Composting Roundup

BioCycle October 2016, Vol. 57, No. 9, p. 11

Austin, Texas: High School Steps Up To Waste Reduction

A school-wide waste audit at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin determined that over 82 percent of the materials in the trash bins were actually recyclable or compostable. This prompted students to conduct a school-wide education campaign to improve recycling rates, explains SXSW Eco, a sustainability organization in Austin. “Environmental Systems students conducted bilingual recycling education, Construction Tech students built 3D display boards to remind the school community about what was recyclable, Occupational Prep students picked up bins from classrooms and put them in the recycling dumpsters, and teachers worked with the school district and Austin Resource Recovery to provide more bins and introduce organics collection at the school.” These initiatives yielded an increase in recycling from an average of 3,200 lbs/month during the fall 2015 semester to over 4,400 lbs/month in the spring 2016 semester. Adds SXSW: “Eastside Memorial High School became the first high school in the Austin Independent School District to introduce composting on its campus and has diverted over 10,250 lbs of organic waste from the landfill since composting began in February 2016.”

Seattle, Washington: City Council Bans Greenwashing Of Noncompostable Bags

In early October, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that bans use of misleading green- and brown-tinted noncompostable plastic bags. The lawmakers also moved to prohibit the use of false “eco” labeling on noncompostable bags. “This ordinance continues Seattle’s national leadership role of innovative approaches to waste prevention, composting, and recycling,” said Sego Jackson, a waste prevention expert at Seattle Public Utilities. “Now residents will be able to tell which bags are truly compostable and which are not because bag manufacturers and retailers will help provide clarity rather than confusion.” It also will help keep plastic out of the city’s compost, adds Jackson.

The ordinance requires that all compostable bags provided to customers by retailers must be tinted green or brown and must be labeled compostable. The legislation also requires the bags to meet strict composting standards in order to be labeled as compostable.

Any provided plastic bag that is not compostable may not be tinted green or brown. Confusing or misleading terms such as “degradable” will not be allowed on bags provided to customers. The ordinance also makes permanent the current requirement that retailers charge at least five cents for each large recycled paper bag provided to customers. Plastic carryout bags are already banned by Seattle Code and will continue to be banned.

Since the bag ban ordinance became law in 2012, residents have continued to increase their use of reusable bags and decreased the plastic bags in residential garbage by half.

Prague, Czechoslovakia: Composting Of Creosote-Treated Wood Evaluated

The feasibility of decontaminating creosote-treated wood (CTW) by cocomposting with agricultural wastes was investigated by a team of Czech researchers using two bulking agents — grass cuttings and broiler litter — each at a 1:1 (weight basis) ratio with the matrix. Creosote is a mix of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenols and heterocyclic compounds. The initial concentration of PAHs in 3-cm ground CTW (27,000 mg/kg) was reduced to 795 mg/kg and 5,035 mg/kg after 240 days in grass cutting and broiler litter compost, respectively. PAH degradation exhibited significant detoxification, assessed by contact tests using Vibrio fisheri (Microtox® bioluminescent bacteria).

Cocomposting with grass cuttings was characterized by high microbial biomass growth in the early phases, as suggested by phospholipid fatty acid analyses. Based on the 454-pyrosequencing results, fungi (mostly Saccharomycetales) constituted an important portion of the microbial community, and bacteria were characterized by rapid shifts (from Firmicutes (Bacilli) and Actinomycetes to Proteobacteria). However, during broiler litter cocomposting, larger amounts of prokaryotic and eukaryotic phospholipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA) markers were observed during the cooling and maturation phases, which were dominated by Proteobacteria and fungi belonging to the Ascomycota and those commonly related to the Glomeromycota. This research reports the first in-depth analysis of the chemical and microbiological processes that occur during the cocomposting of a PAH-contaminated matrix. The authors conclude that composting is an extremely efficient and sustainable treatment for contaminated wood. The paper was presented in the January 2016 issue of Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Tompkins County, New York: Pulling Plug On Food Scraps Collection

The Tompkins County Solid Waste Division announced it is ending a three‐year food scraps curbside collection pilot on December 31st. As of July 1st, the program had reached about 85 percent of all 1,200 households in the service area on any given week. Barbara Eckstrom, Tompkins County Solid Waste Manager, emphasizes that ending program was not due to a lack of success but that the Solid Waste Division needs to cut costs by $200,000 to $300,000 in the near future. The primary reason is the “rapid decline in the amount of revenue coming into the Solid Waste Division from the sale of recyclable materials,” she adds, which provides 15 percent of its yearly revenue.

