BioCycle February 2009, Vol. 50, No. 2, p. 10
Senate Bill Promotes Biogas Production
A bipartisan group led by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska has introduced the Biogas Production Incentives Act of 2009, which would pursue greater production of biogas for energy purposes by providing a tax credit of $4.27 for every million British thermal units (mmBtu) of biogas produced.
Anaerobic digesters would be eligible to receive this incentive. “We already have the technology to break down these wastes to create biogas but it needs encouragement from the federal government to become a commercially viable alternative to natural gas,” says Nelsen. “This new energy source would benefit rural communities and the environment while lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring energy security. We shouldn’t waste the waste; we should promote biogas development.” The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, John Thune of South Dakota, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. According to a report by the Senate Agriculture Committee, 1.37 billion tons of solid animal waste are produced in the U.S. annually.
Super (Bowl) Playground
Filtrexx International of Grafton, Ohio, the National Football League (NFL), Home Depot and Kaboom – along with almost 300 community volunteers – got together on the Wednesday before the Superbowl (January 27) to build a playground as part of the NFL Super Bowl experience in Tampa, Florida. Kaboom, a nonprofit, coordinates the construction of about 70 playgrounds a year across the country. It focuses on bringing play spaces to communities that could otherwise not afford them. Heather Burt, Filtrexx’s Director of Playground Design, worked with Kaboom for over six months to incorporate Filtrexx Garden Soxx™ into the playground design. Filtrexx installed three separate growing spaces – a maze, a toddler trike track/climbing snake and a food garden. The Garden Soxx were filled with locally-produced compost and vegetated with plugs donated by a local grower. A total of 250, 3-foot long Garden Soxx (with drip tape) were installed in one day. Seven NFL players joined in the effort to turn this vacant East Tampa lot into a playground.
A Filtrexx playground and garden installation will be featured on BioCycle’s Celebrating Success Tour, April 30, 2009, as part of BioCycle’s 2009 International Conference – April 27-30 in San Diego. Burt, with the assistance of Agri Service, Inc., a local composting and mulch company, installed the compost-filled Garden Soxx at an elementary school in San Diego in early February. For more information on the conference and the tour see pages 6-9 of this issue, or go to www.biocycle50.com.
An article in the January 2009 issue of BioCycle, “Biomass Harvesting Strategies,” incorrectly states: “Harvesting the maximum amount of stover possible using the new system will yield about 400 tons of dry material per acre.” This is a typo, and should read that the maximum yield is about 4 tons per acre. We apologize for this statistical error, brought to our attention by a reader.
WRAP Initiatives To Reduce Food Waste
Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) recently announced a commitment from the United Kingdom’s grocery sector to reduce food waste at the source. Delivered under WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign, signatories of the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement led by WRAP, include grocery retailers, brands and manufacturers, who have agreed to help reduce the amount of household food disposed of by 155,000 metric tons by 2010 (against a 2008 baseline). Potential solutions to be examined include better labeling, package size range, storage advice and packaging designed to keep food fresher for longer. “We want to see packaging innovation and advice to help shoppers make positive product choices and make the best use of the food they buy, therefore reducing the amount of waste,” says WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin.
WRAP also launched a new Organics Funding Guide, which identifies potential sources of money for food waste processing initiatives, including composting and anaerobic digestion. “Interest in organics recycling is at an all time high and we receive a number of enquiries from organizations looking to enter the market or expand their existing activities,” says Clair Kneller at WRAP. “This guide provides people with a quick and simple method of identifying funding opportunities as well as putting them in touch with other useful organizations and resources.” To download the guide, visit www.WRAP.org.uk/composting.
Environmentalists Call For 50-Year Farm Bill
A recent Op-Ed, titled “A 50-Year Farm Bill,” in the New York Times (January 5, 2009) details the environmental severity of America’s industrial agriculture. Although coauthors Wes Jackson, who founded the Land Institute, and Wendell Berry, a farmer and writer, commend the efforts being made by thoughtful farmers and consumers, they prescribe stronger government policy with a longer-term vision. Jackson echoes these sentiments in a follow-up interview for AlterNet, an online news website, titled “Is America on the Brink of a Food Crisis?” (January 29, 2009):
“We live off of what comes out of the soil, not what’s in the bank. If we squander the ecological capital of the soil, the capital on paper won’t much matter… For the past 50 or 60 years, we have followed industrialized agricultural policies that have increased the rate of destruction of productive farmland. For those 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe the absurd notion that as long as we have money we will have food. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy…”
“Support for soil conservation and protecting water resources have to be central. There needs to be funding for research on a different model for agriculture… Either we pay attention or we pay a huge price, not so far down the road. When we face the fact that civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland, it’s clear that we don’t really have a choice…”
“A 50-year farm bill represents a vision that stresses the need to protect soil from erosion, cut the wastefulness of water, cut fossil-fuel dependence, eliminate toxins in soil and water, manage carefully the nitrogen of the soil, reduce dead zones, restore an agrarian way of life and preserve farmland from development.” Read the full interview at www.alternet.org.
