Composting Roundup

BioCycle March 2012, Vol. 53, No. 3, p. 12

Corvallis, Oregon
Evolution Of A Composting Facility

Pacific Region Compost (PRC), located near Corvallis and owned by Republic Services, opened in 1992 to process wood waste. “The initial idea was to help Benton County, where we are located, get its recovery rate up,” says Jordan Trimmer of PRC. “The low hanging fruit for the county was wood waste, which we ground and sold as hog fuel.” Over the next few years, PRC began servicing other communities in the region with yard trimmings collection and composting, first on a small-scale and then gradually growing into higher volumes. In the past five years, however, PRC’s growth has been exponential. “We went from being about a 10,000 tons/year facility for almost 20 years to almost doubling every year since Allied Waste merged with Republic Services in 2008,” notes Trimmer. “In 2010, PRC processed just about 45,000 tons; in 2011, it was close to 90,000 tons.” The bulk of organics received are yard trimmings, along with growing volumes of residential and commercial food waste. “Communities in this area wanted to increase their recovery rates by starting residential curbside food waste collection,” he adds. “We decided that to service our municipal markets and be leaders in the industry, we needed to upgrade our composting permit to take food waste.”

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had recently completed revisions to its composting rule that created three permitting levels based on the level of risk potentially posed by a facility. The primary risk factors evaluated are impacts to groundwater and surface water, and generation of malodors. PRC was permitted in May 2010 as a Type 3 composting facility — the first in the state to be permitted under the revised rules. Type 3 facilities can receive meat and source separated mixed food waste and industrially-produced nonvegetative food waste along with other materials. Last year, PRC processed about 2,000 tons of commercial food waste.

The composting facility was built on an old military base, and is adjacent to Republic’s Coffin Butte Landfill. With the new permit, PRC paved two acres for the composting pad, installed a negative aeration system and built a series of storm water retention ponds and bioswales. Windrows are covered with Griffolyn tarps (the same material used at the landfill). “The covers keep the heat in and odors down, and also provide moisture control during the rainy months,” says Trimmer. “We found that as we take pile temperatures, we perforated our tarps, which helped draw air into the piles. The air from our process is treated in a biofilter.” PRC uses Komptech equipment for shredding, windrow turning and compost screening. The compost is sold into a number of markets including agriculture and commercial bagging. Pacific Region Compost is one of the tour stops during BioCycle’s West Coast Conference in Portland, Oregon in mid-April (visit www.BioCycleWestCoast.com for details and to register).

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Kompost Kids Take To The Streets

Kompost Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization, connects residents and businesses to composting sites at community gardens and other mostly urban locations. The “Kids” — actually a mostly 30-something group of volunteers — have been composting “on a scale that’s creating a meaningful reduction in waste for the businesses we work with,” says volunteer Melissa Tashjian. “We currently haul preconsumer food waste in 5-gallon buckets with our vehicles — and with bike carts in the summer — from local restaurants [for a service fee of $10/trip], but we just recently partnered with a commercial composter who is approved to take postconsumer.” (See “The Farm’s Composting” listing at BioCycle’s www.FindAComposter.com).

Kompost Kids is establishing a commercial compost pilot program to demonstrate that with the proper logistics in place, composting can be just as economically feasible as landfilling, adds Tashjian. While the group plans to continue delivering preconsumer food waste for composting to community gardens and Sweetwater Organics’ urban aquaponics farm located conveniently next door, the ultimate goal is to educate a critical mass of the Milwaukee citizenry so the city will get on board with organics recycling.

Lansing, Michigan
Possible Repeal Of State Yard Trimmings Ban

As this issue of BioCycle went to press, legislation to repeal Michigan’s 18-year-old ban on landfilling yard trimmings had been sent from the House Energy and Technology Committee to the full House for a vote. If passed, the bill would still require source separation of yard trimmings at the curb but would allow haulers to decide whether to take the material to a composting facility or to a landfill equipped to recover methane for energy production. “This change in the landfill ban has been a solution in search of a problem for the past five legislative sessions,” says JD Lindeberg of Resource Recycling Systems in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “We successfully fought if off four times. The folks in favor of this are in part Granger [a waste management company with seven gas-capture equipped landfills operating in Michigan], but at this point I think most of the other waste companies are with them.”

The initial arguments that there was no existing organics recycling infrastructure and that banning yard trimmings in landfills was going to be too expensive has now morphed into the idea that lifting the ban is somehow going to help the state’s green economy by boosting biogas production, notes Lindeberg. What companion House Bills 4265 and 4266 would actually do if successful, he adds, is likely force small composting operations out of business. Lindeberg states that he is “unequivocally in favor of all landfills installing gas capture systems, but yard waste itself is a really poor generator of gas. I think this is a pretty clear play by the landfill industry to recapture hundreds of millions of dollars in tip fees they think should go to them because they always did go to them and they want it back.”

Waste Management Vice President of Midwest Public Affairs Tom Horton says his company supports the current repeal language for three main reasons: 1) It puts control over organics in the hands of local communities; 2) Products remain source separated at the curb — and therefore their maximum value may be realized; and 3) It will encourage operators of composting facilities, renewable energy projects and others to make value propositions for processing those organics. Waste Management operates 16 of the state’s 49 landfills, eight of them with gas recovery systems. BioCycle will provide frequent updates on the ban repeal legislation on its website, biocycle.net, and in upcoming issues.

Lyman, Maine
Farm Expands Food Waste Composting

Tibbetts Family Farm recently received a Maine Farms for the Future grant offering technical and business planning assistance to allow the farm to expand its food waste composting operation. “It’s almost like a research grant,” says John Tibbetts. The business includes 12 acres of vegetable production sold through a farm stand, manure hauling from about 60 farms and commercial-scale composting. “One of our compost customers, The Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, asked us to consider composting their food waste,” Tibbetts says, adding that in Maine, composting is regulated by either the Maine Department of Agriculture or the Department of Environmental Protection, depending on the material and volume being composted.  Under the agriculture department rules, Tibbetts can take up to 10,000 cubic yards of manure annually; the quota for food waste was initially 30 cy/month.

Next, Tibbetts was approached by the Kennebunk School District to collect food waste at six public schools. He partnered with Troiano Waste Services, a local waste hauler, to help him manage the task. Then he tried to get the state law changed. “Last year, we had a bill before the state legislature that would increase the food waste limit to 100 yards a month,” he says. “They ended up doubling it to 60.”

Tibbetts composts in windrows on rotated cropland and turns piles with a bucket loader. He provides customers with 64 gallons toters equipped with wheels, covers and liners, which they may rent or purchase. The farm sells a fully mature compost called “Barnyard Blend” that is screened to a half-inch, available in bags or bulk at the farm and through several retail outlets. It also sells “Half Baked,” a compost that has gone through several heat cycles to kill weed seed and pathogens but isn’t fully cured and still contains active nitrogen.  This unscreened product is popular with area farmers. “With a small, growing business, you’ve got to diversify,” says Tibbetts.

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