BioCycle World

BioCycle October 2013, Vol. 54, No. 10, p. 6

BioCycle REFOR14 West: Call For Papers

The Call for Papers, BIOCYCLE REFOR14 WEST — April 7-10, 2014 in San Diego, California — opens on October 31, 2013. This is the first time BioCycle has held its annual Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling (REFOR) Conference on the West Coast, and is a reflection of the supportive public policies, the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities in development and operation, and availability of public and private sector financing. BIOCYCLE REFOR14 WEST will cover the full spectrum of anaerobic digestion applications, including municipal (wastewater and source separated organics), commercial, agricultural and industrial (food and beverage). Core agenda topics include AD plant operations; feedstock sourcing, collection and pretreatment; codigestion; financing and incentives; biogas markets, including low carbon vehicle fuels; food waste management; digestate coproducts; research and development; combining AD and composting; policies, regulations and utility interconnects; and public-private partnerships. BioCycle is collaborating with the Bioenergy Association of California and the American Biogas Council on BIOCYCLE REFOR14 WEST. Abstracts can be submitted via www.biocycleenergy.com.

Catalog Of Compostable Products

The Biodegradable Products Institute released a new Compostable Products Catalog that features more than 3,300 different compostable product “skus” (shelf keeping units), including foodservice ware (cups, cutlery, plates and trays), resins and coatings, compostable bags and films. The catalog is believed to be the world’s first web-based catalog to offer searchable product-level information on certified compostable products. “With more than 63 application categories, there is a surprisingly large and diverse collection of compostable products available,” notes Steven A. Mojo, BPI Executive Director. In addition to item-level product specifications, the web site also gives buyers category-specific lists of more than 140 suppliers of compostable products with contact information, website links, email addresses, and up-to-date product certification status. “This enhanced level of detail helps build trust and greater acceptance of compostable products at all levels of the value chain,” adds Mojo. “The catalog provides essential information composters need to demand that waste generators purchase and use only specific, BPI- approved products.”

Carla Castagnero, president of AgRecycle, a composting company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that allows its clients to include approved compostable products in their source separated organics, notes that the catalog is a very helpful tool. “This is a real resource for my clients as they look to source compostable cutlery, foodservice items and bags.” BPI, the largest certification organization for compostable products in North America, is a nonprofit that educates, advocates and certifies compostable materials to be safe for large-scale composting. It then licenses companies to use the BPI Compostable Logo on products and marketing materials. www.bpiworld.org

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash, by Edward Humes

 

Garbology: A Review

Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C., and a regular contributor to BioCycle, sent along a review of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (Penguin Group, 2012). Here are excerpts; read the complete book review here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edward Humes covers the story of garbage in his 2012 book Garbology. It contains an excellent concise history of the U.S.’s addiction to garbage, and details today’s trash-related socioeconomic and environmental dilemmas. Humes presents garbage as “the lens on our lives, our priorities, our failings, our secrets and our hubris,” informing the reader that each person in the USA generates 102 tons of garbage over the course of his or her life. He then uses this fact to epitomize the garbage crisis and the opportunity to turn the waste stream into a raw materials stream.

The book is set during the final days of the Puente Hills landfill in Los Angeles County, California. Set to close in October 2013, this initially temporary facility stayed open for decades after citizens and small businesses blocked a planned network of incinerators. Frustrated incinerator deals have impacted many other major urban areas. Humes concludes that European-style garbage incineration is still the only realistic solution. Yet European systems are virtually impossible to replicate in the U.S. The conditions that defeated 300 planned garbage incinerators in the late 20th century have become more pronounced than ever. In 2013, antiincineration efforts defeated or stalled all but one proposed facility.

Next, Humes profiles individual citizens who have opted to live without “stuff,” and lists practical steps individuals can take to reduce waste. Unfortunately, the garbage crisis will not be solved by individual heroics. The combined effort of citizens and small businesses is the only strategy that can challenge the onslaught of stuff. This is how the “burn and bury” paradigm has become the “recycling and economic development” paradigm over the last 40 years. By focusing on the individual, Humes shows his unfamiliarity with the history of the recycling movement. …. Humes’ research and analysis are flawed: he praises Waste Management, Inc. CEO David Steiner for his insight that WMI handles millions of tons of garbage worth billions of dollars: this fact has been recognized for over 40 years. He does not point out that WMI makes more money from landfill than recycling; citizens forced its recycling program upon it; and the key to its success was building landfills that cities and smaller companies couldn’t afford.

