Composting Roundup

BioCycle May 2016, Vol. 57, No. 4, p. 12

Omaha, Nebraska: Mayor Proposes To Landfill Yard Trimmings

Separate curbside yard trimmings collection and composting could go by the wayside in Omaha under a set of proposals to overhaul the city’s waste pick up, according to an article in Mayor Jean Stothert wants to allow residents to include yard trimmings in the trash, which then would be landfilled. Stothert is “touting the new system’s potential to generate more methane at the landfill, thus creating more electricity,” notes the online newspaper. In addition, the city of Omaha would stop making Oma-Gro, a popular compost produced from the yard trimmings. Last year, Omaha allowed its solid waste contractor to take all city yard trimmings to the landfill instead of the composting center.

Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Washington: Compost Integral To Prairie Restoration

Prairie restoration with compostThe South Sound Prairies Conservation Nursery Program at the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) coordinates production of native prairie plants and seeds used to restore the region’s prairies and oak woodlands. The compost being used to grow these rare native plants was manufactured by Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), a U.S. military installation located 9.1 miles south of Tacoma, Washington (see “Compost Restores Prairie, Improves Golf Course Turf,” July 2015). A significant portion of the seeds produced by CNLM will be used to restore critical habitat for state and federally listed prairie species. About 90 percent of the South Sound prairie habitat is on the military base, much of which includes important military training area. The strategy involves facilitating military access and training on these lands by removing encroaching trees and weedy brush, in addition to creating robust on-base ecosystems that are resilient to training and support rare species. The accompanying development of off-base habitats further boosts rare species and reduces constraints to training activities on-base.

The base’s composting facility is part of the JBLM Directorate of Public Works’ Environmental Division’s Earthworks program. The facility processes leaves, grass, food scraps, landscaping and land-clearing debris, and horse stable waste. The dining halls and commissaries at JBLM divert about 700 tons/year of food scraps to the Earthworks composting facility. The resulting compost-based soil amendment and landscaping products are used by JBLM, e.g., for prairie restoration, or sold to the public.

Chittenden, Vermont: Three-Pronged Strategy To Event Waste Management

In May 2015, Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), the municipal waste authority in Chittenden County, began reducing waste at events utilizing a three-pronged strategy: selection of food service items, placement of sorting stations, and active education through volunteer station monitoring. The program has assisted events ranging in size from 250 to several thousand attendees. CSWD works with event managers throughout the entire planning process. Prior to an event, it communicates with event producers and venue managers to promote use of certified compostable or recyclable food service items. Because Vermont has a strong culture of environmental stewardship, “many food vendors have already shifted to use of compostable food ware, either due to their own environmental commitment, to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, or to be able to participate in certain events,” explains Robin Orr, CSWD’s Event Outreach Specialist.

Orr helps event organizers make sure they have arranged for an appropriate number of sorting stations, suggesting two or three clearly labeled 65-gallon totes and good signage per station. At each event, volunteers known as “Waste Warriors” monitor all sorting stations to educate attendees and help sort materials into the appropriate receptacle. CSWD has 24 active, trained volunteers. To become a Waste Warrior, volunteers must attend a 1.5-hour training class. Events with their own crew of volunteers receive a less extensive, 20 minute on-site training that focuses on how to manage the specific products being used at the event and how to handle full bins.

CSWD coordinates with local haulers to communicate the needs of event customers so haulers can tailor their services appropriately. All organics are sent to Green Mountain Compost (GMC), CSWD’s one-acre aerated static pile composting facility. All food scraps and beverages, soiled paper and fiber products, BPI certified compostable products, and leaves and nonwoody yard trimmings are accepted at GMC.

Currently, Orr is facilitating a discussion with Chittenden County’s two major large event venues to adopt a common set of standards for food vendors. “If these large venues adopt the same standards, vendors will become accustomed to those expectations and it will enable smaller venues, who are more at risk of losing events and/or vendors if their rules are perceived as too onerous, to do the same,” notes Orr.

Seattle, Washington: Video On Compost Benefits To Salmon

The Nature Conservancy in Washington and Washington State University (WSU) recently teamed up to develop a video outlining their research partnership, which focuses on ways to improve storm water quality in runoff to reduce impacts to Coho salmon and orcas in the Puget Sound. Dr. Jennifer McIntyre at WSU has been researching the ability of a sand-compost mix to filter out toxic pollutants from storm water runoff, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons from automobile and truck exhausts. Her work showed that 100 percent of the Coho salmon exposed to compost-filtered storm water runoff survived, whereas all of the salmon exposed to non-filtered runoff died. The video can be viewed at:

Northfield, Illinois: Food Scraps Collection Pilot

Residents, businesses and organizations in Northfield can participate in a voluntary subscription based pilot curbside food scraps collection program that began April 4 and runs through December 5, 2016. Accepted materials include food scraps, food-soiled paper products, and compostable bags that meet ASTM 6400 or ASTM 6868 standards.

