Composting Roundup

BioCycle February 2015, Vol. 56, No. 2, p. 10

St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Composting Economic Impact Study

In 2014, the Minnesota Composting Council conducted the first-ever study of the state’s composting industry. Significant findings include: In 2013, the Minnesota composting industry created an estimated 700 direct, indirect and induced jobs, and was responsible for $148 million in total estimated gross economic activity; Gross revenues from public and private composting organizations totaled $30 million in 2008 and rose to $38 million in 2013, a 27 percent increase; The Minnesota composting industry processed 660,000 tons of organic materials (i.e. yard debris, food waste, agricultural by-products, etc.) into finished soil amendment in 2013. Research for the study was conducted using electronic and paper surveys distributed in Spring 2014 to all Minnesota composting facilities. The study was funded by a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Environmental Assistance Grant.

On a related note, the City of Minneapolis (MN) will be offering its Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling customers the option of green bin curbside organics collection in addition to trash and blue-bin recycling beginning in August 2015. Customers who wish to participate can enroll now. Program implementation will occur in two phases by geographic area based on collection efficiency, beginning with 25 percent of customers in August 2015 and the remaining 75 percent in spring 2016. By requesting customers to sign up early, the City is allowing time to purchase containers and plan collection routes. Accepted organics include all food scraps (including meat, bones and dairy), as well as food-soiled paper, wooden food products like chopsticks and Popsicle sticks, certified compostable plastics and animal and human hair. All organics will have to be placed in certified compostable bags.

Bethesda, Maryland: Compostable Labeling Rule

The US Composting Council (USCC) has approved Model Compostable Labeling Legislation developed by the Legislation and Enforcement Working Group of the USCC’s Legislation and Advocacy Committee. The goal of the model regulation is to provide states a template to create rules preventing companies marketing products as “degradable,” “biodegradable,” “decomposable” and other like terms, from making these claims without the products having been certified by ASTM or other recognized compostability standards. According to the summary of the “Compostable Plastics Labeling Bill,” the legislation: Prohibits manufacturers and suppliers from using environmental marketing claims on labels that are unsubstantiated on plastic products, including food or beverage products and film products; Provides that manufacturers and suppliers may not sell or offer for sale plastic products, including food and beverage products and film products, labeled with certain designations unless the plastic products meet certain specifications; and Provides that manufacturers and suppliers of compostable plastic bags may not sell or offer for sale compostable plastic bags unless the bags are readily and easily identifiable through color and labeling.

Banbury, England: Digestate And Compost Use In Agriculture Study

In January, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) released the findings of a three-year Digestate & Compost in Agriculture (DC-Agri) field study that analyzed the effects on soil quality of compost and whole digestate application compared to standard manufactured fertilizer application (control) at seven agricultural sites across Britain. Significant findings in the report are highlighted below. All of the change indicated is relative to the control, which was the application of manufactured fertilizer only prior to the study.

Soil Organic Matter: At two DC-Agri arable sites where green compost (no food waste) had been added for six years prior to the study and the three years during the project (total of nine years), soil organic matter levels increased by over 20 percent.

Shear Strength: Soil shear strength, a measure of density and level of force required to work the soil, decreased a small amount across all sites after three years of green compost applications, and at the sites where green compost had been applied for nine years, decreased five percent. A reduction in soil shear strength makes cultivations easier, and can result in cost savings from decreased fuel costs and less machinery wear.

Bulk Density: Soil bulk density (weight per unit volume of soil) was reduced by about two percent across all field sites after the three years of green and green/food compost application, and by about five percent at the sites where green compost had been applied for nine years. A lower soil bulk density means that soil is better aerated and has more pore space, which enables crop roots to grow deeper, better accessing nutrients and water.

Microbial Biomass: Soil microbial biomass refers to the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that make up the living matter in soil that help break down organic matter, thus releasing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus for crop uptake. Where compost was applied for three years, microbial biomass increased by about three percent, and at sites where compost was applied for nine years, a 15 percent increase was found.

Nitrogen: Application of compost over multiple years significantly increased the amount of soil nitrogen that can be supplied to crops via mineralization.

To access the full report, visit www.wrap.org.uk/dc-agri.

Prince William County, Virginia: New Organics Processing Facility

In January, Prince William County’s Board of County Supervisors approved an agreement with Freestate Farms LLC, a Virginia-based agricultural services and production company, to build and operate a new facility to process yard trimmings, food scraps and wood waste at the County’s existing Balls Ford Road composting facility, and to provide organic waste management services at the site and at the County’s landfill. The new facility, scheduled to be completed in July 2017, will double the processing capacity of the current Balls Ford Road operation. Among the community benefits of the facility, 20 to 25 jobs will be created.

At full operational capacity, the Freestate plant will process over 80,000 tons/year of organic material into finished compost, soil products and nonsynthetic fertilizer, as well as generate renewable energy via anaerobic digestion. Features include: A reversing aerated static pile (ASP) composting system to process yard trimmings and agricultural waste, utilizing a biofilter for odor management; An anaerobic digestion (AD) system to process food waste and other organic material (e.g., fats, oils, grease); Biogas produced in the AD system will fuel a combined heat and power system to provide heat and electricity to the facility, with excess electricity available for off-site uses; and A commercial-scale greenhouse at the Balls Ford Road site will utilize the energy, compost and fertilizer products generated on-site to grow produce for the local community.

New York, New York: Global Green USA Compost Videos

In 2014, Global Green USA developed two YouTube videos for its “Compost Opportunity Series”. The first video titled “Soil in the City” features Nette Compton, Associate Director of City Park Development at The Trust for Public Land, located in New York City (NYC). Compton discusses how dense urban development and population can take a toll on soil, depleting organic matter and starving soil of water and oxygen. Compton goes on to discuss how applying compost to urban soils can remediate these problems.

The second video titled “Landscaping with Compost in NYC” features Dylan Peck, Head Project Manager for Kelco Construction Inc. Peck explains that his company has been responsible for various landscape architecture projects in NYC, including installing birch trees in the New York Times office building and development of the High Line. Peck states that in both of these installations, and almost all landscape architecture projects the company has been in charge of, incorporating compost in the soil blend that they created was essential for successful growth of the living landscape. “Without compost, we wouldn’t be able to manufacture a soil,” notes Peck.

Hamilton, Ontario: Commercial Food Scraps Diversion Outreach

In 2013, the City of Hamilton expanded its Green Bin composting service from only residential homes and apartments to businesses the City deemed eligible. At the US Composting Council’s 2015 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, Jacquie Colangelo, Project Manager in the Waste Management Department for the City of Hamilton, gave a presentation on the strategies used to implement the commercial program, as well as lessons learned. When discussing implementation, Colangelo stated that site visits to businesses were more effective at promoting participation in the program than phone calls, and also provided an opportunity to train staff on the program. Important lessons learned included recognition of communication barriers, for example, staff at businesses where English is their second language. Colangelo also noted that not all businesses have the same operating hours as her department, making it necessary to modify city staff’s working hours on certain days in order to conduct outreach with businesses that work later in the day and at night.

At the end of her presentation, Colangelo mentioned that all of the outreach resources utilized during the rollout of the commercial program are available. To contact Jacquie Colangelo, send an email to Jacquie.Colangelo@hamilton.ca.

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