BioCycle World

BioCycle February 2015, Vol. 56, No. 2, p. 6

California Governor Aggressive On Climate Action

In January, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. delivered his fourth inaugural address, in which he focused primarily on climate and energy issues, laying out three goals for the state to meet in the next 15 years: 1) Increase California’s electricity derived from renewable sources from one-third to 50 percent; 2) Reduce current petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; and 3) Double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

To support these energy goals, Brown will continue his work on increasing distributed generation, rooftop solar, microgrids, energy storage and electric vehicles. He is asking for contributions from many stakeholders to accomplish this. “It will require enormous innovation, research and investment,” stated Brown. “And we will need active collaboration at every stage with our scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, businesses and officials at all levels.”

Other groups and members in California government are doing their part to reach Brown’s energy and climate goals. The California Air Resources Board developed a road map that outlines how the state can achieve up to a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use. In December 2014, State Senator Fran Pavley (D) introduced SB 32 that would require the state to set a 2050 greenhouse gas target of 80 percent below 1990 levels.

In addition to his above stated goals, Brown also emphasized the necessity to decrease methane, black carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, and to work with land managers of farms, forests, and wetlands on carbon storage practices.

Food Recovery Challenge And WasteWise Awards

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrated the accomplishments of businesses and organizations that participate in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and WasteWise programs.

EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge promotes source reduction, food recovery and donation, and recycling of inedible wasted food, encouraging businesses and organizations to develop creative strategies to reduce their environmental impact while saving money through waste reduction. “In 2013, EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge participants diverted more than 370,000 tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators,” states Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Of this total, more than 36,000 tons of food was donated to feed people in need, which equates to nearly 56 million meals.” Twenty-three awards were presented to Food Recovery Challenge participants in two categories, data-driven and narrative. Data-driven award recipients attained the highest percentage of wasted food diversion and prevention. Narrative award recipients stood out in areas of source reduction, leadership, innovation, education and outreach, and endorsement.

In addition, participants of the WasteWise program were recognized. The WasteWise program assists organizations and businesses with implementation of sustainable materials management practices to decrease municipal and industrial wastes. Together, WasteWise participants prevented and diverted almost 7.6 million tons of waste from being sent to landfills or incinerators in 2013, equating to a reduction in greenhouse gases equivalent to removing 2.3 million passenger vehicles off the road for a full year.

2014 GameDay Recycling Challenge

Ninety-one schools participated in the GameDay Recycling Challenge — a competition to engage fans of collegiate athletics in sustainability — during the 2014 college football season, representing over 30 athletic conferences. The schools compete in five categories, and are tasked with tracking waste and recycling weights from tailgating areas and stadiums to determine who recycled the most and who achieved the highest diversion rate. Coordinated through a partnership of the College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise Program, Keep America Beautiful and RecycleMania, Inc., the 2014 GameDay Recycling Challenge was successful at recycling or reusing 1,098 tons of bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, food scraps and other recyclables. This equates to a reduction of 3,356 metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted.

The 2014 national winners of the GameDay Recycling Challenge were Clemson University, recycling a total of 30.36 tons, and Humboldt State University, with a diversion rate of 86.05 percent. A complete list of winners is available on the GameDay Recycling Challenge website. Winners will be recognized at the 2015 Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit at Purdue University in June.

Water Infrastructure Finance Center Announced

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the launch of the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The center will serve as a resource for communities, municipal utilities, and private entities working to address water infrastructure needs by exploring public-private partnerships and creative financing solutions. In addition, the center will focus on developing resiliency in water infrastructure to threats brought on by climate change. The center is part of the White House Build America Investment Initiative, “a government-wide effort to increase infrastructure investment and promote economic growth by creating opportunities for state and local governments and the private sector to collaborate, expand public-private partnerships, and increase the use of federal credit programs.” The EPA estimates that more than $600 billion is necessary over the next 20 years to maintain and improve the nation’s water infrastructure.

Federal Court Ruling On Excess Manure Application

In January, Federal Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington ruled that manure from livestock facilities applied in excess of the amount allowed in their comprehensive nutrient management plans can be regulated as a solid waste under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The ruling is the result of a lawsuit against five dairies in Washington State’s Lower Yakima Valley filed in February 2013 by the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment and the Center for Food Safety on behalf of 24,000 residents of the Lower Yakima Valley. The lawsuit stated that the dairy farms create a public health risk by contaminating water supplies, subjecting the residents to nitrate pollution. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) studied water contamination in the Lower Yakima Valley and determined that out of 331 wells tested, 20 percent exceeded the federal drinking water standards for nitrate. As a result of these findings, the U.S. EPA signed a Consent Order in March 2013 with the five dairies to address sources of nitrate contamination in groundwater near and downgradient of the dairies’ facilities with the goal to achieve the nitrate MCL of 10 mg/L in the drinking water aquifer beneath and hydraulically downgradient of the dairies.

The judge’s order allows the case to go to trial, where the scale of contamination will be determined. “There can be no dispute that the dairy’s operation may present imminent and substantial endangerment to the public who is consuming contaminated water,” stated Rice in his 111-page ruling. Cow Palace, one of the five dairies in the lawsuit, has over 11,000 cows that produce 61 million gallons of manure-contaminated water and 40 million gallons of liquid manure. It processes manure via composting, uses it to fertilize fields, or stores it in lagoons. Expert testimonial utilized by the judge to make his decision stated millions of gallons of waste escape Cow Palace’s manure lagoons and enter adjacent soil and groundwater. According to a Reuters article on Rice’s ruling, fertilizer (in this case manure) is not considered waste under RCRA, but the court found that Cow Palace Dairy was “applying more manure to crops than needed.” The article noted that this dairy’s “excessive application” transformed the waste, which is “an otherwise beneficial and useful product,” into a discarded material that violates RCRA’s open dumping provisions. According to Progressive Dairyman, “this is the first time RCRA has been used successfully in federal court as the basis for a citizen lawsuit against livestock producers.”

TerraCycle Zero Waste Recycling System

TerraCycle, a company specializing in collection and reuse of nonrecyclable, postconsumer waste, is now offering a strategy to recycle household and office waste. TerraCycle’s “Zero Waste Boxes,” distributed online, offer customers the option of separating waste by product (i.e., alkaline batteries; beauty products and packaging; drink pouches) or by room type (i.e. bathroom; kitchen; office). Customers also have the option of purchasing boxes that don’t require separation. Prices for the boxes vary, e.g., an “Office Separation Box” starts at $80. Each box comes with a prepaid shipping label printed on it, and customers are instructed to ship the box when it is full. TerraCycle then processes the material into new products such as park benches, bicycle racks and watering cans. Across the globe, TerraCycle has been successful at repurposing 2.5 billion pieces of food and beverage packaging waste, office and school supply waste, e-waste, and other items such as discarded cigarette filters.

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