BioCycle October 2009, Vol. 50, No. 10, p. 6
Organic Waste Digestion Protocol Adopted
The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Organic Waste Digestion (OWD) Project Protocol, which provides a standardized approach for quantifying, monitoring and verifying greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from organic waste diversion projects. Development of the OWD protocol was described in a detailed article in last month’s BioCycle, “GHG Reductions From Organic Waste Digestion.” It is the first protocol in the U.S. to incentivize the diversion of food waste from landfills to anaerobic digesters, according to CAR. The protocol also allows for the capture and destruction of methane at industrial wastewater treatment facilities. “Diverting food scraps from landfills to anaerobic digesters not only directly reduces potent greenhouse gases, but also provides clean fuels and renewable energy to help the state meet its climate goals,” said Nick Lapis, Policy Associate, Californians Against Waste. For additional information, visit www.climateactionreserve.org.
New Food Waste Cost Calculator
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a Food Waste Management Cost Calculator. The tool estimates the cost competitiveness of alternatives to food waste disposal such as composting, source reduction, donation and recycling of fats, oils and grease (FOG). It is intended to demonstrate that environmentally and socially responsible food waste management for many facilities is cost-effective.
The Calculator is in the form of an Excel document, allowing for customized information based on specific scenarios. It develops an alternative food waste management scenario based on: The user’s waste profile; Availability of diversion methods; and Preferences, and compares cost estimates for a disposal versus an alternative scenario. The more users of the calculator know about their current waste management costs, the more accurate the calculator’s estimate will be, however default values are provided for many variables. A waste log worksheet is also included. The Excel file should be saved to a computer’s hard drive in order to achieve optimum performance. Macros need to be enabled for the calculator to work properly.
Besides demonstrating the potential cost savings, the calculator includes a Benefits tab, which provides a broad summary of the environmental benefits associated with food waste diversion, such as improving land use (e.g. reducing demand on landfills, etc.), fighting climate change, protecting soils through composting, and strengthening organizations and communities. This tab also includes a link to EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), which estimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of baseline and alternative waste management practices. To download the Calculator, go to www.epa.gov/foodscraps.
USDA Research On Growing Strawberries Favorable To Compost Sock
A research study conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory and the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory evaluated the effect of cultivation practices for controlling strawberry black root rot (BRR) on fruit quality, antioxidant capacity and flavonoid content in two strawberry cultivars. Researchers compared three growing methods – matted row systems, black plastic mulch and Filtrexx compost socks filled with 100 percent leaf and yard trimmings compost. The findings, which will be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, show that fruit from plants grown in compost socks had significantly higher soluble solid content and sugar (fructose, glucose and sucrose) as well as higher antioxidant capacities than fruit grown in black plastic mulch or matted rows. The research was conducted by Shiow Wang and Patricia Millner of USDA. Their journal article, “Effect of Different Cultural Systems on Antioxidant Capacity, Phenolic Content, and Fruit Quality of Strawberries,” is available in an online version and will be published at a later date.
“Biospecs” For Compostable Food Service Ware
“Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Specifications for Compostable Biobased Food Service Ware,” was released in September. Nicknamed “BioSpecs,” it has been in development for two years by the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC), a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Business-NGO Working Group, a project of Clean Production Action. “Making products from renewable resources is important,” says Stanley Eller, coordinator of the SBC. “However, biobased content is not the only measure of sustainability.” The BioSpecs examine products based on three stages of lifecycle, and rank them according to level of performance:
Biomass production: Genetically modified crops allowed in field with offset (Bronze); Product must be 100 percent biobased carbon with documentation (Silver); Agricultural biomass must be sustainably grown (Gold).
Manufacturing: Hot cups must contain 10 percent postconsumer recycled content (Bronze); No highly hazardous additives such as DEHP or phthalates (Silver); Local ownership and production must be promoted (Gold).
End of life: Products must be commercially compostable (Bronze); Products must be compostable in backyard or home process (Silver); Products must biodegrade in marine environment (Gold).
Although no organization currently provides second or third party certification for all of these specifications, the BioSpecs are intended to provide a framework for buyers to evaluate the sustainability of compostable products. They also serve as guidelines for manufacturers interested in improving the sustainability of their products. A webinar on Friday October 30 will provide more information on BioSpecs, and allow for feedback. To register, go to www.intertechpira.com, and click on the e-Learning tab. For more on BioSpecs, visit www.sustainablebiomaterials.org.
