BioCycle July 2010, Vol. 51, No. 7, p. 6
Anyone planning to visit Washington, D.C. this summer should plan on a tour of the U.S. National Arboretum’s “Power Plants” exhibit, which showcases a selection of plants that are being used or tested to produce biofuels. All plants in the exhibit have characteristics that “in one way or another make them worthy of further investigation in the search for new sources of fuels,” states the brochure for the exhibit, which we toured recently. Among the 21 plants in the garden are castor bean, barley, mustard, jatropha, sugarcane, switchgrass, sorghum, algae, cuphea, camelina and peanut. Depending on when you visit Power Plants, some plots may be freshly tilled and seeded and others may be at peak growth, while in the winter, only stubble or crop residue may be visible. “Visit the exhibit often to see the entire cycle of production for each crop,” suggests the brochure. The U.S. Arboretum, located on New York Avenue in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, is part of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. For more information, visit www.usna.usda.gov.
Composting At Concerts And Festivals
Regional and national events from BioCycle to Bonnaroo are getting into the composting act as organizers try to reduce their carbon footprints and present a greener image. The four-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, one of the largest venues of its kind, is also aspiring to be one of the greenest, with waste reduction and education very much a part of the lineup. Since 2002, festival organizers have hired Clean Vibes, a North Carolina concert-cleanup company with a conscience and charged with the self-described mission of teaching “hippiecrites” to party lightly. The 780-acre Manchester, Tennessee, festival site yielded 30 tons of collected compostables this past June, with Bonnaroo’s 75,000-plus fans enticed to partake in the greening efforts through incentives such as exchanging source-separated trash for concert merchandise.
A few years ago, the 25-year-old Farm Aid benefit concert began requiring vendors and caterers to source food produced on family farms, mandating the use of compostable packaging and utensils and stationing trash and recycling educators at receptacles throughout the venue to coach concertgoers about what to put where (and why). “Farm Aid concerts serve good food from family farmers and we can’t have good food without good, rich soil,” Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder told BioCycle. “Transforming food scraps and paper products into soil creates a valuable natural resource from what would otherwise be waste. Thanks to concertgoers and a core of volunteers, Farm Aid leaves behind good soil to nurture future crops.”
Smaller regional events such as the annual Linden Hills Festival in Minneapolis are engaging volunteer “compost cops” and “trash police” to patrol for prohibited vending materials such as plastic foam cups.
Dumpster Diving Documentary Puts Its Mouth Where Its Money Was
Dive!, a documentary about food waste in America by first-time filmmaker Jeremy Seifert, has been taking the film-festival circuit by storm. Why would a movie about a bunch of friends grazing garbage in the Los Angeles suburbs garner so much attention? It’s not for the shock value, insists Seifert, but more about the subject matter’s connection to the most pressing environmental issues of our time. “If you Dumpster dive and actually eat trash, it becomes normal for you,” says Seifert. “But food waste is intimately connected to water issues, fuel issues – the food industry uses more fuel than any other sector of economy – pollution issues, abuse of the soil and overuse of pesticides. The devastation to the environment is immense.” While quirky and entertaining, Seifert’s 45-minute documentary is also sobering, questioning why so much food is thrown away in the same communities where people go hungry, and offering hard numbers that show our landfills are eating better than our poor.
One of the film’s great strengths is that it offers a solution, and that is simply to stop wasting food. “It has to start in the home first, but the big push we’re working on is schools,” explains Seifert. “We want schools to go zero waste.” The filmmaker finds it amazing that a company such as Wal-Mart will embark publicly on a zero-waste campaign while others such as Trader Joe’s that tend to cater to a more liberal clientele won’t even talk about it (Seifert was refused entrée for his initial film but says the chain granted him access after he spoke about the experience on NPR). “We’re trying to pressure Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to adopt zero waste corporate policies,” he says, offering that such a move would certainly provide a fitting end to the next cut of his film. Learn more at www.divethefilm.com.
