Composting Roundup

BioCycle February 2016, Vol. 57, No. 2, p. 9

Willits, California: Adding Food Scraps To Green Waste Bin

Residents within the Willits city limits can now add source separated food scraps and soiled paper to their curbside green waste bins for no additional charge. Collection is provided by Solid Wastes of Willits, a locally owned family solid waste and recycling company operating in Mendocino County for the past 40 years. The expanded service began in early November as part of a new contract that sends food scraps and yard trimmings to Potter Valley’s Cold Creek Compost in Ukiah. The Cold Creek Compost facility was established by Martin Mileck in 1995 as the first fully permitted composting facility between San Francisco and the Oregon border. Solid Wastes of Willits pays Cold Creek Compost $26/ton to receive the organics.

The free program is offered to any resident with green bin service within the city of Willits, as well as some nearby residents as part of the county contract. Food scraps and soiled paper collection is also available to any commercial business in the city. Collection occurs every other Friday, based on the yard trimmings collection schedule. Acceptable items include food and soiled paper such as plates. Mike Sweeney, Director of Mendocino Solid Waste Authority, notes that similar programs were implemented in the Ukiah and Fort Bragg areas earlier in 2015, and that education was a key component in ensuring residents and businesses were separating properly and not including items such as plastic bags. He adds that some local businesses such as supermarkets already had in-house food waste programs, but that it was important to work with businesses individually to ensure proper procedures were followed, emphasizing the need for employee training.

Brooklyn, New York: Youth Enriched By Composting Project

BK ROT, an organics collection service powered by local youth in Bushwick, Brooklyn, received a grant from RSF Social Finance under its 2015 Seed Fund program to hire a consultant to assist with making the social enterprise more economically sustainable. BK ROT offers seasonal organics pick-up memberships to residents for a small fee, which helps it provide stipends to local youth who run the service. RSF Social Finance provides capital to nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises addressing key issues in the areas of food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship.

BK ROT currently engages four youth, ages 16 to 20, who collect food scraps from 36 residents and local businesses. They also turn piles at BK ROT’s community composting site, handle customer interactions and billing, and work on the design and build-out of the project. The youth also manage food scraps drop-offs in two of Bushwick’s Community Gardens as well as at the Bushwick Food Coop. BK ROT’s composting facility, known as Know Waste Lands, is at the corner of Myrtle and DeKalb Avenues, near the Central Ave. subway station. The consultant hired with the RSF funds is tasked with finding new markets for food scraps collection and composting to expand the project while adhering to BK ROT’s goals: good green jobs for marginalized youth, locally-managed resource systems, and accessible green spaces for Brooklyn.

Austin, Texas: City Considers Organics Program Expansion

Austin Resource Recovery, the City of Austin’s solid waste management department, is interested in expanding its existing organics diversion program. It launched a customer survey to collect input on service expansions, including weekly recycling collection and expanding the Curbside Organics Collection from the 14,000-household pilot program to citywide service. Survey questions include asking whether customers would support an expansion of yard trimmings pickup to include food scraps, and whether they would support having a third collection cart.

Current collection fees vary from $16.90/month for a 24-gallon trash cart to $41.85/month for a 96-gallon cart. Service expansions would require an increase in those fees, but also offer opportunities to save money by downsizing their trash cart size. Estimated minimum fees for each expanded curbside service would be a $3 monthly increase for weekly recycling collection and a $4 monthly increase for citywide food scraps collection. Downsizing from a 96-gallon to a 64-gallon trash cart could yield savings of $18/ month; downsizing from a 64-gallon to a 32-gallon trash cart could save $5/month. “Implementing these options will get us closer to Austin’s Zero Waste goal by 2040,” explains Austin Resource Recovery director Bob Gedert. “A recent study found that 44 percent of materials thrown in the trash could be recycled and an additional 46 percent was compostable; we want to hear from customers about their preferences for services.” Ron Romero, a Division Manager with Austin Resource Recovery, to discuss lessons learned from the city’s curbside organics pilot and program expansion considerations at BioCycle WEST COAST16, April 4-7, 2016 in San Diego.

Providence, Rhode Island: New Rules To Ease Small-Scale Composting

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recently proposed changes to its statewide composting regulations that would distinguish between small-, medium- and large-scale composting operations, and make it significantly easier to begin the small- or medium-scale variety. The proposed changes are due in part to a disposal ban, effective January 1, 2016, that requires businesses and institutions that generate two tons/week or more of food scraps, food processing residue and soiled, nonrecyclable paper to recycle the separated organics through agricultural end uses (e.g.., animal feed), composting or anaerobic digestion (AD), provided a recycling facility is within 15 miles of the generator. The law is expected to result in an increase in the number of medium- and large-scale composting and AD facilities in the state.

