BioCycle World

BioCycle September 2011, Vol. 52, No. 9, p. 6

Remembering Kit Strange
In his editorial published in the August 2011 issue of Warmer Bulletin, Kit Strange recalled a1974 British government publication titled, “War On Waste” that announced “a new national drive to cut down waste and promote ways of recovering and reutilizing materials.” He compared that document to the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) approved by the European Union in 2008. The WFD was intended to “help move the EU closer to a ‘recycling society,’ seeking to avoid waste generation and to use waste as a resource.” In his editorial, Strange highlights “interesting resonances between the two” despite a half a lifetime separating the two. “I can’t decide whether the undoubted progress made since I was a schoolboy has been because of, or despite, the grinding wheel of policy making,” he wrote. “I’ll get back to you in 2046 (when, though 92, I plan to be taking an active interest in these topics).”

Tragically, Kit Strange died unexpectedly shortly after he wrote that editorial. Strange worked with the Resource Recovery Forum (RRF), an international nonprofit network for organizations interested in sustainable waste management. He began publishing the international journal Warmer Bulletin in the 1990s, and was secretary general to the Association of Cities & Regions for Recycling & Sustainable Resource Management (ACR+). Jerome Goldstein, Editor and Publisher Emeritus of BioCycle, was a huge fan of Kit Strange, regularly reprinting items from Warmer Bulletin in the magazine. An obituary written by Steve Read, Chairman of Resource Recovery Forum’s (RRF) Trustees, provides a flavor of Kit Strange’s personality and style:

“Members who were used to receiving the three or four emails per day from RRF would have felt constantly in touch with Kit. If you emailed back for more information or if you wanted some info on a given topic, the reply was quick wherever he was in the world. He could not be more helpful. Kit genuinely liked everyone he met and loved the continual search for improvement. …. One colleague, Roberto Cavallo, remembers Kit in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts at an international conference in Palermo. ‘His luggage had been lost at the airport, but nobody noticed how he was dressed because his communication went beyond formality.’ …. Others who knew Kit will remember him not just as an expert, author, organizer and engaging communicator but as an exceptionally warm and humorous friend. Kit was the paradox of a laid back individual who was constantly on the go, a charity fell [off-road] runner as well as a global forerunner.”

Food Waste Recovery In NYC
New York City produces about 14 million tons annually of solid waste at a disposal cost of more than $1 billion. A significant portion of that trashed tonnage is food waste, often being transported to disposal points as far away as South Carolina. How to turn that organic waste into resources was the topic of discussion at Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery conference, “Generating Value from NYC’s Commercial Food Waste,” July 26 in Manhattan.

In 2007, Mayor Michael. R. Bloomberg released PlaNYC in order to create a greener New York. An update of the document was released in April 2011. According to David Bragdon, director of the Mayor’s Offices of Long Term Planning and Sustainability who spoke at the conference, that plan has a goal of diverting 75 percent of the city’s waste from landfills by 2030. This initiative includes both organic waste-to-energy projects and composting. A recent waste characterization study showed that 64 percent of New York City’s residential waste stream is compostable. Challenges for composting include lack of infrastructure – largely due to the high cost of real estate – and, Bragdon says, the fact that historically free trash collection doesn’t exactly offer a strong incentive for New Yorkers to change their behavior and separate.

Technologies under exploration in PlaNYC include converting the organic waste stream into electricity or fuel. “We’re looking at the economics of both energy and disposal,” says Bragdon, adding that this includes assessing investment in anaerobic digestion technology in comparison with the current status quo. The city has pledged to invite participants from the private sector to submit proposals for renewable energy projects utilizing the organic waste stream. Challenges in dealing with this stream include ensuring there is a consistent and dependable flow of organic materials for power generation, as well as working with the utilities. “In other places, the national or local government also owns the electric utility, which is not the case in New York City,” notes Bragdon.

