Composting Roundup

BioCycle August 2012, Vol. 53, No. 8, p. 12

Williston, Vermont: High Levels Of Clopyralid Found In Commercial Horse Feed

The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), which suspended the sale of compost at its Green Mountain Compost facility in late June following crop damage linked to herbicide contamination, is reporting that four samples of off-the-shelf Purina horse feed it had tested for clopyralid indicate the presence of the herbicide at levels between 142 ppb and 465 ppb (.142-.465 ppm). Susceptible plants such as peas, beans and tomatoes have shown adverse affects at exposure levels as low as .03 ppm, between 4.73 and 15.5 times lower than the levels detected in the horse feed. Initial suspicions of tainted feedstock had pointed to manure brought in from area horse farms.

“When we got the results back from the first set of individual horse farms, we sent letters to both the hauler and to the horse farms saying that we no longer could accept their horse manure,” says Tom Moreau, CSWD general manager. “It just so happens that two of the first five horse farm owners knew me and gave me a call. It was apparent that Purina feeds was a common element between the two farms, so we instructed staff to go to the same feed store and purchase some.”

CSWD staff, wearing Latex gloves, took samples of the feeds and placed them into Zip-lock bags. The samples were sent to Anatek Labs in Moscow, Idaho, one of the few facilities in the U.S. capable of testing for clopyralid and picloram (another persistent broadleaf herbicide detected in the Green Mountain Compost) at levels below 10 ppb, according to Moreau. “Obviously, someone should follow up with more sampling and testing — it would be good to get a second lab to confirm.”

Both clopyralid and picloram were discovered in residential lawn clippings dropped off at area composting centers. “EPA promotes municipal composting … but both grass samples we tested showed detectable amounts of clopyralid,” says Moreau. “These samples came to us in trucks within the past few weeks and after the stories had been in the press.” Label restriction do not even allow for residential use of picloram, which requires a professional pesticide applicator’s license for other specific uses. “We are still taking samples, as is the State of Vermont, to determine where the picloram is coming from,” he adds. One thing is certain, however: The existing labeling system that requires the hay on which clopyralid was applied, and the manure if animals eat the hay, be disposed or only used on the land of original application, is not working. “EPA has to find a better way to allow the agrochemicals to be used, in perhaps a more limited way, but still protect the downstream users,” says Moreau.

The CSWD recently approved a $934,000 compensation package to customers whose gardens were affected by the contaminated compost. So far there have been around 470 damage reports, and all are being investigated. Lab tests, legal advice and ruined inventory are expected to cost the district an additional $400,000.

International Composti Awareness WeekBethesda, Maryland: International Compost Awareness Week

Each year composting fans across the globe celebrate International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) in May with educational events, workshops, compost giveaways and more. Following are highlights of ICAW 2012 celebrations in the United States. Based in Bethesda, Maryland, the U.S. Composting Council coordinates ICAW nationally.

California: Compost enthusiasts from the Los Angeles area participated in ICAW activities at the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s wetlands in Chino, and took home more than 1,000 bags of SoilPro compost brought in from the Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority in Rancho Cucamonga. One Chino resident removed her turf and installed new plants in soil amended with SoilPro. The woman, who comes every year for free compost during ICAW to maintain her landscape and set up new projects, reports that she has cut back her watering by more than 60 percent.

Oregon: In Eugene, promotion of the “Love Food Not Waste” program was highlighted as part of ICAW activities. The program connects the city of Eugene, local waste haulers, commercial composters and food-related businesses to divert food waste including vegetables, meats, food-soiled paper, etc. This year, Eugene-based composter Rexius Forest By-Products donated the first finished loads of Love Food Not Waste compost to three area community gardens.

Illinois: In recognition of ICAW, staff from the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) held a workshop to promote the recently built composting demonstration system at the Glenview Transfer Station. Several types of backyard bins were featured for educators and residents to learn the science behind mixing yard trimmings — such as leaves, grass and small twigs — with food scraps to make compost suitable for lawns and gardens. SWANCC partnered with the University of Illinois Extension Master Composters to provide learning opportunities. The inaugural workshop was held May 19, 2012, with three more scheduled throughout the summer.

Georgia: Athens-Clarke County celebrated ICAW by reaching more than 100 people through educational programs at the Silver Lining Cupcake Company, where participants enjoyed “compost cupcakes,” and tours of local commercial composting facilities. The Athens-Clarke County Commercial Composting Facility promoted its compost for sale during the month of April, ending on the last day of ICAW in May. More than 3,000 yards of compost were sold, representing more than $20,000 in sales.

Boulder, Colorado: Compostables Collection At Pedestrian Retail Mall

A town with one of the greenest reputations in the country now has public compostables collection bins, through a pilot program launched jointly by the city of Boulder’s Local Environmental Action Division and Parks and Recreation department. Three-bin collection stations dotting Boulder’s popular Pearl Street Mall, a brick-paved pedestrian area that is home to dozens of retail shops and eateries, had traditionally collected paper in one receptacle, bottles and cans in another and trash in a third. But when the city went to single-stream recycling, it decided to explore utilizing the freed-up bin space for collecting compostables. A waste audit had indicated a lot of organics were going to the landfill, plus the city has a goal of achieving 85 percent waste diversion by 2017.

