Composting Roundup

BioCycle July 2016, Vol. 57, No. 6, p. 9

Joe’s Organics collects over 2 tons/week of food scraps from Austin restaurants and sustainable businesses

Joe’s Organics collects over 2 tons/week of food scraps from Austin restaurants and sustainable businesses

Austin, Texas: Restaurant Compost Into Microgreens

Joe Diffie started his career in commercial organics collection as codirector at Ecology Action, administering the City of Austin’s first collection pilot in 2011.  In 2012, Diffie launched Joe’s Organics, which now collects over 2 tons/week of food scraps from Austin restaurants and sustainable businesses (collection carts in photo). The food waste is mixed with local horse manure from alfalfa-fed horses, and sawdust or leaves and composted for at least 3 months. The end product is Greener Pastures Compost. Over the last three years, over 200 tons of food waste have been diverted.

In February, 2016, Joe’s Organics received a Young Farmer’s Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture to expand his composting business into agriculture. Diffie used the funds to start Joe’s Microgreens, where compost is mixed with sand and perlite to make a growing medium. Microgreens are grown in his greenhouse where the growing beds are irrigated by ebb-and-flow benches, which allows him to recycle the irrigation water. Microgreens are the young, tender shoots of vegetables and herbs harvested just after the true leaves have emerged. In some cases, Diffie sells produce back to the restaurants that receive organics collection.

Vernon, Vermont: Compost Heat Recovery At Dairy Farm

Vern-Mont Farm, a dairy in Vernon, installed an aerobic rotary drum composting system in 2015, supplied by DTEnvironmental. “I kept looking at all that hot exhaust steam coming out of the drum thinking there must be something we can do with that heat,” explains Jeff Dunklee, co-owner of the farm. He learned about a compost heat recovery system — the Drum Dragon 200™ from Agrilab Technologies — designed specifically for the rotary drum composting systems that are becoming more common on farms and commercial composting sites. The amount of heat recovered varies depending on the hot water use patterns at a farm. At the Vern-Mont Farm, the Drum Dragon preheats a 120 gallon tank of water to up to 150°F. The farm’s hot water demand cycle results in an average of 30,000 Btu/hr of continuous heat recovered.  “We’re impressed by the 150°F hot water the system is sending to our milk parlor for washing,” adds Dunklee. “It is reducing our propane use.”

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCCRA) composting facility receives food waste from many large entities, including a university, grocery store chain, shopping mall and food and candy manufacturers (blocks of cheese seen here)

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCCRA) composting facility receives food waste from many large entities, including a university, grocery store chain, shopping mall and food and candy manufacturers (blocks of cheese seen here)

Amboy, New York: Grinding Cheese Chunks And Gummy Bears

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCCRA) composting facility in Amboy is designed to process about 10,000 tons of food waste and 20,000 tons of yard trimmings annually (see “Smooth Transition To Food Waste Composting,” November 2014). “We’re currently receiving more than 3,000 tons of food waste,” notes Greg Gelewski, OCCRA’s recycling operations manager. The facility receives food waste from many large entities, including a university, grocery store chain, shopping mall and food and candy manufacturers. Some arrives in trailer loads, including bread, eggs, frozen vegetables and frozen chicken that otherwise would be landfilled because it is packaged. Workers remove the containers and then process the larger chunks of food, such as blocks of cheese, and soiled cardboard with a Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder, used primarily for incoming yard trimmings. “By presorting and depackaging with labor we’re able to keep the product much cleaner,” notes Gelewski.

Feedstocks from the candy manufacturer include gummy bears that are not up to quality standards and material that comes out of the lines of the candy-making equipment during cleaning. OCRRA receives 275-gallon metal containers filled with a gel-like material. They break down the outer packaging and then process candy with the horizontal grinder to make the pieces smaller in size than a softball. Afterward, wood waste is run through the grinder to help clean out the machine because the gel adheres to some components as it moves through the mill. “For this type of project we’ll use the horizontal grinder with the 6-inch screen on it,” he adds. All food waste is composted in aerated bays with yard trimmings ground to about 4-inch minus.

Garbage to Garden collaborated with the Town of Scarborough to create three free drop-off sites for compostable food scraps for town residents.

Garbage to Garden collaborated with the Town of Scarborough to create three free drop-off sites for compostable food scraps for town residents.

Scarborough, Maine: Food Scraps Kiosks

Garbage to Garden is an organics recycling company founded in Portland, Maine in 2012. It collects food wastes from residences and businesses and delivers them to Benson Farm in Gorham for composting. Households receive a 6-gallon white Garbage to Garden bucket with snap-tight lid. Each week on collection day, subscribers put the bucket at the curb, and Garbage to Garden swaps it for a clean one. Participants may receive as much as 1 bag of Benson Farm “Surf ‘N Turf” compost a week, upon request. Garbage to Garden also collects used cooking oil and delivers it to Maine Standard Biofuels, which makes biodiesel and glycerine soap.

Recently, Garbage to Garden began a collaboration with the Town of Scarborough to create three free drop-off sites for compostable food scraps for town residents. Scarborough is the ninth town in southern Maine to be serviced by Garbage to Garden. It also offers subscription-based curbside collection in South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook, Portland, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland.

