BioCycle June 2010, Vol. 51, No. 6, p. 6
Congressional Report On Anaerobic Digestion
“Anaerobic digestion may help to address two congressional concerns that have some measure of interdependence: development of clean energy sources and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” That is the opening sentence of a new report – Anaerobic Digestion: Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction and Energy Generation – for Congress written by Kelsi Bracmort, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service, and released in early May (www.crsdocuments.com). The report focuses on agricultural applications, providing information on anaerobic digestion (AD) systems, technology adoption, challenges to widespread implementation and policy interventions that could affect adoption of the technology.
Recommendations for the 111th Congress to consider prior to incorporating AD technology into legislation – especially proposed legislation on clean energy and climate change mitigation – are: Identifying the primary benefit offered by an AD system, e.g., energy generation, to assist with determining which policy vehicle could support technology deployment; Determining if the methane captured will be included as a carbon offset (asks the author, “If the methane captured and combusted is not treated as a carbon offset, will the 111th Congress consider regulating the methane captured as a pollutant?”); and Identifying whether alternate sources of financial support for technology implementation are appropriate. Bracmort explains that most federal financial assistance comes in loans and grants for AD system construction. “A shorter payback period for an AD system may occur if producers receive a more substantial monetary sum for the energy generated and transferred to a utility company via a federal electricity rate premium,” she writes. “Additional tax credits may also improve the economic return for AD technology.”
Coffee Chaff To Compost
Equal Exchange in Bridgewater, Massachusetts is a worker-owned cooperative specializing in fairly traded organic coffee, tea and chocolate. It partners with small farmer cooperatives in 18 countries. The process of coffee roasting produces chaff, a skin that comes off the beans as they roast. “Each week, we produce about 30 to 40 tall garbage bags – about 430 pounds of chaff,” says Thomas Lussier, lead coffee roaster. A couple of years ago, Equal Exchange’s Rodney North (whose official title is Answer Man) began exploring ways to distribute chaff, a nutrient-rich compost feedstock, to local farmers. North soon discovered that several local farm-based businesses in the area, including Eva’s Garden, were interested in both the chaff and the burlap sacks that the beans arrive in for composting and other uses. “As an organic farmer, Eva Sommaripa was more interested than most in making her own compost and getting an organic compost ingredient was a plus,” says North. Adds Ted Perry, technical director at Eva’s: “Chaff absorbs the moisture and dries the pile out.”
James Reynolds of The Dahlia Farm in Middleboro, Massachusetts, has also utilized chaff from Equal Exchange for the last year. The farm is an organic CSA producer of vegetables and cut flowers. “We’re regularly experimenting with alternative means of production,” says Reynolds. “Initially I used the chaff as a general additive to the farm’s clay-loam soil, but soon began to specifically target mulch and bedding, mixing the chaff with soil to make a lighter backfill for both leeks and potatoes – both of which require a series of stem-covering during the growing season.” The farmers have also found use for the burlap sacks as a weed suppressant in summer and as an insulating mulch to protect bulbs and other less hardy dormant plants over the winter months.
On-Farm Energy Production Survey
The U.S Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is conducting its first-ever survey focused on renewable energy. The On-Farm Energy Production Survey is gathering information about energy production on America’s farms and ranches including the use of wind turbines, solar panels, anaerobic digesters and other alternative energy sources. Although this is the first time the survey is being conducted, it won’t be the last. Forms were mailed in early May to the producers nationwide who indicated on the 2007 Census of Agriculture that they engaged in on-farm energy production. “This is a valuable opportunity for producers to highlight the steps they are taking to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint and promote a healthy and sustainable environment,” said a NASS news release. Survey results will be available in February 2011 online at www.nass.usda.gov. For additional information on this survey or the Census of Agriculture, visit http://www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Report Highlights Compostable Packaging Disconnect
According to a recent report by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a large chasm exists between those producing and utilizing compostable packaging and those doing the composting. Compostable Packaging: The Reality on the Ground is based on survey results of 40 composting facilities that accept food waste. Diversity in terms of facility size, composting method and geographic location were used when selecting sites to survey. Questions covered types of food waste accepted, composting methods utilized, how packaging is handled and what problems facilities encounter in accepting packaging. Among the findings: 90 percent of facilities surveyed actively accept compostable packaging; 67.5 percent require compostable packaging to have some type of standard or certification before allowing it in the front gate; and 82.5 percent want a more universally recognizable label of compostability.
SPC – an industry working group of nearly 200 companies from across the packaging supply chain – said the survey was motivated by the packaging industry’s confusion as to how composting facilities treat foodservice packaging. “There is a disconnect between compostable packaging design and the composting facilities who deal with those materials,” said SPC Project Manager Liz Shoch, who led the project. “Composting is an effective end-of-life option for food- and beverage-soiled paper packaging, as well as compostable plastics. We hope this report sheds light on how compostable packaging is actually treated and … how we can improve the fate of compostable packaging in this country.” An article on the survey will be part of BioCycle’s Special Report on Compostable Products, to appear in the August 2010 issue.
Composting And Soil Workshops Abound
The award-winning Maine Compost School, part of The University of Maine Cooperative Extension, presents a two-day composting workshop August 16 and 17 geared toward schools and public institutions. The workshop takes place at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Maine, and the cost is $250. Teachers and instructional staff, food service providers, custodial staff, administrators and school volunteers are encouraged to attend. By the end of the workshop participants will have experienced firsthand the art and science of composting, developed the skills necessary to initiate a school (or institutional) composting program, utilized and learned applicable classroom activities, developed a network of compost colleagues and had fun in the process. CEUs available. For more information contact UMaine Extension Educator Mark Hutchinson at (207) 832-0343, (800) 244-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nonprofit Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (RMC) is sponsoring a one-day Manufactured Soils Workshop at Ridgewood Soils, Inc., July 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in Birdsboro (near Reading), Pennsylvania. The workshop is designed for soil blenders and topsoil suppliers, composters, and landscaping, nursery industry and green-building professionals. Participants will gain practical knowledge from Penn State University Soil Science and Horticulture faculty, tour the Ridgewood soil-blending facility, design and blend their our own soil and assess the quality of the final product. Registration is $90. For more information contact Richard Stehouwer at CSCO@psu.edu or (814) 863-7640.
The U.S. Composting Council (USCC) offers a Compost Operations Training Course, August 2-6, at SUNY University of New York in Cobleskill. The program includes lectures, hands-on activities and visits to regional composting facilities. Topics to be covered are biology and key process controls, site design, air quality and odor control, water quality and storm water management, compost quality, permitting and regulations, product markets/marketing and safe operations. The cost is $699 for USCC members and $799 for nonmembers. For more information contact Cary Oshins, email@example.com.