Read the entire review

Ecodistricts Summit Coming To Boston

EcoDistricts, an education, advocacy and training organization based in Portland, Oregon, is holding its annual EcoDistricts Summit in Boston, Massachusetts on November 12-14, 2013. The organization defines an EcoDistrict as “a new model of public-private partnership that emphasizes innovation and deployment of district-scale best practices to create the neighborhoods of the future — resilient, vibrant, resource efficient and just.” The Summit is dedicated to promoting the sustainable neighborhood development movement, providing opportunities to learn about cutting-edge projects in green buildings, smart infrastructure and community action. For example, keynote speaker Alex Steffen, a “planetary futurist,” will discuss his latest project, Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities That Can Save the Planet, an exploration of the kinds of design, technological and policy innovations to “transform cities into low-carbon engines of prosperity.”

In the interactive session, “Mobilizing Community Assets for Climate Action,” Jenita McGowan, Cleveland, Ohio’s Chief of Sustainability, along with leading national thinkers from the Center for Neighborhood Technology and Enterprise Community Partners, will use Cleveland as a case study to take participants through exercises that can be used to engage community action. Presenters will share stories of how asset-based tools, data and public engagement workshops supported district-scale climate action in two low-income areas of Cleveland, as well as the development of a replicable citywide framework. “The session will demonstrate that aligning city-wide programs and goals with neighborhood assets and priorities leads to a better understanding of sustainability challenges, more effective and widespread solutions and greater capacity among government, communities and funders to work together to find new approaches to make our cities livable, resilient, innovative, and more competitive,” according to an EcoDistrict blog post about the event. Register at www.ecodistrict.org/summit.

WORC Conference Tackles Odors

This year’s annual meeting of the Washington Organic Recycling Council (WORC) —November 19-20, 2013 will be held at Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, Washington. The conference theme, “Compost Odors: Causes and Effects,” will bring together experts from around the country to present on topics such as how to characterize and identify odors, ways of mitigating odors through composting techniques, building strong community relations and how to handle legal disputes. A workshop led by Michael McGinley from St. Croix Sensory and Ray Porter from Odotech will teach participants how to classify odors using various compost samples from different feedstocks. One workshop outcome will be the ability to develop a facility specific odor wheel. Other presenters include Jan Allen from Impact Bioenergy in Canada, Matt Cotton from Integrated Waste Management Consulting in California and Brad Jones from Gordon Thomas Honeywell, LLP in Washington, a lawyer with experience representing both composters and communities.

Tamara Thomas, owner of TerreSource and a WORC planning committee member, anticipates the conference will have wide appeal beyond Washington’s compost community. “We wanted to address a composting issue with national relevance,” she explains. “Odor issues are the biggest threat to the composting industry not just in the Northwest but across the board.” Presentations were chosen to not only provide composters with tools to address odor issues on-site but to foster collaboration between composters, regulators and the community to address odor issues. “It’s important we are all on the same page, and speak the same language,” she adds. Register at www.compostwashington.org.

Can Earthworms Survive In Drought Soils?

Earthworms are are hard to find in the drier soils of eastern Colorado where water and organic matter are limited. Adding earthworms to fields where they are not currently found could help enhance the health and productivity of the soil. In areas where droughts are common, though, can earthworms survive? A new study published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal suggests that they can. Earthworms use water for many things, such as respiration to keep their bodies from drying out, and to make the mucus that helps them slide through the soil. When soils get dry, earthworms go into estivation. “During estivation, earthworms wrap their bodies into a tight knot to reduce the amount of surface area exposed to the soil,” explains Jacob McDaniel, lead author of the study in the September-October issue of the journal. “Then they’ll seal themselves up in a chamber lined with their mucus. Inside that chamber, the humidity is higher so they don’t dry out as the soil dries.”

The ability of earthworms to go into estivation suggests they can survive dry periods in the soil. The aim of the current study was to find out how long they could survive and whether they would recover after an extended drought. To answer those questions, researchers from Colorado State University recreated drought conditions in pots containing soil and worms. In Colorado soils, earthworms are mostly found in areas close to water or with higher levels of precipitation or irrigation. Earthworms for the current study were gathered near an irrigated alfalfa field close to Fort Collins. If these worms can survive periods of drought, they could be established in no-till, dryland agricultural soils of eastern Colorado to improve and mix soils.

McDaniel and his coauthors found that the length of drought stress affected the number of earthworms that died or went into estivation. More earthworms went into estivation as the drought stress period got longer (1, 2 and 3 weeks worth of drought were tested). Still, earthworms that survived drought, even for three weeks, were able to recover after rewetting. The results of the study suggest that by going into estivation, earthworms could survive in drought-prone soils, such as those in eastern Colorado. But further work will be done to pinpoint strategies to increase their survival and understand their drought response. McDaniel explains that an important step will be to see what happens out in a field.”

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