New York City’s economic development department is also considering incubator projects to encourage an influx of green technologies. “We’re also looking at procurement practices to use the city’s market power to lead the market in the right direction,” he says, adding that policy changes, regulations, and financial incentives are all being contemplated in order to encourage residential and commercial conservation of resources. Global Green’s next Resource Recovery Conference takes place in New York City November 14-15 and will also include a food waste recovery component (www.globalgreen.org).

Biogas Awareness Month
Although coincidental, Wisconsin will host four conference events in October related in some way to biogas. This coincidence sparked the idea for Biogas Awareness Month, and additional activities throughout the state and elsewhere are being planned. The conferences, all in Madison, include World Dairy Expo October 4-8, the Wisconsin Bioenergy Summit October 6, the Bioenergy Business Conference October 25 and BioCycle’s three day 11th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling that kicks off October 31, 2011. “When we realized that four major events – all of which will address biogas and anaerobic digestion – were taking place in the same month, we discussed the idea of declaring October 2011 Biogas Awareness Month in Wisconsin,” says Gary Radloff, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative and host of the Bioenergy Summit on October 6. “We are working on getting a proclamation officially declaring October as Biogas Awareness Month (BAM) and are collaborating with BioCycle, BIOFerm, GHD, Honda Motorwerks, the American Biogas Council and others on scheduling additional events throughout October in Wisconsin.”

In addition to these scheduled events, the German-American Chamber of Commerce (sponsor of the Bioenergy Business Conference) is bringing six to eight biogas and renewable energy businesses to Madison October 24 through 26 to discuss expanded efforts around anaerobic digester and biogas projects. Other BAM events will include tours of anaerobic digester facilities in the state, distribution of educational materials and radio, television and newspaper reports featuring projects and business and job creation opportunities around biogas as well as its production and use. To reach audiences beyond the Badger State, the American Biogas Council will be hosting several webinars in October on biogas production, processing and use of both the biogas itself and other by-products that will complement biogas awareness activities. A Calendar of Events will be posted on BAM organizers’ websites including www.biocycleenergy.com, www.wbi.wisc.edu, www.americanbiogascouncil.org and www.biofermenergy.com/us.

Growing Power And Sysco Team Up
In 1993, retired professional basketball player Will Allen founded Growing Power in Milwaukee,Wisconsin with the purpose of providing locally produced, healthy food to low-income communities by training them to implement the farming and integrated aquaculture technologies he developed, and to utilize and market what they produce. Now Growing Power is teaming up with Sysco Eastern Wisconsin on a local cooperative farming project on a 34-acre tract of Sysco land in Jackson. The company is donating use of the land for Growing Power to cultivate crops such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini and squash. The project will give school children a chance to plant, tend and harvest the produce. Sysco and Growing Power currently participate in the Milwaukee public schools initiative, which has provided more than 25,000 students with locally grown food. The goal is for the new project to triple that number.

“This is a wonderful beginning to a healthy partnership that will improve the nutritional content of our schools’ meals, support local agriculture, and teach our youth about healthy eating,” says Allen, a nationally recognized leader in urban agriculture. “It’s important that all stakeholders, especially food distributors such as Sysco, are at the good food revolution table to develop a more integrated, local, sustainable food system.”

McKibben, Top Scientists Arrested In Tar Sands Protest

Dozens of protesters were arrested over the span of a two-week sit-in that began at the White House August 21 with the purpose of urging President Obama not to sign a permit for a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline to carry bitumem – the heavy, black viscous oil mined from tar sands – from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Those arrested included environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, NASA’s lead climate scientist James Hansen, Hollywood actress Daryl Hanna, dozens of religious leaders, Appalachian coalfield activists and a Pennsylvania mom.

