Composting Roundup

BioCycle September 2016, Vol. 57, No. 8, p. 15
Hoffman Composting, Johnson City, Tennessee

Hoffman Composting, Johnson City, Tennessee

Johnson City, Tennessee: School Teacher Launches Composting Site

Joe Hoffman, a high school science teacher, recently opened Hoffman Composting, located on the outskirts of Johnson City. The site is fully permitted by the State of Tennessee to accept food waste. Hoffman’s background is in sustainable agriculture, having received a degree in Agronomy-International Agriculture and working with and learning from farmers and researchers in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Mexico and Ecuador for over 20 years. “I was drawn to composting as a way for our communities to get the most out of their physical and economic resources,” notes Hoffman. The composting pad is a 60-foot by 80-foot cement slab located at a former industrial property. Food scraps, leaves and ground wood are composted in aerated static piles, with the fans powered by solar panels.

Hoffman Composting also offers organics collection. Households can sign up for weekly collection for $10/month; they receive a 2-gallon container for the kitchen, compostable liner bags, and a 5-gallon bucket to set out. Coffee shops pay $15/month and receive four 5-gallon buckets and weekly collection. The fee for restaurants, grocery stores and institutions is $20/month for weekly collection of a 32-gallon can, or $33/month for weekly collection of a 64-gallon roll cart. (Multiple weekly collections are available.) Finished compost is available for sale.

Walkway Marathon’s Green Team achieved a waste diversion rate of 73 percent

Walkway Marathon’s Green Team achieved a waste diversion rate of 73 percent

Hudson Valley, New York: Racing To Achieve Zero Waste

The Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in Hudson Valley — a 19th century railroad bridge transformed into the world’s longest linear park — hosts a weekend full of running events known as the Walkway Marathon. For the past two years, marathon organizers have taken a Sustainability Pledge through Athletes for a Fit Planet (AFP). By meeting requirements of the pledge, events can be promoted as officially sustainable according to AFP’s criteria that include using a minimum of 10 “eco-practices.” Those practices include 100 percent online registration and virtual race packages; recycling and composting receptacles at the event; and offering a ride-sharing program.

In addition to meeting required practices, the Walkway Marathon’s Green Team arranged hybrid buses to transport runners from point-to-point, offered medals and prizes made from recycled materials, reused over 80 percent of signage from the 2015 race, added environmentally educational signs at 36 mile markers, and provided waste education to the 2,400 runners and 10,000 spectators. This year, a waste diversion rate of 73 percent was achieved. Waste stations and vendors collected 1,545 pounds of organic material to be composted at Greenway Environmental in Clintondale (NY). Despite the high diversion rate, the 2016 race generated two times more waste than in 2015. This spike was due mainly to the addition of five food trucks to the vendor list, according to Walkway Board of Director Kathy Smith. Although vendors were given a 10-minute orientation about proper waste handling, 300 pounds of collected organic waste had to be redirected to disposal due to contamination. In the future, Smith plans to add volunteer coverage to vendor areas throughout the event.

West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Key Compostable Standard To Be Revised

The ASTM D6868 composting standard, widely used by third-party certifiers and laboratories to help manufacturers make verifiable claims about their products, is scheduled for revision, according to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International Committee on Plastics (D20). The D6868 specification establishes the requirements for labeling of materials and products including packaging, whereby a biodegradable plastic film or coating is attached to paper or other compostable substrates, and the entire product or package is designed to be composted in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities. “Each ASTM Standard must be renewed or revised at least once every 5 years — Section 10.6.3 of the Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees requires that update to be completed by the end of the eighth year since the last approval date,” explains Rhodes Yepsen, Executive Director of the Biodegradable Products Institute. “The last time ASTM D6868 was approved was in 2011, so it’s up for renewal, and has a limited window.”

As before, revisions will not attempt to address contents of a product or package (i.e., food substances), only the product or package itself.  “The proposed revisions will provide some minor editorial updates, but the standard will largely remain the same,” adds Yepsen. “The reasoning is it is a widely used standard, with thousands of products already certified according to it, and many communities and businesses already look to the standard for clarity on whether a product or package is compostable.  The composting industry cannot afford to lose this standard, because it is essential for determining whether a paper or natural fiber item contains noncompostable materials. If there are additional, more substantial revisions proposed, whether with regard to the paper making process, or accelerated composting technologies, those should ideally be addressed in separate working groups, after the existing standard has been secured for another 5 years.”

Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Curbside Composting Program Takes Off

The Village of Glen Ellyn, Illinois started a curbside collection program to divert food scraps to composting in April 2016. As part of the program, residents can recycle items including bread, vegetables, table scraps, dairy, coffee grounds and pasta. Residents also can place yard trimmings — grass clippings, garden vegetation, leaves and brush — into their composting carts. Households signing up for the program have the option of selecting a 35-gallon, 65-gallon or 95-gallon wheeled cart for curbside organics collection. The monthly cost (with weekly collection) varies from $11.31/month for a 35-gallon cart to $17.40/month for a 95-gallon cart. Participants also receive a small kitchen composting container and a supply of biodegradable bag liners to use within their home. To date, about 210 households have signed up, which is about 3% of all the households in the village.

Murcia, Spain: Biochar Use Improves N Cycling During Composting

Use of biochar can have beneficial effects during composting of manures and other nitrogen (N)-rich materials by reducing N losses and enhancing the rate of the composting process. However, the impact of biochar had not been explored in other complex organic matrices with low N that may hinder the composting process. A study by a team of Spanish researchers evaluated the impact of a small amount of biochar (4% by volume) on the composting process of olive mill wastes (residuals from processing olives into olive oil), which are characterized by a recalcitrant lignocellulosic composition with reduced nitrogen (N) availability. Two treatments were composted over 31 weeks: Control (46% olive mill waste + 54% sheep manure, dry weight); and the same mixture treated with biochar (4%).

Researchers found that incorporation of a small amount of biochar improved N cycling by increasing nitrate-nitrogen content, indicating a higher nitrifying activity, and reducing N losses by 15 percent without affecting the amount of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas, released. Use of biochar as an additive for composting could improve the value of olive mill waste composts by reducing N losses and increasing N availability in lignocellulosic and N-poor materials. A report on the study appeared in the March 2016 issue of Waste Management.

Detroit, Michigan: Cobo Center Organics Diversion

Cobo Center, the city of Detroit’s convention center, diverts food scraps and compostable products from its kitchen and food courts through My Green Michigan, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that offers zero waste services, including organics collection and composting at area farms. “This year, after a brief beta test for our compost program, we switched to compostable products in our food outlets, which allows us to collect organics not only in the kitchens, but also the food courts,” said Claude Molinari, Cobo Center general manager, in a recent press release. “As we gain efficiencies in this program, we have the potential to make a major impact on our waste diversion and the quality of local urban farming.”

My Green Michigan, a distributor for World Centric compostable products, takes Cobo Center’s organics to Tuthill Farms & Composting and Hammond Farms, composting sites in the Detroit region. So far in 2016, 65 tons of food scraps have been diverted. In addition, 10 tons of unserved food from Cobo Center were donated to Forgotten Harvest, a Detroit area food redistribution agency. The convention center recently underwent a $279 million renovation that updated its HVAC and plumbing equipment to energy saving standards, and replaced lighting with induction lighting, using 40% less electricity. The center’s condensate reclamation system reduced potable water intake, saving more than $125,000 in 2015.

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