BioCycle World

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


The Call for Papers will open on the first of November for BioCycle’s East Coast Conference, April 3-6, 2017 in Ellicott City, near Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to composting and anaerobic digestion, BioCycle EAST COAST17 will take a deep dive into food recovery and recycling, compost and digestate markets, and advancing the growth of organics recycling capacity — from community to commercial/industrial scale. Abstracts for BioCycle EAST COAST17 will be accepted starting November 1, 2016.

GBCI To Administer Zero Waste Certification

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and the U. S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) joined forces to advance zero waste business practices. GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the Zero Waste Facility Certification and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC, and the Zero Waste principles will be aligned with GBCI’s offerings. “By reducing and eliminating the volume and toxicity of waste and materials and aligning green rating systems, we are one step further in creating a holistic strategy for green business and transforming the market to be more sustainable,” explained Mahesh Ramanujam, president of GBCI, and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC), which launched the LEED green building rating system 16 years ago. GBCI is the exclusive provider of third-party certification and professional credentials for LEED, the world’s most widely used green building rating program, and other sustainability programs including the Sustainable Sites Initiative certification (see “Market Transformation For Sustainable Landscapes,” May 2016).

“USZWBC is so excited to join the GBCI family,” added Stephanie Barger, founder and executive director of USZWBC. “By spearheading a comprehensive certification and training program, we have already made huge strides in shifting attitudes and behaviors of large and small companies to focus upstream with managing waste, With GBCI’s influence, we will be able to further the integrity and credibility of Zero Waste and create a Zero Waste Economy for all!”

Zero Waste Facility Certification is based on the peer-reviewed, internationally accepted definition of Zero Waste developed by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), and has been aligned with credit requirements of LEED for Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M). Zero Waste Business Associates help implement best practices and measure progress toward achieving Zero Waste goals and certification. Businesses, organizations and communities that divert more than 90 percent of waste from landfills, incinerators and the environment are considered to be successful in achieving Zero Waste.

California Adopts Strict Methane Reduction Laws

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed SB 1383 last month, which establishes the nation’s toughest restrictions on destructive super pollutants including black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane. SB 1383 reduces the emission of short-lived climate pollutants and promotes renewable biogas by requiring a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and 40 percent reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030. Sources of these pollutants include petroleum-based transportation fuels, agriculture, waste disposal and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products. Removing one ton of diesel black carbon from the atmosphere, for example, is equivalent to removing 1,000 to 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

In addition, SB 1383 requires the Department of Food and Agriculture to adopt regulations to reduce methane emissions from livestock manure management operations and dairy manure management operations on or after January 1, 2024.

CalRecycle is required to adopt regulations that achieve the specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills — a 50 percent reduction in the level of statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020, and a 75 percent reduction from the 2014 level by 2025. Local jurisdictions are authorized under SB 1383 to charge and collect fees to recover their costs incurred in complying with the regulations. The bill also requires, no later than July 1, 2020, that CalRecycle analyze the progress that the waste sector, state government, and local governments have made in achieving the specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills. The bill authorizes the department, depending on the outcome of that analysis, to amend the regulations to include incentives or additional requirements, as specified.

Vermont Recycling Law Boosts Fresh Food Donations

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Vermont Foodbank announced a 40 percent increase in food donations in 2016, topping the 25 to 30 percent increase in 2015. “The energy around these new partnerships is contagious,” notes Deb Markowitz, Secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources. “Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law is making lives better, improving nutrition and choice at food shelves, and reducing waste at landfills.” The law, enacted in 2012, bans all organics from the landfill by 2020. The ban is being phased in; the largest generators of food waste (>104 tons/year and within 20 miles of a composting facility) had to comply by July 2014, followed in 2015 by generators of >52 tons/year.

The marked increase in the amount of fresh food donations has been directly connected to the phased in ban. It led the Vermont Foodbank to start its Fresh Rescue Program in 2014 when it faced challenges managing growing amounts and types of donated food. Hannaford Supermarkets, for example, had perishable food to donate that was difficult for the Foodbank to retrieve because of its volume, location, and the frequency of pickups needed. “To address this challenge, we activated our statewide network of agencies, connecting partner food shelves and meal sites directly with area Hannaford Supermarkets to keep perishable food local,” explains John Sayles, CEO of Vermont Foodbank. By the end of the first year of the program, 16 Fresh Rescue partners collected 347,000 pounds of food that would have otherwise been wasted. In 2016, 40 Fresh Rescue partnerships exist throughout the state.