Under the proposed regulations, operations that compost less than 25 cubic yards (cy) of organic material at a time would be considered small. No DEM registration or approval would be required; the operator would be responsible for obtaining any permits or approvals required under federal or local law, or by other state regulations. Small-scale operations would be restricted to accepting leaves and yard trimmings, and selected food scraps, including fruits and vegetables, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and sawdust and manures from animals that only eat plants. DEM can do unannounced inspections to ensure no environmental or nuisance violations are occurring.

Operations actively composting between 25 and 600 cy of organic material at a time would be considered medium. They would have to register with DEM, but the process would only require submission of a form that includes site location and geography, and a proposed operating procedure. As with small-scale operations, it would be the responsibility of the operator to obtain all other required permits and approvals. Medium-scale operations would be restricted to accepting the same types of feedstocks as small-scale operations. They would be allowed to accept additional materials such as meats, grease, bones, shellfish and dairy products if the operator demonstrates it can be done without creating objectionable odors or attracting rodents, via a 60-day pilot program. Medium-scale operations are subject to similar conditions regarding groundwater, wetlands, dust, odors, pests, and DEM inspections and consequences as small-scale operations.

Large-scale operations composting over 600 cy of organic materials at a time would continue to be subject to existing regulations, but would be required to renew their registrations once every three years instead of annually. Rules focused on design and operating standards for AD facilities were also included in the proposed changes to the composting regulations.

Charlottesville, Viriginia: Food Scraps Drop Off Available Year Round

Residents in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia had gotten into the habit of source separating their food scraps and dropping them off at the Charlottesville Farmers Market, which is open from April 1 to October 31. But when the market closed for the season, they had nowhere to take the organics. In response, local officials added food scraps drop off at the Rivanna Sewer and Water Authority’s McIntire Recycling Center in early January, and continuing through March 31. Separated organics must be brought in compostable bags, available for free at the drop off center. During the program’s first week, 150 pounds were dropped off. Accepted materials include all food and plant items (fruit and veggie remains, bread scraps, eggshells, meat/bones; coffee grounds and filters; household plant remnants; cooking oils), uncoated paper not otherwise recyclable (napkins, food-soiled newspaper and pizza boxes, paper towels, wax paper), and certified compostable products.

The Farmers Market established its drop off program with two Charlottesville nonprofits, GreenBlue and Better World Betty, along with Black Bear Composting in Crimora to take food scraps from market shoppers when it is open. In 2015, over 6,400 lbs of food scraps were diverted to composting from the market.

Frankfort, Kentucky: Mortality Compost Facility Complete

Located between Lexington and Louisville, the Franklin County (KY) Road Department has 16 employees who maintain approximately 200 miles of county roads. Road Department workers have completed construction of a concrete pad for the county’s first animal mortality composting facility. According to a news report in The State Journal, road department crews will transport dead livestock to the facility where they will be composted in a static pile using mulch as the carbon source and odor absorbent. The mulch will insulate the carcasses, speeding up the rate of decomposition. The Road Department is leasing the composting site from Buffalo Trace Distillery. The lease contract requires monitoring of the soil and water to ensure hazardous materials do not leak into the environment, notes The State Journal. Students from a class at Kentucky State University who are working toward master’s degrees in health science will conduct the monitoring. Baseline tests to establish a benchmark have been conducted and students will return quarterly to conduct monitoring.

Denver, Colorado: Residential Organics Collection Routes

Denver is expanding its residential organics collection program in 2016 with the hope of easing the burden on the city’s landfills. The Denver Solid Waste Management Department is adding one new route in the coming weeks and two more this summer. The new routes will increase organics service eligibility by about 7,500 homes. By year’s end the city will be able to service about 17,500 homes. Each route costs about $400,000 to start, which includes a new truck. The program’s budget for 2016 is $660,000; the new trucks were purchased in 2015. The program started as a pilot project in 2008 and became a fee-based service in 2010. It expanded to four routes in 2014.

“If we want to achieve significant waste diversion away from landfills, composting is the one single program we can do,” Denver Recycles/Solid Waste Management Director Charlotte Pitt told The Denver Post in a January 28 interview. Residents who sign up for the organics collection program receive a 2-gallon kitchen countertop pail and a large trash container to bring to the curb on weekly pickup days. The fee is $9.70/month on a quarterly basis or $107 if they pay for a whole year. Accepted materials include food scraps, yard trimmings and paper products that can’t be recycled, such as paper towels. Pitt noted that about 11 percent of the eligible homes in the city participate; more than 70 percent use the recycling program, which is free. “Because it’s still fee-based, we’re not seeing the same level of participation as recycling, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Pitt said. Residents who participate in the recycling and composting programs can downsize their trash cart and save on trash fees.

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