BioCycle World

BioCycle December 2016, Vol. 57, No. 11, p. 6

Federal Solid Waste Grant Funding Opportunity For Rural Communities

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development is offering grants for rural areas with less than 10,000 population to reduce or eliminate pollution of water resources through funding for organizations that provide technical assistance or training to improve the planning and management of solid waste sites. Funds may be used to evaluate current landfill conditions, to identify threats to water resources, to provide technical assistance or training to enhance the operation and maintenance of active landfills, to provide technical assistance or training to help communities reduce the amount of solid waste coming into a landfill, and to provide technical assistance or training to prepare for closure and future use of a landfill site. Applications are due Dec. 31, 2016. For more information, visit

EPA’s Annual MSW Facts & Figures Released

The U.S. EPA recently released what it now calls “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet” (formerly MSW Facts & Figures). The U.S. municipal solid waste (MSW) data in the new Fact Sheet are from 2014. The findings? About 258 million tons of MSW were generated, of which over 89 million tons were recycled and composted, 136 million tons were landfilled and over 33 million tons were combusted with energy recovery. Percentage wise, that equals 52.6 percent landfilled, 34.6 percent recycled and composted, and 12.8 percent combusted. Food waste represents 38.40 million tons of the 258 million tons of MSW generated, second only to paper and paperboard at 68.61 million tons. When looking at how all this MSW is managed, food waste remains the highest tonnage of materials landfilled — 29.31 million tons. Of the 9.09 million tons not landfilled, 18.6 percent (7.15 million tons) were combusted, and 5.1 percent (1.94 million tons) were composted.

November Article Correction

In “Regional Digester Increases Food Scraps Processing” (November 2016), the article erroneously reported that the Town of Scarborough, Maine had adopted a Pay-As-You-Throw solid waste management program in 2016. The Town decided not to adopt such a program in favor of other recycling initiatives, such as organics recovery and increased education and outreach to Town citizens. BioCycle apologizes for the error.

College, Community Team Up To Measure Resilience

The Borough of Carlisle, Pennsylvania teamed up with Dickinson College in Carlisle to be the first city worldwide to use the newly developed City Resilience Index (CRI), an online interface that calculates a community’s resilience. The interface, created for the Rockefeller Foundation by Arup, a planning and engineering firm, calculates the resilience of a community using data provided by community members. The tool evaluates a city based on its performance results in a number of areas: health and wellbeing, economy and society, infrastructure and the environment, and leadership and strategy. Neil Leary, Dickinson’s Director of Sustainability Education and Cofounder of the Greater Carlisle Project, will spearhead the project, and Dickinson students enrolled in his class, Sustainability 301: Project for Building Sustainable Communities, will be the primary researchers, reports an article in Dickinson’s newspaper, The Dickinsonian. Resilience measures reaction to social change, explains Leary, and its ability to “cope with, manage, and adapt to changes” so that “people are able to live good, productive lives.”

The student researchers will analyze census data, review Cumberland County’s Comprehensive Plan, and interview members of the Carlisle community. The class will use the information they gather to jointly fill out a survey provided by the City Resilience Index. The survey results will then be analyzed by Arup, who will publish the results. Leary sees the Resilience Project as an opportunity to combine Dickinson’s core values of sustainability and civic engagement. According to him, notes the Dickinsonian article, “by examining a community’s resilience to change in multiple categories, the project matches Dickinson’s interpretation of sustainability as not solely an environmental movement, but, “a way of thinking about a broad variety of goals and principles.” In addition, for Leary, sustainability means envisioning “what’s the kind of society you want to live in and how do we create that society?”