Participants are required to use a cart to set out their compostables. Waste Management, the village’s solid waste contractor, offers a 35-gallon cart for $55.60/service season for food scraps and soiled paper only. Participants that set out both food scraps and yard trimmings (commingled) are offered a 35-, 64-, or 96-gallon cart. Yard trimmings only can continue to be set out in paper bags or other containers. The fee for a season of yard trimmings collection service is $95 plus an additional $18 to include food scraps and food-soiled paper. The organics collection fee for businesses and large organizations ranges from $14.25 to $25/week, depending on the capacity of the cart. Collection is every Monday from April 4 to December 5. Food scraps are composted with yard trimmings at the existing composting facility servicing Northfield.

Lincoln, Nebraska: City Launches “Big Red Worm” Composting Program

Lincoln’s City of Public Works and Utilities Department awarded $14,750 to the Nebraska Farmers Union to support a program that diverts food waste from Lincoln’s landfill, which is projected to reach capacity in 16 years. The Farmers Union’s “Big Red Worms” (BRW) vermicomposting program, launched in August 2015, collects food scraps from some of the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS), restaurants, and pubs, and also collects animal manure from the Lincoln Zoo and horse barns. Food scraps and other organics will be precomposted using an aerated static pile system. Worms then will be added to complete the composting process, resulting in vermicompost (castings from earthworms). Nebraska Farmers Union’s BRW program now collects over 10 tons/month of food waste, according to WasteDive. The City also awarded $20,000 to LPS, which will be used to add nine schools to its food scraps pilot project. The pilot currently has 13 participating schools; collected food scraps are transported to Prairieland Dairy in Firth for composting with dairy cattle manure.

Dimondale, Michigan: Contract Grinder Optimizes Equipment

Hammond Farms Landscape Supply in Dimondale began as a produce farm in the early 1980s. Eventually, the company decided to diversify and sell topsoil and mulch — a sideline business that grew over the years into a very successful contract grinding service and landscape supply house that manufactures mulch, compost and soil. “Selling high quality landscape materials is the key to our success,” notes Cliff Walkington, General Manager. “We own a Diamond Z 4000 horizontal wood grinder, screening plants, and other support equipment.” Materials processed include brush, leaves, stumps, logs, food waste, bark, hard wood and red pine.

Keeping the grinder operating at peak performance is critical. Last year, production supervisor Don Lukas learned about a new wood grinder tooth — the Hammerhead tip made by GrinderCrusherScreen Inc. — that has “superior wear properties and saves me tremendous amounts of money when I take into consideration labor to change the teeth,” says Lukas. “These tips last twice as long as what we had been using previously.”

Seattle, Washington: Compost Ordinance Faces Privacy Lawsuit

Seattle’s food waste ban is facing a new hurdle — and it isn’t contamination. A group of Seattle homeowners, concerned that the ban on food waste disposal has resulted in garbage collectors snooping through their trash, are suing the city for violation of privacy rights awarded to them by the State Constitution, according to an article in the Casa Grande Dispatch. The rule that went into effect in early 2015 requires trash collectors to attach educational material to garbage bins containing more than 10 percent compostable material. During a recent court hearing on the lawsuit, Tad Seder, a lawyer for Seattle, explained that sanitation workers do a quick visual scan of the container to identify any obvious compostable materials. He noted that workers already check for dangerous items and banned materials.

Ethan W. Blevins, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, challenged Seder’s account, continues the Dispatch article, stating that the ban requires collectors to dig deeper into residents’ waste. According to Blevins, the case is about “whether the city of Seattle can engage in widespread and frequent inspections of residents’ garbage cans without a warrant.” To support his argument, Blevins cited a Washington Supreme Court ruling that police needed a warrant to search through a suspected drug dealers’ garbage in Port Townsend, even if the can was visible from the sidewalk.

Seder said sanitation workers are not police, nor are they searching for criminal evidence. “The ordinance is a good faith effort to bring people up to speed on the benefits of composting,” he noted in the article, explaining that collectors are not supposed to open any closed bag, or examine an open bag — they are just looking for flagrant violations of the ban. “If you have half of your garbage can filled with pizza crusts, they’re going to put a tag on it.” Judge Beth M. Andrus ruled on the lawsuit in late April, deciding that the inspections were unconstitutional and thus rendering that portion of the ordinance invalid. The ban on putting compostables in the trash remains in effect. 

Tucson, Arizona: Compost Cats Recognized By EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave a Food Recovery Challenge award to the University of Arizona (UA) for its food diversion accomplishments, giving particular recognition to the student-formed Compost Cats (see “Students Grow A Food Scraps Program,” August 2014). The organization, founded in 2011, offers food waste collection and composting. Initially Compost Cats serviced UA student union restaurants, and then expanded collection to local businesses and the city government. Its composting operation is a collaboration with the Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier Co-operative Farm and the city of Tucson. In 2015, the Compost Cats and its partners diverted more than 3.4 million pounds of organics from disposal, notes Chet F. Phillips, Associated Students of the University of Arizona’s (ASUA) sustainability program coordinator and project director for Compost Cats.


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