BioCycle World

BioCycle January 2017, Vol. 58, No. 1, p. 6

Biosolids Ban Struck Down

In 1994, Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) bought a 4,700-acre farm (called Green Acres Farm) in southwest Kern County for the purpose of land applying biosolids from its 11 wastewater treatment plants.  LACSD land applied 800 wet tons/day at this site for several years.  In 2006, Kern County voters passed Measure E on the ballot with 83 percent approval.  This measure banned application of biosolids on unincorporated land in the County. LACSD and others sued Kern County in February 2015, claiming Measure E was enacted to prevent them from running the Green Acres Farm biosolids recycling facility.

Though Los Angeles initially prevailed in Federal Court, the Ninth Circuit vacated judgment, finding the city lacked standing to bring federal claims. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to address the case, Kern County seemed to have won. But in 2011, the Tulare County Superior Court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of Measure E. In response, Kern adopted a new zoning ordinance that sought to restrict use of biosolids to designated areas. Tulare County, whose seat is Visalia, is just north of Kern County. Both are at the southern end of the Great California Valley, a mostly agricultural area.  Los Angeles also challenged the Tulare County ruling, claiming the county adopted the ordinance without environmental review, in violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989.  Tulare County Judge Lloyd Hicks struck down Measure E as invalid in a tentative ruling in November 2016.

Under the 1989 Waste Management Act, local agencies must reduce the amount of biosolids going into landfills and incinerators by promoting recycling and composting statewide. Without land application, the recycling process is incomplete. Since Measure E purports to ban land use of biosolids, it violates the state law, Hicks wrote.

Vermont landfill vs. diversion

Vermont landfill vs. diversion

Vermont Law Cuts Landfill Use 5 Percent

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a report summarizing reduction in solid waste disposal since the state’s Universal Recycling Law, Act 148, was adopted in 2012, and went into effect in July 2014. The amount of solid waste going to landfills decreased by 5 percent between 2014 and 2015. Recycling and composting grew 2 percent during the same time, diverting 12,000 tons of food and other material from the waste stream.  In addition, due in part to this law, food donations to the Vermont Foodbank increased by 40 percent between 2015 and 2016.

In July 2014, landfills and transfer stations were required to accept recyclables covered by the law (paper, cardboard, steel and aluminum cans and tins, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles and containers #1 and #2), and in 2015 Vermonters were required to recycle these materials. A landfill ban on all leaves and yard trimmings became effective in 2016.

Mandatory composting/donation of food residuals for generators of more than 104 tons/year (if composting facility is within 20 miles of generator) took effect in July 2014. That tonnage dropped to 52 tons/year and 26 tons/year in 2015 and 2016, respectively, with the same 20-mile proximity qualifier. Beginning July 1, 2017, all transfer stations and trash drop-off facilities in the state must begin accepting food scraps, and haulers must offer to collect customers’ food scraps. By July 1, 2020, food scraps will be prohibited entirely from Vermont landfills. According to the DEC, Vermont currently has 10 certified food scraps composting or anaerobic digestion facilities; 13 permitted food scrap haulers; 17 farm digesters, many already taking food processing residuals; and hundreds of businesses, schools and institutions that have recycled and composted for years.

Commercial Food Waste Ban’s Economic Impact

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) recently issued a report, “Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Ban Economic Impact Analysis,” that found the state’s commercial food waste ban has created more than 900 jobs and stimulated $175 million in economic activity during its first two years. The report compared jobs and economic activity among food waste haulers; composting, anaerobic digestion and animal feed operations; and food rescue organizations before and after the October 1, 2014 implementation of the ban. MassDEP contracted ICF, a consulting firm, to do the analysis and prepare the report; ICF developed and administered a survey targeting industry stakeholders in Massachusetts, and subsequently conducted an economic impact analysis using data derived from this survey.

The Massachusetts ban requires any commercial organization that disposes of a ton or more of food scraps a week to pull it out of the waste stream and reuse it, send it for composting or animal feed operations, or use it in an anaerobic digestion facility that produces renewable energy. The analysis, conducted by ICF, indicates that food waste haulers and processors, as well as food rescue organizations, employ 500 people directly, while supporting more than 900 jobs when accounting for indirect and induced effects. These sectors generate more than $46 million of labor income and $175 million in economic activity.