Green Stadium

The University of Colorado (UC) in Boulder has been green on the inside of its Folsom Field football stadium for a while — virtually all food and drink packaging is refillable, recyclable or compostable. Recently, however, it’s gone green on the outside as well at a special tailgating area on Franklin Field. Special tents available for rent come complete with furniture, a cooler, and specially designed compostable tailgate supplies. The tents are so popular that they’ve long been sold out. UC Boulder sources its BPI-certified compostable cups, plates, tray, utensils and straws from Eco-Products, a Boulder-based company. All plates, cups, and utensils can go into the same compostable bins, along with any leftover food. Fans can walk to the special tailgating area after parking at the stadium’s new solar-powered underground garage. Then, once inside Folsom Field, fans find “Zero Waste Goalies” wearing green shirts and helping them to put their recyclables and compostables in the correct bins.

Together, the efforts make up Ralphie’s Green Stampede, the NCAA’s first sports sustainability program. Fans now recycle at a 90 percent rate during football games at Folsom Field. “Fans have good reason to be proud of the University of Colorado’s commitment to the environment,” said Rick George, CU’s Athletic Director. “Ralphie’s Green Stampede has been a huge success, keeping tons of garbage out of area landfills. This new approach to zero-waste tailgating builds on our momentum and represents the next step in our sustainability journey.”

Fighting Food Waste In Denmark

“Nobody fights food waste like the Danes,” starts an article by Jonathan Bloom in a Sept. 26 National Geographic article. “Over a recent five-year period, Denmark slashed its discarded food by 25 percent.” Bloom, thought leader, speaker and consultant on food waste — and BioCycle Food Recycling News’ Ask The “Wasted Food Dude” columnist, was attending a conference in Copenhagen recently, and decided to spend some time investigating what is behind this success. The first answer is not a what but a who, writes Bloom: “An activist named Selina Juul. The Russian émigré arrived in Denmark as a teenager and was struck by the opulence and, yes, waste, that contrasted with the empty store shelves of her childhood. Juul founded the group Stop Wasting Food in 2008 and continually pushes Danes to do just that.”
Other contributing factors include:
• Denmark is a small country, so it’s fairly easy to spread the message across the press, “especially when the message is good, like Stop Wasting Food,” Juul told Bloom.
• Food is expensive in Denmark. Danes spend about twice what Americans do on food, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
• Most Danes are handy in the kitchen, noted Rikke Bruntse Dahl at the Copenhagen House of Food, a culinary education center. Dahl told Jonathan this cultural advantage is partly due to the expense of convenience foods. “Regardless of background and life situation, the vast majority of Danish people can still cook at least the most basic meals and bake basic bread,” Dahl said. “Using leftovers and getting the portion sizes right is easier when you can cook from scratch and be creative with whatever you’ve got in the fridge.”

Perceptions And Realities Of Recycling Vary Widely

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, people who live in places where social norms strongly encourage recycling are more likely to be aware of recycling rules, say they have more options for recycling, and see more of the waste they generate being recycled rather than landfilled. The survey, part of a study covering issues involving climate change, energy and the environment, found that about 3 in 10 Americans (28%) say their local community’s social norms strongly encourage recycling and reuse. About a fifth (22%) say most people in their communities don’t really encourage recycling; the remaining half live in places where, they say, norms around recycling are somewhere in the middle.

Just because recycling programs exist doesn’t mean everyone with access to them actually recycles. According to the U.S. EPA, only 34.3 percent of the 254.1 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in 2013 was recovered through recycling or composting; the overall recovery rate has actually slipped a bit since peaking at 34.7 percent in 2011.

Other researchers using different methodologies have come up with higher waste generation estimates and lower recovery rates. For example, a new report from the Environmental Research & Education Foundation estimates U.S. MSW generation in 2013 at 347 million tons, with 27 percent being recycled or composted. Columbia University’s Earth Engineering Center, using a broader definition of MSW than the EPA, surveyed state and local waste management agencies and came up with an estimate of 389 million tons generated in 2011, with 29 percent recycled or composted (see “Calculating Tons To Composting In The U.S.,” Feb. 2015). The Pew Research Center used data from the Columbia study, and calculated that California (53.4%), Maine (51.5%) and Washington state (50.1%) had the highest recovery rates for MSW in the nation in 2011; Oklahoma (3.7%), Alaska (4.5%) and Mississippi (4.8%) had the lowest.

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