BioCycle World

BioCycle February 2012, Vol. 53, No. 2, p. 6

A Tribute To Melvin Finstein

Dr. Melvin Finstein, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and a long-time composting researcher, passed away in late January. His BS and MS degrees were from Cornell, and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. As a Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers, he lectured on Pollution Microbiology and Solid Waste Research and Treatment. BioCycle remembers Dr. Finstein’s research and writing on the integration of composting process microbiology with facility structure and decision-making. In 1987, we published a 4-part series authored by Dr. Finstein and three colleagues about the USEPA’s “Guidance on Sludge Composting.” In the introduction to the article series (January 1987 – April 1987), the authors stated that “the fundamental problem is that EPA views composting as a physical process and gives priority to structural, mechanical and materials handling aspects over biological process controls.” Topics of the series were: Biological Heat Generation and Temperature; Biological Process Control; Oxygen, Moisture, Odor, Pathogens; and Facility Design and Operations. While controversial at the time, this study contributed significantly to the science and practice of composting.

In his later years, Dr. Finstein and his wife Jeanne became involved with technologies for anaerobic digestion of municipal organics, as well as livestock manure. At his request, memorial contributions can be made to Rutgers University, designated for the Finstein Award, c/o Peter Strom, Dept. of Environmental Science, Rutgers University, 14 College Farm Rd., New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8551.

Food Network Takes On Waste

In the Food Network’s January 15 segment “The Big Waste,” first-class chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli tackled the problem of waste in the food industry. Divided into two teams, with only 48 hours on the clock, the chefs were challenged to create a multicourse gourmet banquet worthy of their great reputations, but with a big twist — they could only use food that is on its way to the trash. The chefs’ hunt takes them from grocery aisles to produce farms, and orchards to garbage piles as they attempt to source enough ingredients to feed a gathering crowd. Bobby and Michael square off against Anne and Alex, as they challenge their views of food waste and how and why it is created. “Actually you’re saving me money, because I’ve got to pay the trash man to take it away,” one grocer tells Flay as he loads him up with expired or blemished but perfectly palatable product. To see a trailer, www.foodnetwork.com/videos/the-big-retail-food-waste/91589.html.

Austin Adopts Zero Waste Plan

At its meeting on Dec. 15, the Austin City Council unanimously approved the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, a long-term plan that projects future activities and services for the next 30 years, and empowers the Austin community to achieve a drastic reduction in the amount of trash sent to area landfills. “Austin Resource Recovery is transforming from an agency focused on waste management collection to one focused on materials resource management,” says Bob Gedert, Austin Resource Recovery Director. “This Master Plan is the road map to get us to Zero Waste.”

The plan focuses first on reducing trash and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. In 2009, City Council passed the state’s first Zero Waste Plan and set a goal to reduce the amount of waste sent to area landfills by 90 percent by 2040; the new plan calls for that target to be achieved by 2030. The Master Plan includes establishing reuse centers and drop-off facilities throughout the city to recover a variety of recyclable, reusable and repairable materials; enhancing the single stream recycling program by accepting additional material types; conducting a pilot to collect yard trimmings, food scraps and compostable paper at the curb and rolling out a new citywide organics collection program based on pilot program results; developing and operating a new Household Hazardous Waste Facility in north Austin; phasing in universal recycling and composting requirements to all waste generators, both residential and commercial, within the City of Austin; redeveloping land at the closed city landfill for an Eco-Industrial Park, where major remanufacturing facilities are colocated with processors of recycled materials; and creating policies and ordinances to support Zero Waste. The Master Plan can be viewed at austinrecycles.com.

Sites Initiative Certifies First Projects

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) has announced the first three projects to be certified by the nation’s most comprehensive system for rating the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. These initial projects are the St. Charles, Missouri, campus of Novus International, Inc.; the Green at College Park of the University of Texas at Arlington; and the Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The three are among 150-plus pilot projects that began testing the four-star rating system in summer 2010. Among the features Novus developed for its 9-acre headquarters are a detention basin to capture storm water on site and provide aquatic habitat, and a vegetable garden that staff maintains, which is fed by a windmill-powered well that retrieves rainwater stored underground. The Green at College Park created an open lawn, pedestrian promenade, shade arbor and more on roughly 3 acres in downtown Arlington. The Shelby Farms Park restored a woodland and is promoting children’s health by installing a 4.25 acre playground (using recycled materials).

SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. The partners have collaborated since 2005 — working with dozens of volunteers from a variety of professions — in developing a voluntary, national rating system and set of performance benchmarks for sustainable landscapes in areas with or without buildings. The SITES rating system includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional flexible credits to choose from. The credit options, totaling 250 points, address areas such as the use of redeveloping brownfields or grayfields, soil restoration, water conservation, use of recycled materials and native vegetation and sustainable construction and land maintenance approaches. Projects selected to be pilots are at various stages of development and represent a diverse mix of types, sizes, locations and budgets. For more information about SITES, visit www.sustainablesites.org.

Life Cycle Analyses For MSW Management Options

The Integrated Solid Waste Management group at North Carolina State University is developing a life cycle optimization model capable of analyzing solid waste management (SWM) performance at both the individual process and integrated system levels. The model takes into account implications of greenhouse gas mitigation policies and competing SWM objectives (e.g., costs, emissions and diversion targets). It is intended to estimate the costs, emissions and environmental impacts associated with the processes and alternatives (e.g., collection, separation, waste-to-energy, composting, anaerobic digestion and landfilling) that constitute the SWM system. As part of the project, the research team is developing and updating life cycle models for composting operations. To ensure the models are as accurate and up-to-date as possible, the team is collecting data from composting facility operators.

The project will result in life cycle analysis (LCA) models for different processes available to operators to investigate their environmental impacts, and provide a framework to put them all together so that counties, municipalities and other decision-making stakeholders can assess options based on their own goals and constraints. James W. Levis, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State, says the ultimate product will assist community planners in answering questions such as, “If I do this instead of that, what are the costs and environmental impacts when you look at the system-wide LCA,” and how to match goals (and sometimes mandates) such as emission reduction and increased diversion with both budgetary constraints and regionally available technologies. “The survey will help develop those kinds of default input numbers,” he says. The composting model and entire life-cycle optimization model will be publicly available upon completion. Find and participate in the survey at www4.ncsu.edu/~jwlevis.

County Saves The Rain

Onondaga County, New York’s “Save the Rain” program is a comprehensive storm water management plan intended to reduce pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries. During heavy wet weather events, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) impair the quality of local waterways including the lake. Since 1998, Onondaga County has been under an Amended Consent Judgment (ACJ) order by the federal courts to take steps to reduce and/or eliminate the frequency of CSO events. Under the ACJ, the county has completed dozens of projects related to CSO abatement and reduction.

In January 2008, county officials and interested stakeholders began to investigate alternative options to the use of conventional infrastructure to manage storm water runoff, working with all parties of the ACJ to develop a new environmentally friendly plan. In November 2009, a U.S. District Court Judge signed a revised ACJ plan that included an aggressive initiative to develop green infrastructure that will position Onondaga County as a leader in the use of environmentally sustainable solutions to reduce storm water pollution. Under a program entitled “Project 50,” Onondaga County constructed 50 distinct green infrastructure projects to return rain water and snow melt to the ground instead of to the sewer system.  Projects include a 60,000 square foot green roof on the Onondaga County Convention Center designed to capture more than 1 million gallons of rainfall annually. Another project involves the county partnering with the AHL professional hockey team, the Syracuse Crunch, on a water-reuse project at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena. The system captures rainwater for heating and cooling and to make ice for the hockey rink. The county’s Department of Water Environment Protection created the Green Improvement Fund to provide financial incentives for green infrastructure projects including tree trenches, planter boxes, porous pavement, bioswales, rain gardens, green streetscapes and cisterns. Find out more at http://savetherain.us.

Less Than Zero Waste?

Passed in September 2010, Florida’s House Bill 7243 allows Florida counties to tally tons of trash incinerated to generate electricity in the “recycling” column toward meeting the state’s 75 percent diversion goal (by 2020) set by then Governor Charlie Crist. This effectively let some counties that host waste-to-energy (WTE) projects claim recycling rates that were actually more than 100 percent. For instance, Palm Beach County, with a population of close to 1.3 million, had a traditional recycling rate of 35 percent in 2009. With the WTE credits established in 2010 that figure shoots up to 112 percent.

A new bill, HB 503, would limit the amount of trash burned for electricity that could count as recycling. Under the proposed changes, ash, which now counts toward recycling across the board, would count as waste (unless it was recycled); one megawatt hour of power produced would be equal to 1 ton of recycling credit if the traditional recycling rate were under 50 percent and 1.25 tons if the traditional recycling rate were 50 percent or more, for a maximum credit of 76 percent. Under the new formula, Palm Beach County would have a total recycling rate of 62 percent.

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