BioCycle World

BioCycle March/April 2016, Vol. 57, No. 3, p. 8
Nora Goldstein and Dr. Rufus Chaney

Nora Goldstein and Dr. Rufus Chaney
Photo by Holly Elmore, Elemental Impact

Rufus Chaney Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Rufus Chaney, a Senior Research Agronomist in the Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory of the
USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, was awarded the Jerome Goldstein Lifetime Achievement Award at the US Composting Council’s (USCC) 2016 Conference in Jacksonville, Florida in January. The Award, created by the USCC in 2009 in honor of Jerome Goldstein, founder of BioCycle, is given to an individual who has achieved excellence in their field of study and who has made significant contributions to the field of environmental stewardship and natural resource sustainability in his or her lifetime. Dr. Chaney is a leading authority on the fate, food-chain transfer, and potential effects of soil microelements. BioCycle Editor Nora Goldstein had the honor of presenting the Jerome Goldstein Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Chaney at the USCC Conference.

BioCycle has reported for over three decades on his research related to plant uptake of metals and translocation to edible plant tissues; speciation of metals in plants and bioavailability to animals; development of hyperaccumulator crops to phytoextract and recycle metals in contaminated soils; bioavailability of lead and other metals in soils, biosolids and composts directly ingested by animals; and development of “tailor-made composts and biosolids” to remediate lead, zinc, cadmium, nickel and other element-contaminated soils, including soils in urban gardens. Dr. Chaney was among the researchers in the 1970s who developed the Beltsville aerated static pile composting method. His research on plant uptake of metals and their bioavailability was critical to development of the U.S. EPA’s 40 CFR Part 503 biosolids regulations.

New York Governor Predicts Organics Recycling Bill

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, in his annual State-of-the-State address to the State Assembly in January, made a point of saying he would work with the legislature in 2016 to pass a bill requiring large generators of food waste to donate edible food and compost or recycle what is not donated. This legislation would affect 1,200 generators, such as grocery stores, colleges, hospitals and restaurants, who account for an estimated 275,000 tons of food waste generated annually. “This will help to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfills and reduce methane emissions while ensuring that hungry New Yorkers have improved access to quality food,” Gov. Cuomo told the legislators. “The state will phase in implementation of any program over several years to allow for state-supported development of food donation programs and recycling infrastructure. This sequencing will ensure excess food is donated to feed hungry New Yorkers, used to generate energy, repurposed as animal feed, or composted.”

Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste

The “Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent,” officially released by ReFED on March 9, is the first national economic study on food waste to engage a multistakeholder group to develop a plan for action. ReFED — Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data — is a collaboration of over 30 business, government, investor, foundation, and nonprofit leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. The Roadmap presents an achievable path to 20 percent reduction within a decade through 27 scalable solutions that would divert 13 million tons of food waste from landfills and on-farm losses. “Implementing the Roadmap is projected to generate 15,000 new jobs, double recovered food donations to nonprofits (18 million meals/year), reduce up to 1.5 percent of freshwater use (1.6 trillion gallons/year) and avoid nearly 18 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions,” notes the Roadmap’s Key Insights summary. “The Roadmap will require an $18 billion investment, less than a tenth of a penny of investment per pound of food waste reduced, which will yield an expected $100 billion in societal economic value over a decade.”

The Roadmap outlines priority actions for the following stakeholder groups: Farmers, manufacturers, restaurants and food service, grocery retailers, federal government, state and local governments, foundations, and investors. To develop the Roadmap, ReFED engaged Deloitte Consulting LLP and Resource Recycling Systems and collaborated closely with The Closed Loop Fund, MissionPoint Partners, Natural Resources Defense Council and an Advisory Board of stakeholders. Seed funding came from the The Fink Family Foundation. “We’ve been investing in food waste issues for the past decade and saw a real need to develop a roadmap as a way to galvanize additional funding and action,” notes Jesse Fink, a foundation trustee. The Roadmap is available at refed.com. An article on the Roadmap findings will appear in an upcoming issue of BioCycle.