“We are spending less than $500 a month on food and we’ll serve around 40,000 meals this year,” Lieutenant Scott Murray of the Salvation Army of Greater Burlington Area noted in a joint press release from ANR and Vermont Food Bank. “That works out to a food cost per meal of under $0.07 versus about $1.47 two years ago. And the quality of what we’re serving is so much better than before we started getting these particular fresh food donations — healthy and nutritious meals, fresh fruits and vegetables and new dinner offerings such as kale, pork, chicken and so much more. This program has changed how we cook, what we serve, and benefits so many people. There is no way we could afford to buy the same food as is donated.”

Take The Peel Challenge!

Can You Cut Your Food Waste & Food Bill, Too? The government of the Region of Peel in Ontario is issuing a challenge to its residents. “The average household could save up to $112/month by reducing its food waste with the three simple tips that we’re suggesting: Plan smart; Buy smart; and Store smart,” says Norm Lee, the Region’s Director of Waste Management. “If every household could cut its food waste by the equivalent of one watermelon this year, then we could reduce Peel’s food waste by one percent in 2016.”

While Peel residents are ensuring that any organics that they throw out are placed in their backyard composters or new green organics carts, rather than in the garbage, recent curbside audits show that 40 percent of the food waste in the green carts is avoidable. Approximately half (53%) is leftovers that could have been eaten, and the other half (47%) is untouched food. The audit showed that households are throwing out bread, meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy products that could have been eaten.

New Climate Change Indicators Report

The fourth edition of the U.S. EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States, published in August 2016, presents 37 indicators, each describing trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. It focuses primarily on the U.S., but in some cases global trends are presented to provide context or a basis for comparison. Indicators are grouped into six chapters: Greenhouse Gases, Weather and Climate, Oceans, Snow and Ice, Health and Society, and Ecosystems. Some chapters also include a “Community Connection,” “Tribal Connection,” or “A Closer Look” feature that highlights a specific region, data record, or area of interest. Several indicators highlight the important ways in which the observed changes can have implications for human health.

The 2016 report reflects previously reported indicators and has added the following new ones and features:

• Seven new indicators: River Flooding, Coastal Flooding, Antarctic Sea Ice, Heat-Related Illnesses, West Nile Virus, Stream Temperature, and Marine Species Distribution.

• Three expanded indicators: Arctic Sea Ice was expanded to look at changes in the length of the melt season. Similarly, Snow Cover now examines changes in the length of the snow cover season. Heat-Related Deaths has a new graph that focuses on heat-related cardiovascular disease deaths, including trends for specific at-risk groups.

• Updated indicators: Nearly all indicators have been updated with additional years of data that have become available since the last report.

•Tribal connection: The report includes an example of stream temperature trends in the Pacific Northwest and highlights how changes may affect salmon, a tribally important resource.

Minnesota Organics Recycling Policy

Minnesota joins Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and California as the sixth state to have an organics recycling policy that includes requirements to divert food waste from disposal. Minnesota statute 115A.151 requires that a public entity, owner of a sports facility, and owner of a commercial building shall: “ensure that facilities under its control, from which mixed municipal solid waste (MSW) is collected, also collect at least three recyclable materials.” Recyclable materials are further defined in 115A.03 as “materials that are separated from mixed MSW for the purpose of recycling or composting, including paper, glass, plastics, metals, automobile oil, batteries, source separated compostable materials, and sole source food waste streams that are managed through biodegradative processes. Refuse-derived fuel or other material that is destroyed by incineration is not a recyclable material.”

Olive Mill Waste As Food Antioxidant

Managing wastes from the extraction of olive oil continues to be a considerable environmental problem for the Mediterranean countries that produce the majority of olive oil worldwide. The main technology used to extract olive oil is the continuous two-phase centrifugation system, which generates a wet cake. This waste material contains polyphenols, a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation, e.g., counteracting the deterioration of stored food products.