The initial pilot project involves collection stations at three heavily trafficked intersections. City officials say they want to support businesses that have gone the extra mile, and the added expense, to purchase and utilize compostable serviceware such as to-go coffee cups. A large number of these business had switched over to compostable takeout containers, but they were ending up in the trash because there was nowhere else for customer to dispose them. “It’s all about compost,” says Sarah Van Pelt, Environmental Coordinator for Western Disposal Services, which picks up and processes the Pearl Street organics after municipal crews deliver them to commercial collection containers that also dot the city. “They pay for them, and we service them.” The city of Boulder has had mandatory single-family curbside recycling since 2007 and incentivizes commercial composting through rebate programs that offset collection costs. “We produce over 20,000 cubic yards of compost a year,” adds Van Pelt.

Lamont, California: Trial To Decide Fate Of Composting Facility

A jury will decide the fate of a commercial composting facility where two brothers were killed after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas in a confined space. The trial is set for February 4, 2013, to determine whether Community Recycling and Resource Recovery (CR&RR) will remain open. Amando Rimirez, 16, perished after being overcome by poisonous fumes while attempting to clear debris from an obstructed 10-foot shaft that was part of a storm drain. His brother Eladio, 22, lost consciousness while attempting to rescue him and was taken off life support a month following the October 2011 accident. The mother of the two boys, her only children, is leading a campaign to close the facility.

In November 2011, county supervisors fined CR&RR $2.3 million and ordered it shut down. The composting company and the Lamont Sewer district — which sends millions of gallons of wastewater to the facility for processing — then sued the county, and in February 2012 a Superior Court judge said business could remain open until it had its day in court. In April, Cal-OSHA slapped the facility with 16 citations and fines totaling $166,890, all related to not having adequate safety measures in place.

Emmaus, Pennsylvania: BioCycle Publishes Persistent Herbicides Report

In light of yet another case of compost contamination by persistent herbicides (see “High Levels Of Clopyralid Found In Commercial Horse Feed” elsewhere in this department), BioCycle has compiled a special 81-page PDF report chronicling the issue through our own coverage dating back to 1996. The report, “Persistent Herbicides in Compost: Conflict and Resolution,” consists of 19 articles and a selection of department items and is available for purchase ($29.95) in our online bookstore at www.biocycle.net/product/persistent-herbicides-in-compost-conflict-and-resolution-pdf-document-2/. Four sample articles are viewable in their entirety prior to purchase.

In response to the most recent case in Vermont, the U.S. Composting Council (USCC) launched an Action Alert at http://compostingcouncil.org/persistent-herbicides urging members and the general public to join the USCC in asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add a “compostability test” to its registration requirements for agricultural chemicals. The USCC had a scheduled meeting to discuss the problem with EPA officials on August 16.

Brattleboro, Vermont: Curbside Food Waste Pilot

Brattleboro (pop. 12,000) has implemented a pilot for weekly curbside collection of residential organic materials as of the beginning of August. The program is soliciting approximately 150 volunteer residences out of the 2,800 already serviced by the town’s contract trash and recycling hauler, Triple T Trucking. A primary goal of the pilot is to identify the best container for curbside pickup of compostables. “Over the course of the 6 month pilot, we hope to identify containers that are sturdy enough to survive the temperature extremes of all four seasons and the wear and tear as the containers are emptied into the truck,” says Brattleboro’s Recycling Coordinator Moss Kahler. “Other criteria include whether the containers are easy to service, large enough to hold one week’s worth of a family’s food waste, nonrecyclable paper, and cardboard such as pizza boxes (yard waste is collected separately), and if the lid is secure enough to keep out rain, snow and pests. We have sent letters to a number of container manufacturers to see if they will each donate 10 containers for the pilot project so a variety can be tried. We will get feedback from the participants and the drivers to identify the best containers for the curbside compostables program.”

Triple T Trucking is retrofitting an existing recycling truck to allow for cocollection of organics and recyclables. Pending a positive outcome to the pilot, the expanded services will be extended to the entire town. “It is likely that weekly trash collection will be continued, but eventually it may be feasible to collect trash every other week,” says Peter Gaskill, general manager of Triple T Trucking. The company launched a program four years ago to provide regional source separated organics services to commercial and institutional generators. “We collect on average 75 tons of organics a week,” says Gaskill, adding that the vast majority comes from western Massachusetts (Brattleboro is just north of the Massachusetts border). Brattleboro is the largest member community of the 19 towns in the Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD). The District is setting up a pilot composting facility to process the Brattleboro organics; if that is successful, it may be developed into a permanent composting site.

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