Tompkins County will continue to expand the number of drop spots around the County, where residents can take their food scraps to be recycled for free (see “Residential Food Scraps Dropoff,” January 2016). Several will open this fall, bringing the total number to 12. Toolkits are provided to all participants free of charge. The drop spot program “wasn’t our first choice,” Eckstrom admits, “but it does work.” Residents made more than 20,000 drops in 2015, amounting to an estimated 200 tons of food scraps and soiled paper.

Kalamazoo, Michigan: Right To Farm Includes Right To Compost

Kalsec, a Kalamazoo-based maker of natural herb and spice extracts, touts its composting of plant materials as a model of ethical, safe and environmentally sustainable handling of food waste. Each year, 3,000 tons of Kalsec’s rosemary and pepper by-products are composted at a 5-acre open-air windrow composting operation on Coggan Farms in Cooper Township. Some neighbors of Coggan Farms have complained about ongoing odor issues, which have been described as “fermented spice.” Their complaints led Cooper Township to post a fact sheet on its website detailing actions it had taken to investigate the issues. “The Township Board has determined (as had Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)) that the composting operation is lawful and compliant with all applicable statutes, ordinances, rules and regulations,” states the fact sheet. “In short, the Township is unable to compel Coggan Farms to cease its operation.”

The composting site is under the jurisdiction of, and compliant with, MDEQ’s requirements and MDARD as a soil supplement program. Michigan Right To Farm is the state law that regulates agricultural composting operations, authorizing MDARD to develop and adopt Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices. Coggan Farms’ composting operation is considered an On-Farm composting facility because it is taking food processing residuals, composting the materials on a farm and applying the finished compost on crop land farmed by the same farm where the composting operation is located.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Testing Residential Organics Collection

The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works announced a one-year pilot to study the impact of a residential collection program for food waste and yard trimmings. A limited number of households living in single-, two- and multifamily homes up to four units in several targeted neighborhoods will be eligible to participate. These households will receive a 65-gallon cart for the commingled organics, which will be collected every other week December 2016 through March 2017, and collected every week April through November 2017.

The pilot program is voluntary and residents must pay $12.75/month for the service. Collection will occur at the resident’s usual garbage/recycling collection point — curb or alley. Households will receive a starter kit that includes a kitchen caddy, supply of compostable plastic bags, instructions, and coupons from area stores and restaurants. All food scraps must be bagged in either paper bags or BPI-Certified compostable plastic bags. The program can accommodate up to 500 total households. Through the pilot, the city hopes to gauge demand for this type of collection service, establish the recovery rate this type of program provides, and `assess the development of regional organics processing capacity that includes food waste.

Milwaukee used a competitive RFP process to identify hauling and processing contractors. Compost Crusader, LLC won the bid and will be delivering collected materials to Blue Ribbon Organics where they will be processed into compost. Blue Ribbon Organics has been composting yard trimmings and food waste at its facility in Caledonia, Wisconsin since 2008.

San Francisco, California: Dog Waste Collection And Composting

A new way to convert dog waste into compost is getting the attention of eco-minded pet owners in San Francisco. A pet waste bag distribution program launched in September at a dog-friendly open space maintained by volunteers in the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. BioBags is providing park-goers with compostable bags, a specialized receptacle, and a pickup service to haul the waste to a Bay area composting facility. There are an estimated 120,000 dogs in San Francisco that produce about 32 million pounds/year of waste.

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