Based on survey results, Massachusetts’ haulers are collecting an estimated 270,000 tons of food materials annually, exceeding the baseline estimate of 100,000 tons of food waste diversion prior to implementation of the commercial organics ban. Food retailers are the main customers for the hauling segment, accounting for approximately 40 percent of its customer base.  Jobs in this sector grew by 150 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the report, and these businesses project an additional 50 percent job growth from 2016 to 2017. About 1,700 facilities, including restaurants, hotels and conference centers, universities, supermarkets and food processors, are covered under the ban.

USDA, EPA Name Food Loss And Waste Champions

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the inaugural class of the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. These “Champions” are businesses and organizations that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their own operations in the United States by 50 percent by the year 2030. Included are Ahold USA, Blue Apron, Bon Appétit Management Company, Campbell Soup Company, Conagra Brands, Delhaize America, General Mills, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, Sodexo, Unilever, Walmart, Wegman’s Food Markets, Weis Markets and YUM! Brands. Each 2030 Champion establishes a baseline marking where they are today and will measure and report on their progress toward the goal in a way that makes sense for their organization. USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that the amount of food that went uneaten at the retail and consumer levels in the baseline year of 2010 represented 31 percent of the available food supply — about 133 billion pounds of food worth an estimated $161.6 billion.

Minnesota County Commits To Curbside Organics

The Hennepin (MN) County Board of Commissioners has determined that curbside collection of recyclables and organics from Hennepin County residents is an effective strategy to reduce reliance on landfills, prevent pollution, conserve natural resources and energy, improve public health, support the economy, and reduce greenhouse gases. Therefore, the county adopted the goals established in State Statute and by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in its Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Policy Plan and developed a Residential Recycling Funding Policy to help reach a 75 percent recycling rate by 2030.

According to an article in the Star Tribune, half of all the state recycling funds Hennepin County receives will go toward organics recycling programs by 2020. In 2016, $300,000 of the county’s available $3.2 million was used for organics and that could increase to $720,000 out of $3.7 million in 2017. A waste characterization study found organics comprised 24.9 percent of material disposed by residents. Currently 12 of the county’s 44 cities have some type of organics curbside collection program, notes the Star Tribune. Minneapolis is the largest one, with a new program that went citywide in 2016 to 42,500 households.

USDA Revises Food Date Labeling Guidance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued updated information on food product labeling in mid-December, including new guidance aimed at reducing food waste by urging food manufacturers and retailers that apply product dating to use a “Best if Used By” date label. Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulations, however, food manufacturers frequently use a variety of phrases, such as “Sell by” and “Use by” on product labels to describe quality dates on a voluntary basis. This has caused consumer confusion and has led to the disposal of food that is otherwise wholesome and safe solely because it is past the date printed on the package. FSIS is changing its guidance to recommend “Best if Used By” because research shows that this phrase is easily understood by consumers as an indicator of quality, rather than safety.

Comments on this revised guidance may be submitted until Feb. 13, 2017 at www.regulations.gov or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, Docket Clerk, Patriots Plaza III, 355 E St. S.W., 8-163A, Mailstop 3782, Washington, DC 20250-3700. Include docket number FSIS-2016-0044.

Developing Countries Take Clean Energy Lead Globally

Climatescope, a clean energy country competitiveness index and online tool supported by the U.S. and United Kingdom governments, offers a portrait of clean energy activity in 58 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean (global-climatescope.org). The group includes major developing nations — China, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, among others. All told, these countries added 69.8 gigawatts (GW) of new wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable power generating capacity in 2015, equal to the total installed capacity in Australia today. China accounted for the majority of activity in Climatescope countries, but smaller nations also played important roles. By comparison, wealthier Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries built 59.2 GW in 2015.

A country’s ranking depends upon various factors: its clean energy investment policy, its market conditions, the structure of its power sector; the number and makeup of local companies operating in clean energy; and efforts toward reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Among other key findings:

• Private investors, lenders, and development finance institutions in OECD countries accounted for nearly half of all capital to Climatescope countries (excluding China, where virtually all capital was provided locally). This is up from the roughly one third of capital provided in 2012.

• Clean energy policies are becoming more widely adopted across Sub-Saharan Africa — 14 of 19 Climatescope countries from the region have introduced renewable energy targets, and clean energy investment nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015, to reach $5.2 billion.

• Led by China and India, Asia installed far more clean energy capacity in 2015 than the other 56 countries surveyed by Climatescope combined. A total of 62GW of wind, solar, small hydro and biomass plants were commissioned in the 10 countries surveyed during the year — up 60 percent from 2014.

• Latin America continues to be at the forefront in clean energy development among the nations assessed in Climatescope. Ambitious clean energy mandates and aggressive auctions are driving deployment in the region and pushing wind and solar prices to record lows.

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