Spain’s olive oil industry alone produces more than 4 million tons/year of olive waste. Collaboration among multiple groups of Spanish researchers resulted in a novel strategy to utilize olive oil waste. Researchers examined the stability of lamb meat patties in the presence of olive waste extract serving as a natural antioxidant in a standard high-oxygen cold storage environment for nine days. After six days of storage the discoloration, lipid and protein oxidation of the meat patties were all delayed significantly compared to the controls.

The results pointed out the potential for using olive waste extracts as natural antioxidants in meat products. With this strategy, the olive oil industry would be encouraged to follow an eco-friendlier olive oil production chain obtaining marketable products from the wastes generated. At the same time, the shelf-life (in terms of oxidation process) of the lamb patties would be increased, reducing food waste at the point-of-sale and consumer levels, which is especially important in perishable foods such as minced meat products. The study appeared in the July 2016 issue of Journal of Cleaner Production.

Fungi Recycle Metals From Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Batteries

Researchers from the University of South Florida presented their work on the ability of fungi to recycle the metals from lithium-ion batteries at the recent National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. “The idea first came from a student who had experience extracting some metals from waste slag left over from smelting operations,” says Jeffrey A. Cunningham, PhD, the project’s team leader. “We were watching the huge growth in smartphones and all the other products with rechargeable batteries, so we shifted our focus. The demand for lithium is rising rapidly, and it is not sustainable to keep mining new lithium resources.”

Other methods to separate lithium, cobalt and other metals require high temperatures and harsh chemicals. Cunningham’s team is developing an environmentally safe way to do this with organisms found in nature and putting them in an environment where they can do their work. “Fungi are a very cheap source of labor,” he points out. To drive the process, Cunningham and colleague Valerie Harwood, PhD, are using three strains of fungi — Aspergillus niger, Penicillium simplicissimum and Penicillium chrysogenum.  “We selected these strains because they have been observed to be effective at extracting metals from other types of waste products,” Cunningham explains. “We reasoned that the extraction mechanisms should be similar, and, if they are, these fungi could probably work to extract lithium and cobalt from spent batteries.”

The team first dismantles the batteries and pulverizes the cathodes; the remaining pulp is exposed to the fungus. “Fungi naturally generate organic acids, and the acids work to leach out the metals,” he continues. “Through the interaction of the fungus, acid and pulverized cathode, we can extract the valuable cobalt and lithium. We are aiming to recover nearly all of the original material.” Results so far show that using oxalic acid and citric acid, two of the organic acids generated by the fungi, up to 85 percent of the lithium and up to 48 percent of the cobalt from the cathodes of spent batteries were extracted. Gluconic acid, however, was not effective for extracting either metal. The cobalt and lithium remain in a liquid acidic medium after fungal exposure so Cunningham’s next step is to figure out how to get the two elements out of that liquid.

Impact Of Silver Nanoparticles On Soils

Due to their antimicrobial properties, silver nanoparticles are used in products ranging from detergents, textiles and home appliances, to socks, toothpastes, air filters and nutritional supplements. A study led by Dr. Peter Kopittke, senior lecturer in soil science in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at The University of Queensland, has found silver nanoparticles generally pose a low risk to agricultural food production. However testing in certain soil conditions led to an unexpected finding. “The risk posed by silver nanoparticles increases substantially in saline soils and in soils irrigated with poor quality water,” Kopittke told University of Queensland News. “It’s known that most silver nanoparticles eventually accumulate in biosolids at wastewater treatment plants, with most of these biosolids then applied to agricultural soils.”

The researchers applied biosolids containing silver nanoparticles to soils at rates equivalent to the “worst-case scenario” and found that the silver nanoparticles were generally rapidly converted to forms that were inert and not toxic. Nor did the silver accumulate in plants growing on these soils. Even when added at high concentrations, the silver nanoparticles were determined to be of low risk to the crop plants. “However, in saline soils, the risk increased markedly, although further work is required to determine the magnitude of the risk posed by silver nanoparticles in these saline soils,” added Kopittke.

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