Advancing Organics Recycling On The East Coast

Meeting demand for organics processing infrastructure, building climate-resilient communities and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed are hot topics for discussion at BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014.

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle September 2014, Vol. 55, No. 8, p. 28
Demo plots have been installed on the Turf Valley Country Club grounds (adjacent to Conference hotel) to compare standard treatment for turf establishment to “suburban subsoiling” via decompaction and compost amendment. Inset image features core sample of soil prior to treatment.

Demo plots have been installed on the Turf Valley Country Club grounds (adjacent to Conference hotel) to compare standard treatment for turf establishment to “suburban subsoiling” via decompaction and compost amendment. Inset image features core sample of soil prior to treatment. Photos by Stuart Schwartz, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014 — October 27-30 at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Maryland — marks the first time in almost 10 years that BioCycle has held a conference on the East Coast. Working on the program agenda, I felt like a kid in a candy shop — so many topics to address, and so many great people to address them!

We chose five themes for BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014 to reflect the range of important areas that need to be discussed to advance organics recycling on the East Coast: Composting. Anaerobic Digestion. Food Waste. Nutrient Management. Green Infrastructure. We view these five themes as interconnected on many levels, starting with climate resiliency. In the Opening Plenary on Tuesday, October 28, three young professionals — Chris Cano of Gainesville Compost, Michael Lemon of Biogas Researchers and Hannah Clark of Linnean Solutions — will illustrate the interconnections in their presentations, Millennials On The Move In Climate Resiliency.

Gainesville Compost in Gainesville, Florida is a bike-powered food scraps collection business that uses a network of community composting sites to process the source separated organics collected. Compost is used in the community gardens where the composting sites are located, and a portion is distributed back to the restaurants and other retail establishments that generate the food scraps for sale to their customers.

Biogas Researchers in Washington, D.C. focuses on production and consumption of biogas, working with wastewater treatment plants and other biogas generators to develop profitable markets for the biogas. The company has been focusing initially on vehicle fuel applications, e.g., its Clean City Cabs project based on hybrid cars modified to run on renewable compressed natural gas (CNG).

Linnean Solutions in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a planning firm that provides environmental performance tools and expertise that facilitate sustainability. Hannah Clark is currently working on the development and implementation of district-scale sustainability and resiliency initiatives. Her focus is on neighborhood sustainability, which uses tools and services available from enterprises like Gainesville Compost and Biogas Researchers.

Cano and Lemon represent the specific organics recycling sectors that BioCycle covers — composting and anaerobic digestion. More broadly, however, the work they do connects directly to clean air via bike power and renewable CNG, healthy soils that can produce food locally, and truly sustainable waste and wastewater management. Clark connects the dots between Cano’s and Lemon’s enterprises to the broader scope of sustainable infrastructure and climate-resilient communities. “Chris and Michael will share their visions about sustainability in organics recycling and renewable energy,” notes Clark. “They are providing critical tools to help leverage the framework needed to develop sustainable neighborhoods and ecodistricts.”

Shawn Garvin, Regional Administrator of the U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region (Region 3) will start off the Opening Plenary, highlighting sustainable materials management initiatives in the Region 3 states. Following the three millennials, Robert Summers, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Environment, will discuss organics recycling trends in Maryland, and the important role conference attendees play in restoration of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

28 Sessions

Following the Opening Plenary, conference sessions are divided into four tracks — a total of 28 sessions and more than 85 speakers over two days (October 28-29). The Conference agenda reflects our five primary themes. Take food waste, for example. The first related session — Reduce, Donate, Divert — starts with a presentation on recovery and donation of edible food, a critically important yet often overlooked step in food waste management. The other two presentations discuss residential food waste composting programs. Additional food waste related sessions focus on collection and preprocessing; composting these materials; opportunities at hospitals and universities; state and federal policies, including disposal bans; and community composting of food scraps on urban farms.

The Prince George’s County Western Branch composting facility is running a pilot project to assess strategies to convert the operation into a food waste/yard trimmings composting operation.

The Prince George’s County Western Branch composting facility is running a pilot project to assess strategies to convert the operation into a food waste/yard trimmings composting operation.

One session that came out of an agenda brainstorming phone call is Ask The Inspectors. Composting facility inspectors from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia will start the session by summarizing their state’s approach to composting facility inspections (e.g., red flags), and then offer suggestions/best practices to rectify the violation(s) and stay in compliance. Following the presentations, questions will be taken from the audience. Composting and compost use topics sure to be covered include odor control, surface water quality, feedstock contamination and its impacts on compost quality and distribution, and handling of incoming food waste streams.

