BioCycle World

BioCycle November 2012, Vol. 53, No. 11, p. 6

Call For Papers – BioCycle 2013 West Coast Conference

The 27th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference, April 8-11, 2013 in San Diego, California is accepting abstracts for presentations. The 2013 West Coast Conference theme, Building Sustainable Cities, Communities and Enterprises, encompasses the full spectrum of BioCycle’s editorial coverage — from composting and compost utilization to anaerobic digestion and biogas markets, to zero waste strategies and starting and operating successful projects and companies to divert and manage organic waste streams. The Conference will feature over 90 presentations on topics including: Food Waste Sourcing and Collection; Odor and Air Emissions Compliance; Project Financing, Siting and Permitting; Compost Use In Agriculture; Integrating “BioCycling” Into Municipal Sustainability Policies and Practices; Anaerobic Digester Operations and Troubleshooting; Effective Feedstock Preprocessing; Organics Recycling Trends and Data; Compostable Products; Large Venue, Campus and Health-Care Facility Composting; Modular AD Options; Compost Use In Storm Water Management and Green Infrastructure; Biosolids Recycling; Sustaining 70+ Percent Diversion; Compost and Disease Suppression, Moisture Retention; and Wastewater Treatment Plants As Energy, Fertilizer Centers. To view complete list of suggested topics, and to submit an abstract, go to www.biocyclewestcoast.com. Abstracts should be 250 words or less. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2012.

 

Collecting Organics In Multifamily Buildings

Halton Region, a suburban municipality west of Toronto, Ontario, is going building by building as it prepares to launch organic waste collection in its 565 multiresidential buildings. A pilot program underway since 2010 has shown the benefits of working in advance to establish relationships with managers, on-site superintendents and condominium boards and adjusting organics collection to each location, says Nicole Watt, the region’s GreenCart Program Coordinator. The region, with a population of nearly 500,000, has varied apartment and condominium towers, Watt notes. “We need to make the program fit the building, not change the building.” The pilot project includes four buildings, ranging from four stories and 52 units up to 12 stories and 160 units.

Halton Region multifamily collection bins

Halton Region multifamily collection bins

The height of cooperation is a 10-story building with 82 units, which paid for and installed a triple chute system to handle organics, recyclables and trash. It’s achieving a 42 percent diversion rate, which Watt considers high, although lower than the 60 percent average from single-family homes. Two others, including the largest, have trash chutes but residents must carry organics and recyclables to a ground floor room. Their diversion rates are 26 and 34 percent. The fourth, illustrating a challenge of a voluntary program, has recycling rooms on each floor, but the condominium board prohibits their use. As a result, residents must carry all three waste streams to the ground floor, and the diversion rate is low.

This summer, the regional council approved a solid waste strategy that includes extending organics collections to the 30,000 multiresidential units by 2016. An implementation plan is being developed, with a voluntary program expected to start in about a year. Officials who have been visiting the multifamily buildings rate them green, yellow or red, according to their receptiveness to participating in a program. The launch will start with those designated green, then move on to the more difficult locations. “Most residents really want to participate,” Watt says.

Halton’s program allows only kitchen scraps, compostable papers and BPI certified compostable bags; pet wastes and sanitary products are prohibited. The organics go to an in-vessel aerobic composting facility, operated by AIM Environmental, in the neighboring City of Hamilton. Halton has collected organics from its 150,000 single-family homes since 2008, and is completing the program’s expansion to about 350 townhouses.

Massachusetts Organics Regulations Finalized

After much anticipation, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on November 3, 2012 that updated regulations relating to organics management have been approved by Governor Deval Patrick and will be put into effect on November 23rd. The regulations, which address site assignment of solid waste facilities and pretreatment and discharge from wastewater treatment facilities, are intended to foster new organics processing sites in the state in order to meet the DEP’s stated goal of diverting an incremental 35 percent of the estimated one million tons/year of organics generated state-wide. The regulations represent several years of planning, meetings and interagency coordination and are considered to be among the most progressive in the country.

The ultimate goal of the DEP in revamping the rules is to create a clear permitting pathway for organics processing solutions beyond recycling and composting, in particular for anaerobic digestion (AD). Beyond these regulatory changes, the state is also pursuing several other significant approaches to encourage AD including: 1) Identifying state-owned properties that are appropriate for expedited privately built and operating digesters; 2) Seed money in the form of grants, loans and other financial incentives; and 3) Allowing publicly owned treatment works to accept source separated organics. These revisions, the state believes, will help create the infrastructure necessary to successfully implement a commercial and industrial organics ban in mid 2014. A comprehensive article covering the details of the regulatory changes will appear in the December edition of BioCycle.