Developer TransCanada has said the project will create 13,000 or more jobs and that the 36-inch-wide pipeline is safe. A break in a 12-inch Exxon Mobil pipeline caused leakage in early July of an estimated 1,200 barrels (54,000 gallons) of crude oil into the legendary Yellowstone River, near Billings, Montana. State officials initially assumed the oil spilled was light “sweet” crude, which is the oil used in Billings refineries, but a Reuters story published two weeks after the spill reported that the pipeline could have been carrying crude from the Alberta (Canada) tar sands.

In June, NASA’s Hansen wrote: “Exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.” Following his arrest, Hansen commented, “If the tar sands pipeline is approved, we will be back and we will grow. For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must find somebody who is working for our dream.”

Fracking Fluids Doom Trees
Hydrofracturing, “aka fracking,” is a means of natural gas extraction via deep-well drilling. Water and a proprietary mixture of 596 chemicals are injected into deep rock layers to fracture the rock and release trapped natural gas, with some of the water/chemical/rock-fragment mixture returning to the surface. The mixture must be disposed, and in some cases land application is allowed. To assess the environmental impact of such practices, researchers applied some of the resurfaced slurry to a small area of the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia and observed effects over time. Severe damage and death of surface plants were immediately observed, followed by leaf loss by deciduous trees 10 days later. Within two years, more than half the trees in the area were dead. Analysis of surface soil revealed that sodium and chloride had increased 50-fold following application of the slurry.

Soil acidity in the affected area declined over time, perhaps due to altered organic matter cycling, the researchers noted. The study calls into question the practice of land application of by-product hydraulic fracking fluids and identifies the need to understand their environmental impacts as well as to explore safer disposal methods. Results were published online April 26, 2011, in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Hungerpedia Campaign To Boost Diversion

New York-based Rock and Wrap It Up! (RWU), an award-winning, nonprofit, antipoverty think tank, has launched Hungerpedia.com, an encyclopedia of vetted antipoverty agencies operating in North America. The encyclopedia offers an Excel spreadsheet organized by geography, agency name, location, contact information and asset needs. The idea is to enable potential donors to find suitable agencies to recover their unwanted or surplus materials, thus keeping them out of landfill. Items in demand include food, toilet paper and tissue, shampoos and toiletries, small appliances, kitchen items and dorm-room supplies. Recovering agencies are required to report asset recovery statistics to RWU. Assets kept out of landfill will be listed on U.S. EPA’s WasteWise program (www.epa.gov/wastewise). Agencies vetted and listed by RWU must have health certification, transportation, refrigeration, cell phones, storage and either have or support ongoing antipoverty/hunger programs. Donors are protected from liability by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.

The U.S. also passed the Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 to encourage federal agencies to donate excess food to the poor and keep it out of landfill. That latter legislation was introduced by RWU in response to documented increases in traffic in U.S. pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. It passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

Expanding One-Stop Recycling Centers

Two years after opening its first neighborhood-scale one-stop recycling center, the Region of York, Ontario, Canada is preparing to cut the ribbon on its second Community Environmental Center (CEC). Plans for a third are on the drawing board. The centers provide residents a single location with multiple “zones” to drop off reusable materials, recyclables and residual waste. “We wanted it to be like when you walk into a Home Depot and you always know where the nails are, you always know where the paint is, etc.,” project manager Luis Carvalho said during a presentation on the CECs at the 2011 American Public Works Association Sustainability in Public Works Conference.

Just north of Toronto, the Region of York consists of nine local municipalities, each responsible for collecting waste, while the regional municipality processes and disposes of it. York Region envisions a network of CECs, each covering a radius roughly equivalent to a 20-minute drive. Household items and reusable fixtures that can be immediately reused are accepted onsite by Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity volunteers. One zone accepts residential recyclables, energy-efficient light bulbs, household batteries and some e-waste per visit (household hazardous wastes aren’t currently accepted). Another zone handles bulky recyclables like scrap metal, drywall and clean fill. Most of these materials are accepted for free. Yard trimmings aren’t accepted, but Carvalho said a third planned CEC may add them and household hazardous waste.

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