The lack of processing infrastructure in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be addressed throughout BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014. With commercial food waste and source separated organics disposal bans in effect or coming on line, demand for new facilities and expansion of existing ones (including permitting yard trimmings sites to receive food waste) is high. A number of sessions on composting and anaerobic digestion address this topic. And while the financing session on October 28 is titled AD Facility Financing, the knowledge and experience to be shared by Michael Levin of Michael H. Levin Law, and John Marciano of Chadbourne & Parke, LLP, applies to many types of organics recycling facility.

The Soils For The Chesapeake Track connects the dots between use of organics recycling technologies and end products to aid in nutrient and storm water management. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is severely impaired, in large part due to nutrient runoff from agriculture and livestock operations, urban and suburban storm water runoff (loaded with nutrients from lawns and landscapes) and sediment from erosion. Anaerobic digestion and composting are effective tools for nutrient management in the Chesapeake Bay, as are the end products from these operations. The first speaker in the Soils For The Chesapeake track is Cleo Braver of Cottingham Farm on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. A certified organic vegetable growing operation, Braver uses compost supplied by Loren Martin of Terra-Gro, Inc. (the third speaker in that session) for fertilization and moisture retention. While the farm has 100 tillable acres, less than 20 acres are used for vegetable production, and 15 are used for organically-raised livestock. “The rest are buffer strips that minimize the impact of our farm on the Bay,” explains Braver. “It is also a habitat for disappearing species.”

Howard County is running a residential source separated organics collection pilot, and composting materials at its Alpha Ridge Landfill site (feedstock materials grinding shown here).

Howard County is running a residential source separated organics collection pilot, and composting materials at its Alpha Ridge Landfill site (feedstock materials grinding shown here). Photo courtesy of Howard County

Other sessions in the Soils For The Chesapeake track cover compost best management practices (BMPs) for storm water management, local policies and mandates that require amending lawns with compost to increase storm water infiltration and reduce nutrient runoff and performance of green infrastructure. A session on Wednesday covers the Sustainable Sites Initiative guidelines and performance benchmarks (essentially “LEED for landscapes”) and walks through a case study of a SITES-certified installation.

Articles in this BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014 Preview section are based on either actual presentations to be given or topics to be covered. After the conference, articles will be published in BioCycle based on the conference presentations, workshops and tours.

Exhibits, Workshops And Tours

The Exhibit Hall has 55 displays of companies and organizations offering composting and anaerobic digestion and related technologies, services and systems. The list of exhibitors is on page 26 of this issue.

On Monday, October 27, there are three Preconference Workshops. Workshop 1, Soils For The Chesapeake, connects the dots between organics recycling and green infrastructure, compost and healthy soils that provide ecosystem services for storm water management. The title of the workshop reflects the very successful program developed in the Pacific Northwest — Soils for Salmon. David McDonald of Seattle Public Utilities, who helped develop that program and is implementing many of its recommended practices in Seattle, will discuss how the programs, policies and practices apply to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. An exciting workshop feature is demonstration plots installed specifically for workshop and conference attendees. The plots — on the Turf Valley Country Club grounds adjacent to the conference center — compare standard treatment for turf establishment to “suburban subsoiling,” i.e., the combination of soil decompaction and compost amendment, to restore disturbed compacted urban soils. Dr. Stuart Schwartz of the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Charlie Ulevich, Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance at Turf Valley are leading the collaboration with Dr. Tom Turner and staff from the University of Maryland Turf Grass Research Facility to install and monitor the plots, to be featured as part of the workshop and available for Conference participants to tour.

The Soils For The Chesapeake track at BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014 features compost-based best management practices for storm water management, erosion control and coastal restoration (example of restoration using Filtrexx Soxx).

The Soils For The Chesapeake track at BioCycle East Coast Conference 2014 features compost-based best management practices for storm water management, erosion control and coastal restoration (example of restoration using Filtrexx Soxx). Photo courtesy of Filtrexx

Workshop 2, Developing a New Classification System for Digestate and Digestate-Derived Products, is organized by the American Biogas Council. It is being structured to engage participants in laying the groundwork to develop and implement common/uniform industry and regulatory terminology and methodology to improve understanding and acceptance of anaerobic digester products (see sidebar on page 62 for more details). Workshop 3, the US Composting Council’s Foundations Of Composting, is an intensive one-day training that covers basic concepts, practices and “how-tos” of compost production. The workshop provides a foundation for novice compost operators, managers and regulators and will refresh veteran composters on underlying scientific principles.

There are two separate tours on October 30 — one headed north of Baltimore and one headed south. The northern tour will be visiting Veteran Compost, a composting facility processing primarily food waste, along with compostable products; Kilby Farm, which designed and installed a covered lagoon digester to process dairy manure and some food waste (see feature article starting on page 66); and Sensenig Farm, where the anaerobic digester treats dairy, swine and poultry manure. The “southern” tour goes to Howard County’s (MD) food waste and yard trimmings composting site; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center with field-scale research digesters; and Prince George’s County’s Western Branch composting facility that has a food waste composting pilot.

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