$25 Million In Funding For Biomass Research
The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture announced up to $25 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products. “A robust biofuels industry – focused on the next generation of biofuels – is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our addiction to foreign oil and putting Americans back to work,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Funds will be targeted at three technical areas: feedstock development; biofuels and biobased products development; and biofuels development analysis. Advanced biofuels from these sources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 percent. Award announcements are planned to range from $1 million up to $5 million, with project periods up to five years. More details on the grants can be accessed at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal.
Recyclemania Games Begin!
NCAA basketball aside, the real competition on America’s college campuses this spring is RecycleMania, a nationwide contest for colleges and universities to see who can reduce, reuse and recycle/compost the most campus waste. Over a 10-week period from January 18 to March 28, 2009, participating schools measure the success of their recycling and waste prevention efforts. This year’s 510 schools (the most in the competition’s history) represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for the first time institutions from outside the U.S. “RecycleMania’s success comes from its ability to use competitive spirit and campus rivalries to motivate students who are less likely to respond to ‘save the earth’ kinds of messages,” says Stacy Wheeler, a professor at the University of North Florida and cofounder of the RecycleMania competition.
Each week, on Friday afternoon, the standings are posted online for all participants to see, motivating campuses to work harder. Colleges and universities choose to participate in one of two divisions. The Competition Division houses the traditional competitive rankings based on standard reporting criteria. The Benchmark Division allows schools to unofficially compare themselves with other schools, and promote RecycleMania on campus, without the formal reporting requirements of the competitive ranking. Each division in turn features several categories, such as Waste Minimization, in which schools compete to see who can generate the least amount of overall solid waste per capita. From these categories, RecycleMania awards its Grand Champion based on who recycles the greatest overall percentage of their solid waste stream. Additional recognition is given to schools that collect the most paper, beverage containers, cardboard, and food waste for recycling, as well as the greatest overall amount of recyclables.
The RecycleMania competition is administered by the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), with program development and planning by a steering committee made up of collegiate recycling managers from participating universities. The competition is managed in conjunction with NRC’s College and University Recycling Council (CURC). To view past years’ results or see 2009 weekly updates, go to www.recyclemania.org.
Website Offers University Research On Organic Agriculture
A new web resource, called eOrganic, provides research, news and learning modules on organic agriculture from land-grant universities nationwide. “This new resource is for anyone who wants to learn more about organic agriculture, one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture,” says Alex Stone, Oregon State University vegetable specialist. It is designed for all levels of expertise, and includes frequently asked questions, expert advice, video clips, articles and upcoming events. For instance, the “Ask an Expert” section allows individuals to contact experts nationwide for personalized advice. Articles, such as “Making and Using Compost in Organic Agriculture,” offer detailed information on a variety of topics. Organic agriculture specialists compiled content for the website, which then goes through a review process before it is released.
The eOrganic website is a subsection of eXtension, an online educational partnership of more than 70 land grant universities across the U.S. It offers timely, objective, research-based information and educational opportunities on topics such as wildlife damage management, geospatial technology, horticulture, animal manure management, and more. For more information, visit eOrganic at www.extension.org/organic_production.
EPA Office Of Solid Waste Has New Name
Not only does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have a new Administrator – Lisa Jackson – its Office of Solid Waste (OSW) has a new name: the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR). Effective January 18, 2009, the name change “reflects the breadth of the responsibilities/authorities that Congress provided to EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the primary authorizing statute,” notes an EPA fact sheet. “The ORCR has three divisions, which consolidate the operations of the six divisions under the old OSW structure. EPA has increased focus on resource conservation and materials management.” The three divisions are Materials Recovery and Waste Management, Resource Conservation and Sustainability and Program Implementation and Information. For additional information, visit: www.epa.gov/epawaste/basicinfo.htm.
Electric Efficiency Could Eliminate Need For 60 Percent Of Coal-Fired Generation
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)’s report “Assessing the Electric Productivity Gap and the U.S. Efficiency Opportunity,” is the first in a three-part series of reports that will provide states with clear levers for increasing electric productivity through accelerated energy efficiency implementation. The first report states that efficiency alone could cut 30 percent of U.S. electric use and avoid the need for 60 percent of coal-fired generation. It also shows that the gap between the top 10 performing states in the U.S. and the national average is large, and strongly suggests that the U.S. has the opportunity to rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of electricity while growing our economy. “Closing the electric productivity gap through energy efficiency is the single largest near-term opportunity to immediately reduce electricity use and greenhouse gases, and move the United States forward as a leader in the new clean energy economy,” says Natalie Mims, a consultant on RMI’s Energy and Resources Team.
A companion interactive map was released with the report, which ranks electric productivity for each of the 50 states, pointing out opportunities for low ranking states (like Kentucky and Mississippi) to adopt practices used by top-ranked states (like New York, Connecticut and California). The top performing states can serve as examples, with known and tested technology and policy.
The second report will assess how to cost-effectively close the electric productivity gap, and the final report in the series will focus on RMI’s implementation efforts. To download the first report, or to view the interactive map, visit www.rmi.org.