Reducing GHG Emissions Via Recycling, Composting And Land Reuse
According to a new U.S. EPA report, there is much potential to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gases through recycling, waste reduction, smart growth and reusing formerly contaminated sites including brownfields. Released in September, “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” finds that 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are influenced by materials management policies. This includes impacts from extracting raw materials, food processing and manufacturing to transporting and disposing of products. Another 16 to 20 percent of emissions are associated with land management policies, including emissions from passenger transportation, construction, and from lost vegetation when greenfields are cleared for development. In addition, the equivalent of 13 percent of U.S. emissions is absorbed by soil and vegetation and can also be protected or enhanced through land management policies.
To illustrate the potential for GHG reduction and avoidance opportunities, the analysis includes several “total technical potential” scenarios. The term refers to the estimated GHG emission reduction that could occur if the scenarios presented are achieved, setting aside economic, institutional or technological limitations. Total technical potential scenarios are useful for scoping the order of magnitude impact of an activity. For materials management, scenarios evaluated by EPA include Source Reduction, Reuse/Recycling and Energy Recovery/Disposal. Incremental levels (25, 50 and 100 percent) are used to illustrate GHG emissions benefits. For example, a combination of increasing – by 100 percent – recycling of C&D materials, the nation’s MSW recycling and composting rate and composting of food scraps would result in a total GHG emissions benefit of 470 MMTCO2E/year. In comparison, combusting 100 percent of the MSW currently landfilled would yield 70 to 120 MMTCO2E/year; capturing 100 percent of currently emitted landfill methane for electricity generation would yield 150 MMTCO2E/year. A link to the report is available at www.epa.gov/oswer/publication.htm.
Composting In Gaza
The de facto government in Gaza’s Ministry of Agriculture plans to use compost as a solution to the blockade on fertilizers entering the Gaza Strip. The blockade has caused severe problems for the area’s agriculture. Project engineers Shaher Ar-Refi and Mohammad Al-Muzein are researching designs for a prototype composter. According to Ar-Refi, a major challenge to their research is being limited to browsing the Internet, doing primitive field studies where the compost was prepared and a lack of other pieces of equipment for reference. The prototype will use car parts and old machinery, with the resulting equipment estimated to cost no more than 90 USD. Farmers will be educated on selecting appropriate city and agricultural organic wastes to use for composting.
Center For Sustainability
The American Public Works Association created the Center for Sustainability in 2008 to define what sustainability in public works means and identify tools and resources needed to build more sustainable communities. A team of 12 APWA members was assembled to advise the Center for Sustainability on how to achieve its four core strategies, explains Julia Anastasio, APWA’s Director for Sustainability. These include building a structure within the association to motivate public works practitioners to act more sustainably and provide an integrated vision for adopting sustainable practices across all aspects of public works, e.g., water, transportation, facilities and grounds, waste management, storm water, etc. “A very important message from our leadership group is that we pay particular attention to communicating that sustainability is very broad, and doesn’t just focus on the green side of the equation,” adds Anastasio. “Sustainability also includes financial stability, good succession planning and working within the social context of communities.” APWA is holding its 2nd Annual Sustainability in Public Works Conference on June 8 to 10, 2010 in Minneapolis. Details are available at www.apwa.net/sustainability.
Danish Experiment In Self-Sufficiency
Last year the Danish island of Samso completed a 10-year experiment to determine whether it could be energy self-sufficient, installing residential straw-burning furnaces, solar panels and windmills, reports an article in the New York Times. The island generates just enough electricity for its needs if all wind turbines on the island are considered. Biomass plants burning locally grown wheat and rye straw account for 75 percent of the heating needs. Several residents use geothermal heat pumps to heat their houses. One particularly innovative farmer uses a special pump to extract heat from his cows’ milk, to warm his house (he has 150 Holsteins). Energy experts say that the crucial measurement of sufficiency is energy density, requiring two watts for every square meter, a criteria that the island meets. Delegates from the United Nations climate summit, to be convened in Copenhagen in December, will be taken to Samso to see the island’s successes and challenges.
Compilation Of State Composting Rules
For over a year, state composting regulators have been talking and comparing notes on a host of issues, from how to increase composting of food wastes to how to streamline facility permitting. Stephanie Busch, Program Manager with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Waste Reduction Unit, collected and compiled compost rules from a number of states. The compilation is located at www.georgiaepd.org/Documents/fwd.html. The searchable pdf is entitled “Summary of State Composting Regulations.”