Compost Takes A (Classification) Blow In Ontario
As of July 1st, compost is designated as a product under the Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste (MHSW) program in Ontario, Canada. Specifically, the implicated products in this MHSW initiative are bagged composts made from animal manure (e.g., cattle, sheep, horse, worms, etc.) and compost products whose labels talk about compost’s value as a growing medium. “What this means for the consumer is that he/she will likely need to pay an eco-fee of 15 to 18 cents/bag of compost (a penny per kilogram) to pay for the Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste collection program in Ontario,” explains a notice on the Compost Council of Canada’s (CCC) homepage (www.compost.org). The 15 to 18 cents will be paid into the government-approved and designated agency, Stewardship Ontario, to cover the range of fixed and variable costs associated with hazardous and special waste management programs across Ontario.
“If certain products can be considered for exemption, we respectfully ask once again that compost products also be exempted from the looming MHSW program,” says Susan Antler, Executive Director of the CCC. “There is no good environmental reason for compost to be part of a program whose primary purpose ‘is to divert hazardous household wastes from landfills or sewers.’ Compost’s inclusion in this program has absolutely nothing to do with the quality, performance or its useful benefit.” The CCC led a number of campaigns to stave off this designation, including a column in BioCycle in August 2009 (see “Act Now To Support Ontario Composters”) that helped to generate public comments in opposition to the classification. “With so much work still needing to be done to integrate organics residuals recycling as part of everyday action across our country, it is a shame that so much attention and effort has had to be diverted to an issue that should never have arisen nor become reality,” adds Antler. For more information, please contact The Compost Council of Canada @ 1 416 535 0240 or email email@example.com.
Correction To Composting School Dates
In the June issue of BioCycle, we incorrectly reported the dates of the Maine Compost School’s two-day composting workshop geared toward schools and public institutions. The correct dates are August 17 and 18, 2010, at the Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Maine. The Maine Compost School is part of The University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Teachers and instructional staff, food service providers, custodial staff, administrators and school volunteers are encouraged to attend. CEUs are available; registration fee is $250. For more information contact UMaine Extension Educator Mark Hutchinson at (207) 832-0343, (800) 244-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organic Waste Composting Project Protocol Adopted
The Climate Action Reserve (CAR), an offset registry for the North American carbon market, adopted a new standard that encourages reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) from a significant methane source in the U.S. – food waste. The Organic Waste Composting (OWC) Project Protocol provides guidelines for developing carbon offset projects and generating offset credits, which can be traded in the carbon market, by diverting food waste from landfills to composting operations.
The performance standard for this protocol defines compost feedstocks that the Reserve has determined are likely to be deposited in landfills under common practice or “business-as-usual” management practices. Only projects that divert and compost eligible feedstocks are deemed to exceed common practice and are therefore eligible for registration under this protocol. Based upon the results of the performance standard research, MSW food waste and commingled, nonrecyclable food soiled paper waste are the sole composting feedstocks deemed eligible per this protocol. The CAR defines MSW food waste as nonindustrial solid food waste commonly disposed of in a MSW system, consisting of uneaten food, food scraps, spoiled food and food preparation wastes from homes, restaurants, kitchens, grocery stores, campuses, cafeterias, or similar institutions. Food soiled paper waste includes paper napkins and tissues, paper plates, paper cups, fast food wrappers, used pizza boxes, wax-coated cardboard, and other similar paper or compostable packaging items typically disposed of in an MSW system.
MSW food waste and soiled paper waste streams are not eligible if they are sourced from grocery stores and/or supermarkets that have historically diverted these waste streams from landfills. Additionally, all grocery store waste streams composted by the project facility prior to the project start date are not eligible. To learn more, download the Organic Waste Composting protocol at www.climatectionreserve.org.
Chickens Put To Work As Recyclers
When Mouscron, Belgium, officials received a bill for 12,500 Euros (more than $15,000) for exceeding their landfill waste allowance in 2004, they knew they had to get serious about cutting back on garbage. Mouscron households were allowed 240 kg/year – about 528 pounds – but produced an average of 250 kg of refuse. City leaders and staff put together a Waste Prevention Plan with a variety of ways to reduce household waste. A reduction goal of 200 kg/household (average) by the end of 2010 was set. One strategy involved feeding it to backyard chickens.