World Day To Combat Desertification

“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People.” This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on June 17. “I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “Let us find long term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities.” Barbut explains that the droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up to 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts.

“It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded,” notes a UN press release. “What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long term security threats.”

As examples, Barbut cites Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007 2010. “It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” she said. BioCycle encourages readers to bring attention to the role that compost and other soil amendments made from recycled organics to the forefront on June 17’s World Day to Combat Desertification.

Online Marketplace For Surplus Food

In December 2015, cofounders Emily Malina, Ricky Ashenfelter and Marty Sirkin (photo on p.11) launched Spoiler Alert — a business-to-business web-based marketplace that allows food producers and wholesalers to connect with food rescue nonprofits and other organizations to redistribute surplus food. Born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spoiler Alert has participated in two start-up accelerators, MassChallenge and Techstars Boston, that resulted in backing that helped fund the platform’s initial development and launch, and will contribute to its expansion. Spoiler Alert provides a number of benefits to its users: Reduce costs associated with disposing food, receive tax breaks for donations, and comply with statewide food waste disposal bans, like the one in Massachusetts. The platform is free for users donating food to feed the food insecure. “We don’t want to put a financial barrier in place for businesses to do the right thing, and we ensure that donations posted to our platform always end up with qualified nonprofit organizations,” explains Ashenfelter. “In instances of food sales, we apply a 5 percent service fee to the seller and a small transaction fee to the buyer.”

Cofounders Emily Malina, Ricky Ashenfelter and Marty Sirkin launched Spoiler Alert — a business-to-business web-based marketplace that allows food producers and wholesalers to connect with food rescue nonprofits and other organizations to redistribute surplus food.

Cofounders Emily Malina, Ricky Ashenfelter and Marty Sirkin launched Spoiler Alert — a business-to-business web-based marketplace that allows food producers and wholesalers to connect with food rescue nonprofits and other organizations to redistribute surplus food.

To use the online marketplace, the organization with the food, e.g., farms, manufacturers, wholesalers and grocers, posts food type, quantity, price, transportation requirement, must-go-by date and quality. Immediately, alerts are sent to specific partners or a network of potential buyers or nonprofits, e.g., food banks, rescue organizations, pantries and food processors, via email, text and in-app notifications. A buyer will then contact the organization and make the transaction through the online marketplace. Spoiler Alert’s software lets organizations track sales and donations. Internally, Spoiler Alert tracks signups, users, gross merchandise value, liquidity and volume metrics. Every organization that joins the platform is screened by one of Spoiler Alert’s six full-time employees. In its first two months, over 100 organizations have registered for the platform, according to Ashfelter. The platform currently prioritizes distributing surplus food for human consumption but is being expanded to include organics recycling opportunities.

Connecticut DEEP Awards Municipal Recycling Grants

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) awarded seven communities more than $60,000 in grants under its Recycling Incentive Grants Program to enhance local waste reduction, reuse and recycling programs. Grants, which may be used for an array of solid waste and recycling expenses, are divided into three categories: Recycling Rewards, Unit-Based Pricing Programs, and Waste Reduction Initiatives. Funding is currently available for FY2016 and additional funds may become available for FY2017 and beyond.

The latest round of grants pertaining to organics management included:

Columbia, $4,750, to help implement a residential organics drop-off program at sites throughout the town and provide workshops and educational outreach to encourage widespread participation.

Greenwich, $20,000, to support its Leaves: Nature’s Treasures, a school and community composting outreach and education program that includes establishing on-site food scrap and leaf composting systems for schools and educating residents about the benefits of home composting.

Mansfield, $6,800, to implement a Food: Too Good to Waste program, modeled after the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, in four schools to educate families about preventing food waste, proper food storage and preparation strategies and buying and eating what is bought.

Ridgefield, $13,000, to help launch a residential organics drop-off program at the municipal recycling center (see “Residential Food Scraps Drop Off,” January 2016).

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