Providence, Rhode Island: New Composting And Anaerobic Digestion Regulations

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) issued new regulations governing composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities in the state. The regulations introduce a tiered structure for permitting food scraps and yard trimmings composting facilities: small-scale operations are permitted to have up to 25 cubic yards (cy) of material on site at any given time and are not required to register with RIDEM; medium-scale operations can have between 25 and 600 cy of materials on site at any given time and must register with RIDEM by completing a one-time registration form; and large-scale facilities handling >600 cy of material on site at any given time are required to renew their registration every three years. Mixed solid waste composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities must go through a complete permitting and licensing process.

The AD section of the new rules includes comprehensive design criteria and operating standards. Setback and buffer requirements are included and prohibit AD facilities in any drinking water watershed, within 1,000 feet of drinking water wells, within 200 feet of any body of surface water or wetland, within 500 feet of residences, businesses, or other publicly-used facilities, or within 100 feet of any property line. Link to new regulations in online version of this item.

Sweetgrass Garden study finds freshwater fish-based compost provides protection from disease and greater yields.

Sweetgrass Garden study finds freshwater fish-based compost provides protection from disease and greater yields.

Johns Island, South Carolina: Fish Compost Raises Vegetable Yields

Compost made from freshwater fish appears to perform just as well as compost made from saltwater fish in vegetable production, based on the results of a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) farmer project. A previous study from the Sweetgrass Garden on Johns Island demonstrated the efficacy of compost made with saltwater fish carcasses: The compost provided greater protection to tomatoes from diseases, such as Fusarium wilt, and boosted yields in cucumbers 30 percent higher compared to vegetable compost. The source of fish for that study was a commercial, offshore fisherman and included a variety of wild-caught (not farmed) native coastal species. With the SSARE grant, these same researchers tried to validate a similar growth yield performance with compost made from freshwater fish. They used the same composting process — passive aerated static piles in 4-by-4-by-4 foot bins lined with a 4-inch layer of finished compost functioning as a biofilter to control odor. Four 5-inch, perforated, polyethylene drain pipes were laid on top of the finished compost, with their ends extending beyond the bin, thus allowing free flow of air into the base of the bin.

The compost pile was constructed in layers: 2 inches of fish carcasses including head, tails and entrails, 4 inches of straw or leaves, and a half-inch of garden soil. It was watered as needed to remain moist. Temperatures exceeded 130°F within three days. Commercial compost from the Charleston County composting facility served as the control in the growth trials.

The test plot in the Sweetgrass Garden included six 100 foot-long test rows, separated by 4 feet. Two of the six rows acted as controls with no fish compost inputs. Rows were planted with equal numbers of eggplant and peppers. The test rows were prepared with a 2-inch layer of test compost per foot that was worked in by hand, and planted the next week. After 4 weeks, plants were side dressed with one quart   of compost. Drip irrigation was used; the amount of irrigation was identical for the six test rows. The test rows had 50 plants per row. Vegetables were harvested over an 8-week period, from late July to late August. The total yield with freshwater fish compost was 144 lbs; the yield with control compost was 123 lbs. The yield with saltwater fish compost was 101 lbs. Results of this field trial indicate that compost made with freshwater fish carcasses was not inferior to compost made with saltwater fish carcasses.

Edmonton, Alberta: Urban Composting, Urban Wildlife

One challenge of urban ecology is that anthropogenic resources, e.g., garbage, tend to be highly concentrated in cities, where it can attract wildlife, promote conflict with people, and potentially spread disease. These associations are well-documented for conventional garbage, but are unexplored for attractants such as backyard or neighborhood composting. In Canada — where at least one-third of households maintain a backyard compost pile — researchers from the University of Alberta tested the hypothesis that urban composting could be contributing to a recent rise in encounters with urban-adapted wildlife. They used remote cameras to compare visitation rates to composting piles and urban natural areas by coyotes (Canis latrans). For each site type, they assessed photographs for evidence of ectoparasites, screened scats for endoparasites, and sampled compost for harmful mycotoxins.

Visitation rates were eight times more frequent at composting piles than urban natural areas; coyotes with visible parasitic infections were 4.5 times more common, scats were 10 times more likely to contain tapeworm eggs, and mycotoxins were detected in 86 percent of piles and often at concentrations higher than legal limits for animal feed. “Proper management of composting can avoid these problems,” notes Linda Bilsens, who manages the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Compost Training Program, which is primarily focused on urban composting. “It’s exactly for these reasons that we endorse pest-proof composting in well-designed bins, or using a thick biofilter layer on open piles. Trained operators are critical to composting, even at the small scale.” The study will be published in an upcoming issue of EcoHealth.

Hilo, Hawaii: Hawaii County Council Oks $10m For Composting Facility

Hawaii County has approved more than $10 million for a new composting facility to process green waste. The funds, raised via a General Obligation Bond issuance, will be used to construct a full-scale composting facility at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill, and a receiving and preprocessing facility at the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill.

The county has been providing green waste diversion services in both West and East Hawaii for over 10 years and has successfully recycled over 267,000 tons in the past 7 years. However, it estimates another 185,000 tons was landfilled during this same period —an estimated 40 percent of all green waste generated. This led to a commitment in 2013 to expand collection and processing capacity, and in 2015, the county council entered into a 10-year agreement with Hawaiian Earth Products to develop and service green waste collection sites. Under the contract, materials will be transported to the receiving and mixing facility and then trucked to the planned compost facility at the Hilo landfill. Work on the composting facility is scheduled to begin in July 2016, with an operational date sometime in 2018.

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