Composting Roundup

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

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Utilizing Fermentation In Organics Collection

In Puerto Rico, where average annual temperatures are over 85°F with very high humidity, collection of food scraps becomes a real challenge. Carlos Pacheco, president of Trito Agro-Industrial Services, Inc. (TAIS) in San Juan, has been evaluating a novel technique of source separation of organics. Thirty-gallon carts are used to collect food waste at restaurants. Coffee husks inoculated with efficient organisms are put in the carts to add density and facilitate controlled fermentation. The carts are kept outside of the kitchen with the lid closed and a weight inside to compress the contents and prevent air from getting in. Generators are instructed to kept loading and compressing the food scraps. ”The objective on this collection and disposal process is to allow a biweekly food scrap collection program to reduce transportation costs,” explains Pacheco. “Besides prolonging the collection time the technique promotes a cleaner and advanced degradedorganic substrate.” Collected organics are composted with yard trimmings and utilized as an agricultural soil amendment. “The fermented food scraps also could be used for animal feeding or as a pretreated feedstock for AD systems,” he adds.

Minsk, Belarus: Vermicomposting Advances

The Laboratory for VermiTechnology (LVT) Development Project based in Minsk, along with its partners, have developed vermicomposting technologies to recycle cattle, pig and poultry manures, as well as brewery waste, into 25 recipes of biohumus-based soil amendments.  Additionally, they have created nine recipes of compound animal feeds based on powdered and minced earthworms. Peter Bogdanov, Director of Arizona-based VermiCo, has worked as a volunteer with LVT — through USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, implemented through Citizen’s Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) —  to provide technical assistance and advice to LVT in vermicomposting production and marketing. Bogdanov wrote a short article for BioCycle based on his most recent trip in May:

Gumus Agro Vermifarm markets several product blends.

Gumus Agro Vermifarm markets several product blends.

LVT director Svetlana Maksimova oversees ongoing research in her Minsk laboratory at the Scientific and Practical Center for Bioresources and advises over 18 vermifarms in developing commercial production and marketing strategies.  She also is coordinating four start-up businesses seeking to produce earthworm-based animal feeds.  Part of her strategy is to create brand awareness and national identification by using Eisenia fetida earthworms which she has renamed the Belarusian Plougher. LVT provides research, assesses vermitechnologies, breeds earthworm stock for vermicompost production and develops guidelines for production and marketing.

One of the largest and most successful vermicompost producers is the Gumus Agro Vermifarm located in Cherven (Minsk oblast), operated by Viktor Kulik.  In 2007, Kulik’s operation was just getting underway and, through Maksimova, sought CNFA assistance.  At the time, he employed several men and women to haul and distribute cow manure by hand to indoor windrows laced with earthworms. To harvest earthworms, several women sat at tables and removed earthworms by hand from piles of finished vermicompost, which was sold in plain bags. Today, one of Kulik’s employees operates a windrow turner used in precomposting cow manure before it is applied to worm beds; worms are separated from vermicompost mechanically And Gumus Agro Vermifarm now markets several product blends with vermicompost as the key ingredient, using multicolor bags and catchy marketing names, aimed primarily at the retail market.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Neighborhood Composting

Philly Compost, a small-scale commercial food waste collection company, opened a community composting site in the Fishtown neighborhood in Philadelphia in early 2013. It is composting food scraps from neighborhood businesses and households. The corner property, at one time a garden center, is owned by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC). Philly Compost uses about 2,000 square feet for its composting operation. “We are collecting food scraps from 10 customers within 1.5 miles of our site using a bicycle and trailer that has a weight limit of 350 pounds,” says Jennifer (Spencer) Mastalerz of Philly Compost. “We use 10 gallon buckets, and do collection on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Cleaned buckets are switched out for full ones. Customers include restaurants and coffee shops. Most are serviced two times a week.” Food scraps are mixed with leaves and other amendments and composted in two Earth Tubs. Curing is done in small wired bins.

Philly Compost collects food scraps by bicycle from 10 customers within a 1.5 mile radius.

Philly Compost collects food scraps by bicycle from 10 customers within a 1.5 mile radius.

Philly Compost collaborated with NKCDC to form The Compost Coop for Fishtown residents and neighbors. Membership is $20/year. Households are given the combination to the lock on the gate in order to drop off food scraps in designated bins. “We have a volunteer work day once a month,” explains Mastalerz. “Coop members help out with sifting compost and doing plantings. This month, we are having a volunteer day to rake and collect leaves from a neighborhood cemetery, which we will store on-site for amendment.” About 2 tons/month of food scraps are being composted. Finished compost is sold in reused grain bags for $5 for 5 gallons.

Sullivan County, New York: SUNY Campus Breaks Ground On Composting Site

The Sullivan County Community College (SUNY Sullivan) is building a composting facility to manage food waste from the college’s dining hall, culinary programs and campus offices. “The composting facility on campus stands to reduce the college’s solid waste by 30 percent or more,” says Helena le Roux, SUNY Sullivan’s Director of Sustainability. The open 3-bay facility will utilize, in part, an existing foundation of a former greenhouse on campus. Additional concrete will be poured to expand the foundation and improve drainage capacity to accommodate the operation. The appropriate mix of organic components and the addition of forced-air will be central to the success of the system. Finished compost will be sold as a fundraising mechanism for student clubs. The SUNY Sullivan facility will be modeled in part on existing systems at St. John’s University, Frost Valley YMCA, and other locations throughout New York’s Hudson Valley and Catskills. A goal of the project is to build understanding of the process of composting and the concept that food waste can be diverted from landfills to serve as a valuable resource. To this end, the college is developing storyboard signs that will be mounted at the composting site to help explain the process to visitors. A certificate program in composting is already in the works at the college. More details are at www.sunysullivan.edu/sustainablesullivan.

Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State’s Zero Waste Game Plan

The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Ohio Stadium is the fourth largest collegiate stadium in the U.S., with capacity to seat over 102,000 people. In the 2012 season, the stadium achieved an average diversion rate of 87.2 percent, an increase of 12 percent from the 2011 season. During one game in 2012, 98.2 percent of game day materials were diverted. Key steps taken over the last several years to achieve higher diversion rates include eliminating products that can only be disposed or switching to ones that are recyclable or compostable; removing trash cans and replacing them with 75 Zero Waste stations that have only recycling and composting bins; and hiring high school students to educate fans during games. The day after games, a crew of ROTC students goes through the stands and sorts materials left behind by fans, which comprise about 50 percent of total materials diverted. Edible food is donated to the MidOhio Foodbank. Compostables are taken to Price Farms Organics in Delaware, Ohio, where students sort out any contaminants. Steps have been taken over the past several years to minimize potential for contaminants in the compost stream. “This has included eliminating paper cups with plastic lining, switching from clear latex gloves to blue gloves so they are easier to find when sorting the organics and replacing the plastic hot dog bags with compostable bags,” says Corey Hawkey, OSU’s sustainability coordinator.

Commingled recyclables are taken to Southeastern Correctional Institution where inmates sort materials. “Any organics in the recycling stream are composted at the correctional facility,” adds Hawkey.

 

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