Research Grants For Green Infrastructure

The U.S. EPA announced in October that it is providing up to $3 million in research grants for projects that will study the benefits of green techniques in controlling storm water pollution in Philadelphia. In April 2012, EPA signed a partnership agreement with the city to support its Green City, Clean Waters plan to control storm water and improve compliance with Clean Water Act requirements. The research funds are allocated through EPA’s “Science to Achieve Results” (www.epa.gov/etop/cont_star.html) program and will focus on key aspects of green infrastructure in a 40,500-acre area of Philadelphia experiencing frequent sewer system overflows. Research projects of up to $1 million each that examine the performance and effectiveness of green storm water infrastructure in Philadelphia are eligible. Sample research topics include measuring early benefits, long-term effectiveness and economic viability of green infrastructure; evaluating alternative financing mechanisms; quantifying benefits to neighborhoods and communities; and developing strategies for successfully adopting green infrastructure. More information on the Request for Applications for “Performance and Effectiveness of Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management Approaches in the Urban Context: A Philadelphia Case Study,” can be found http://epa.gov/ncer/rfa/. The closing date for submitting proposals is January 8, 2013.

Mushroom Packaging

A start-up biotech company in upstate New York is winning international awards and signing up big corporate partnerships to “challenge our societal addiction to plastics and foams.” Since its founding by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre in 2007, Ecovative Design has won the world’s largest prize for climate change solutions, been nominated for the 2012 World Technology Award and keynoted at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City. Why? Its mushroom packaging technology is an entirely compostable, fire- and water-resistant material that has been proven stronger than chemical foams in drop tests. Ecovative has tested it to the ASTM 6400 compostability standard. Even more importantly, in June, Ecovative gave SealedAir Inc., a packaging manufacturer in New Jersey, exclusive North American rights to the product’s protective packaging uses, giving it a sales force of 1,000 instead of one. In late October, SealedAir rebranded the EcoCradle technology as Restore™ Mushroom® Packaging.

The product is literally grown in a lab. A cleaned blend of agricultural by-products such as cotton hulls are injected with mushroom spawn, and an automated process fills a given set of form containers with the inoculated material. The forms are loaded into pallet racks and for about a week, the mycelium grows to fit the form, binding the wastes together like a resin. The contents are popped out of the forms and dried to deactivate growth. By this time, every square inch of Restore packaging will contain 8 miles of mycelium fiber. Since its introduction in 2010, the product has been adopted for testing and use by Dell Computer, Steelcase and Crate and Barrel. “It can do anything an adhesive or plastic can do, so it becomes very easy to imagine all of the potential applications,” says Angela Nahikian, director of global environmental sustainability for Steelcase, which used the packaging for furniture packing. Even though Restore may not have as high an aesthetic rating as some foams, Steelcase intends to continue using it. “It challenges our creativity to figure out how this material that is very low energy and very compostable can be used,” she notes. Oliver Campbell, procurement director for Dell, which is still testing the material as packaging for its R710 Server multipack, explains that customers are asking what Dell can do to help them be greener. “They want packaging made from more sustainable content, and they want to be able to dispose of it responsibly when they’re done with it,” says Campbell. “The mushroom packaging achieves both goals and, at scale, it will be cost-competitive with traditional foam. Plus, in performance tests, the mushrooms have delivered better cushioning than polyethylene cushions.”

Sealed Air plans to build more factories in 2013 around the U.S. based on Ecovative’s current production/growing system, according to Sam Harrington, the company’s director of marketing and sales. “In general, the plan is to make custom-molded packaging for every customer, so the specific forms will depend on who the material is sold to,” he explains. “There may also be some standard forms such as corner blocks and wine shippers.”

Harrington says the company hopes to have its ASTM 6400 certification from the Biodegradable Products Institute completed by the end of the year, though he acknowledges it could take longer because of the unique innovation the product represents: “Naturally, this is compostable because we’re using agricultural waste from the farm and mycelium, just growing it in a controlled manner in specific shapes. But we’re the first to harness the entire kingdom of fungi for its structural properties.”

Food Scrap Recycling Primer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 1 recently released a guide, “A Primer for Understanding Large-Scale Food Scrap Recycling Technologies for Urban Areas.” The guide reviews three technologies that can be used to recycle food residuals — windrow composting (turned and aerated static), in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion. It is intended to provide municipal officials, nonprofits and community stakeholders the tools and information necessary to begin the decision making process for selecting the food scrap recycling technology that best meets the needs of their municipality. Eight key evaluation factors were used to evaluate the technologies: land area; quality of life (e.g., odor, noise, traffic); environmental concerns (e.g., air/water quality); regulatory requirements; public acceptability; public health; operational issues (e.g., waste composition, utility and water needs); and economics (tipping fees, collection and transportation, operations). A key consideration, says the primer, is “the importance of balancing cost against the complexity of the technology.” Using a feedstock throughput of 40,000 tons/year of organic residuals, a summary table compares land area requirements, waste streams, technology and costs for turned windrows, static aerated windrows, in-vessel and AD. The primer can be downloaded at www.epa.gov/region1/composting/index.html.

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