Composting Roundup

BioCycle January 2017, Vol. 58, No. 1, p. 14

Augusta, Maine: 10 Steps To Successful School Composting

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently released a guide, “10 Steps: Starting a Successful School Composting Operation.” The guide can be downloaded via a link in the online version of this news item. Here’s a summary of the steps:

10 Steps to successful school compostingStep 1— Is composting right for your school? Gauge interest and develop your Composting Team.
Step 2 — Contact Mark King at the DEP’s Sustainability Division for information and assistance.
Step 3 — Hold the first team meeting and invite DEP to attend.
Step 4 — Conduct a “Characterization Study” of discarded food scraps.
Step 5 — Choose appropriate food scraps collection system.
Step 6 — Design and build composting system.
Step 7 — Develop student based curriculum and compost activities.
Step 8 — Initiate composting operations and evaluate and adjust process.
Step 9 — Collect and report data from composting operations.
Step 10 — Use soil product and share success with the community!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Composting System Design Competition

The Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC) is “Calling All Engineers And Environmentalists, Designers And Dirt Nerds” to submit ideas for how to make in-vessel, neighborhood-scale composting systems that can be used by schools and community organizations. The competition is open to anyone, including college and high school classes, explains Madeline Smith-Gibbs with FPAC. “We expect to get submissions from compost nerds, as well as people with engineering and design backgrounds who may not be familiar with composting prior to entering the competition.” Designers agree that their design will be shared open-source if they win, so that FPAC can help support community composters throughout the city.

Composting system design criteria include: Fully-enclosed and rodent-proof; Able to function year-round outdoors in Philadelphia’s climate; 1 to 3 cubic yards in capacity; Easily constructed and maintained; Able to process a full load of compost within three months, or as little time as possible; and Total cost of materials $500 or below.  Extra points may be given to entries significantly under $500, have the capability to process animal protein within a reasonable time frame, and use sustainable materials in construction.

Along with their entry forms, contestants must include an illustration that clearly shows the structure and operation of the composter. Deadline for submissions is March 15, 2017. Three finalists’ designs will be selected by March 29. Each will receive $500 to build their design. These composting systems must be transported to a testing site in Philadelphia by April 26. Finalists’ systems will then be tested by local composting organizations over the summer; the winner will be announced in Fall 2017 and receive a $500 prize. The competition is hosted by FPAC, The Dirt Factory, and Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Partners include Bennett Compost, BioCycle, Crazy About Compost, EPA Food Recovery Challenge, Philly Compost, and Summer-Winter Garden. Links to further details online in this news item.

Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Pumpkin Composting Grows Into Smashing Success

SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) is an environmental education nonprofit serving the western suburbs of Chicago. This past November marked the third year it coordinated pumpkin collection during the weekend following Halloween.  A total of 31 drop-off locations around Illinois — from Barrington to Alton — diverted 56.65 tons of the iconic orange squash from landfills in 2016. To date, 92.46 tons of pumpkins have been composted in Illinois through this initiative.

SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) pumpkin collection/composting

SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) pumpkin collection/composting

SCARCE started the collection in 2014 with three pumpkin drop-off locations. The goal was to introduce residents to composting and educate them about contaminants in the organics stream, in this case, candles, stickers and other nonbiodegradable decorations. SCARCE’s founder, Kay McKeen, sees it as a method to help pave the way for successful municipal curbside organics collection programs. The first event in 2014 faced some roadblocks. Initially, there was a debate over the legality of composting pumpkins. Food waste and yard debris were designated as allowable organic waste for commercial composting but it was unclear whether pumpkins — particularly jack-o-lanterns (carved pumpkins) — were a decoration or food. There was pushback but McKeen was able to convince the Illinois EPA (IEPA) that pumpkins qualify under the food category.

Further, a gray area in Illinois state law regarding organics collection was brought to light. There was no procedure for one-day organics collections. At first inquiry, pumpkin composting events were told that they would need the same permit as a waste transfer station. This costly and burdensome permit was not appropriate. SCARCE worked with the Illinois Environmental Council and IEPA to create a pilot program, and then a permanent program through legislation for temporary composting drop-off events. These events now require no permit, only permission from the municipality where the event is located. SCARCE has created a free pumpkin collection guide and sample marketing materials, which are available on its website ( and the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition website ( Carrie Horak, SCARCE

Sanford, Maine: Biosolids Composting Replaces Landfill Disposal

The Sanford Sewerage District had been landfilling biosolids on-site for many years but with space running out, the agency decided to open a Class A biosolids aerated static pile (ASP) composting facility. The District serves a population of about 4,780, with 97 percent of the wastewater coming from residences.  On average, the plant produces 10 wet tons/day of biosolids. The composting facility consists of a 3-sided building that houses bays for composting, sawdust, wood ash and other amendments. Total project costs were $2.6 million.  Annual operating costs are estimated at $150,000, with potential compost revenue of $50,000.  Landfilling the biosolids cost the District $250,000 annually,

According to a write-up in the NEBRA newsletter (, equal parts wastewater solids, wood ash, and previously composted solids are processed in ASPs for 3 days at 55°C or above, meeting Class A pathogen treatment standards and destroying trace chemical contaminants.  Composting continues for an additional 18 days.  The product is then moved to static, outside curing piles where it is eventually tested before being marketed and distributed. The composting facility is situated next to the Sanford treatment facility’s oxidation ditches and lagoons (which are one of southern Maine’s most famous birding sites).  The first batch of finished compost was ready in early December 2016.

Winnipeg, Manitoba: Social Enterprise Expands Organics Service

Compost Winnipeg is a social enterprise of Green Action Centre, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, based in Winnipeg and serving Manitoba. Starting in January 2017, Compost Winnipeg, will be offering residents a weekly source separated organics pick up service for $19/month, building on its existing commercial collection program that has been running for months. Households pay an $8 deposit for a 5-gallon bucket; the filled bucket is swapped out for a clean one on collection day. The City of Winnipeg does not offer curbside collection, which motivated the social enterprise to offer the residential service.

Santa Monica, California: Table-To-Farm Composting = Clean Air

The Bay Foundation (TBF) in Santa Monica is launching the “Table-to-Farm Composting for Clean Air” program in 2017, made possible by an Environmental Champions Grant from Southern California Gas.   Aligned with the community-based Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) as a partner, TBF’s pilot program will address food security and methane generated by landfills by connecting restaurants with compost hubs, urban farms, and community gardens for a multifaceted food waste reduction program in the City of Inglewood. The program has two main components: Organic waste recovery and composting partnerships with South Los Angeles (South LA) farms and gardens; and Outreach on local food sourcing and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). TBF will recover wasted food from restaurant kitchens, which will be composted in local, SJLI-managed community farms and gardens throughout South LA. Currently, 25 percent of the produce grown by SJLI is sold through its CSA, a program where people can buy directly from farmers.

The Bay Foundation’s well-established Clean Bay Certified program works with cities to inspect and certify restaurants that voluntarily implement initiatives to protect the environment. “The partnership with SJLI is an expansion of the Clean Bay Certified program,” explains TBF Executive Director Tom Ford.“It enables restaurants to enhance the cultivation of food right here in Los Angeles.  This project demonstrates that food waste is only truly wasted when deposited in a landfill. Aside from the methane offset, the reduced transport of the materials, keeping them local, also reduces emissions, improving air quality and public health.”

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