“People here have a Mediterranean spirit!” explains Christophe Deneve, director of Mouscron’s environmental services department Cellule Environnement and an environmental zoologist. He cites an estimate that a chicken can eat 150 kg of green waste annually, turning it into 200 eggs and manure. Mouscron officials began offering families two chickens each under the provision that they keep the birds for at least two years, avoiding the obvious temptation to eat them right away. They offer a short course in chicken rearing for the uninitiated, including a brochure with the basics of chicken husbandry and a PowerPoint presentation. So far, 150 families in the city of 54,000 have adopted 300 chickens, thus effectively reducing waste by as much as 45,000 kilograms (nearly 100,000 pounds).
Cows, Geeks Could Partner To Power The Future
Rural enclaves of high-tech industry powered by dairy farm manure could become the satellite Silicon Valley’s of the future, according to a Hewlett Packard (HP) research paper presented May 19 at the ASME International Conference on Energy Sustainability in Phoenix.
The research paper details how a farm of 10,000 dairy cows could power a 1-megawatt (MW) data center – the equivalent of a medium-sized data facility – with juice left over to support other needs on the farm. Heat generated by the data center can be used to increase the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal waste, the paper suggests, with the resultant biogas used to generate power for the data center. “The idea of using animal waste to generate energy has been around for centuries, with manure being used every day in remote villages to generate heat for cooking,” said Tom Christian, a research scientist with HP’s Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab. “The new idea that we are presenting in this research is to create a symbiotic relationship between farms and the IT ecosystem that can benefit the farm, the data center and the environment.” HP researchers estimate dairy farmers would break even in costs within the first two years of using a system like this and then earn roughly $2 million annually in revenue from selling waste-derived power to data center customers.
American Biogas Council News
The American Biogas Council (ABC), incorporated in April 2010, is taking nominations for Board Members during the month of July, with elections to be held in August. Nominations and votes will only be accepted from current ABC members. Plans are to conduct ABC’s first annual membership meeting at BioCycle’s 10th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling, October 18-20, 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa. Memberships are based on the calendar year, so fees for 2010 are being prorated (50 percent discount). For more information, and ABC updates, visit www.americanbiogascouncil.org.
The Council’s Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Committee has been successful in incorporating language favorable to anaerobic digestion in several pending bills in Congress, including biogas production tax credit measures (S. 306 by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and H.R. 1158 by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY)) as well as a biogas investment tax credit proposal that will be part of the upcoming House Ways & Means Committee energy tax package. Other topics under regular discussion include the 2012 reauthorization of the Farm Bill, Renewable Portfolio Standards, feed-in tariffs, net metering, interconnections and nutrient trading.
New Guidance For CAFOs
The U.S. EPA issued new guidance to clarify what concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) must do to comply with federal clean water regulations and to help CAFO owners determine whether they need a discharge permit. Under EPA regulations (40 CFR Part 122.23), CAFOs must obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit if they discharge or propose to discharge pollutants. Language in the rule states that a CAFO proposes to discharge if “based on an objective assessment it is designed, constructed, operated or maintained such that a discharge will occur.” The new guidance sets out parameters for doing such an assessment. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/npdes/caforule.
EU Biomass Report Sets Sustainability Benchmarks
The European Commission has adopted a report on sustainability requirements for the use of solid biomass and biogas for electricity, heating and cooling. The report seeks to unify sustainability criteria for member states in order to avoid potential future obstacles for internal biomass markets. “Biomass is one of the most important resources for reaching our renewable energy targets,” said EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger. “It already contributes more than half of renewable energy consumption in the EU, providing a clean, secure and competitive energy resource.” Recommended criteria include a general prohibition on the use of biomass from land converted from forests, other high-carbon stock areas and highly biodiverse areas. Another criterion relates to a common greenhouse gas calculation methodology that could be used to ensure that minimum greenhouse gas savings from biomass are at least 35 percent (rising to 50 percent in 2017 and 60 percent in 2018 for new installations) compared to the EU’s fossil energy mix.