufacturers are reinforcing handles and bars so the containers can withstand being emptied by automated collection vehicles. Rehrig Pacific addressed the durability issue when it introduced the Nuwave rotationally molded one-piece all-plastic containers for commercial food waste and recyclables. The top rim is reinforced to add strength. The containers, which are on wheels, range in size from 2- to 6-cubic yards.
Otto also has a new commercial container series that can be used for food residuals collection. The Momentum line of rotationally molded front and rear load containers is a “hybrid” of a plastic dumpster with stainless steel hardware. They have metal parts where the most wear-and-tear occurs during collections, as well as thicker plastic at the stress point areas, says Kirsti Nelson of Otto. “These plastic containers are good for food waste because the acidity in certain foods corrodes metal. We are marketing these containers to restaurants.”
There are drain plugs on the sides and caster plates on the bottom with Neoprene gaskets where the plate meets the container bottom, which seals the area tightly, she adds. Containers range in size from 2- to 8-cubic yards.