BioCycle World

BioCycle February 2017, Vol. 58, No. 2, p. 6

South Carolina Recycling Economic Impact Study

The South Carolina Department of Commerce’s Recycling Market Development Division released results of a new economic impact study on the benefits of increased household recycling rates in the state. Produced in conjunction with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling, the study found that small increases in household level recycling can have a substantial economic impact on the state as a whole. For example, if one percent of all South Carolina households recycled 8 more newspapers a month, it could generate an annual gain of up to $3.8 million in economic activity for the state, 16 jobs, approximately $794,000 in labor income and up to $92,000 in state tax revenue.

South Carolina currently recycles approximately 26.5 percent of the total volume of solid waste it produces. If this level of recycling were to increase to a “Green Economy Scenario” of 75 percent, the economic impact of the state’s recycling industry would increase from its current level of $12.9 billion and 54,121 jobs to $36.8 billion and 153,179 jobs. A $36.8 billion recycling industry would represent roughly 9 percent of the South Carolina economy. The analysis also compared the cost of recycling to the cost of landfilling and found, not surprisingly, that recycling is cheaper than landfilling when recycling markets are strong. For example, the price for processed recycled materials peaked at $146/ton in 2011 and dropped to $52/ton by 2016. As a result, recycling was about $28/ton cheaper than landfilling in 2011, but is $9/ton more expensive than landfilling in 2016. Download the full study

Hierarchy to reduce food waste and grow community

*Courtesy of ILSR

Refreshed Food Recovery Hierarchy

The Composting Makes $en$e Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) debuted its “Hierarchy To Reduce Food Waste and Grow Community” at the 4th Annual Cultivating Community Composting Forum in Los Angeles, organized by ILSR and BioCycle and held in conjunction with the US Composting Council’s annual conference. While the Source Reduction and Edible Food Rescue tiers match those highest priorities in the U.S. EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, the next three tiers are a notable departure from it: Home Composting; Small-Scale, Decentralized (onsite composting or anaerobic digestion (AD), community composting); and Medium-Scale, Locally-Based (composting or AD at the small town or farm scale, managing 10-100 tons/week). These organics recycling options keep food waste either within the same zip code, or fairly close by, facilitating utilization of the compost or digestate back to soils in the community to grow food, manage storm water, sequester carbon — and create jobs and economic development opportunities.

City Of San Diego Wins Food Recovery Award

The City of San Diego (CA) Environmental Services Department received the U.S. EPA’s regional 2016 Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) award in the narrative category of Education & Outreach. The City’s initiatives spurred diversion of 10,000 tons of food scraps from the landfill in 2015 via one-on-one outreach to local businesses, food recovery trainings and tours of the City of San Diego’s composting facility, Miramar Greenery. The City is an “Endorser” of U.S. EPA’s FRC.

National Soils Workshop Presentations Available

“Soils: The Foundation of Life” was the title of a one-day workshop hosted by the U.S. National Committee for Soil Sciences to celebrate World Soil Day on December 5, 2016. The workshop took place at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Keck Center in Washington, D.C.  Presentations were grouped around the following themes: Soils and National Security; Water, Health, and Food Security; Soil and Biodiversity; Cities and Built Infrastructure; and Soils, the Discipline and the Resource: a Panel. All workshop PowerPoint presentations are available on the Soils Workshop subpage to download and view. A workshop meeting summary will be forthcoming in spring 2017.

Compostable Foodservice Packaging And Food Scraps Diversion

The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) has completed a literature review of the impact of compostable foodservice packaging at different points in the composting value chain. The review found a growing body of evidence demonstrating that use of compostable foodservice packaging can increase food scrap diversion and reduce contamination when used in conjunction with known best practices for food scraps collection. The study, commissioned by FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group, examined how compostable foodservice packaging impacts composting program participation rates; food scraps diversion rates; contamination of composting feedstocks and finished compost; and composting process, compared with traditional carbon sources. “When considering whether to accept foodservice packaging, composters may have questions about the impact on their programs, and this study helped to identify resources to answer those questions,” notes FPI President Lynn Dyer.

Key findings from the study:
• The impact of compostable foodservice packaging on composting program participation, customer behavior, and diversion rates is a relatively new area of study, thus availability of relevant sources varies widely by topic area.

• Available data suggest that compostable foodservice packaging use, in conjunction with programs such as outreach, education, new infrastructure, and desired behavior models, can increase food scrap diversion rates and reduce observed contamination rates.

• To realize the full benefits of compostable packaging in increasing food scraps diversion and minimizing contamination, coordinated efforts around customer education are essential between manufacturers, operators, consumers, municipalities, haulers and composters.

• A crucial identified gap in available research is the extent to which compostable foodservice packaging compares to natural carbon sources typically used during composting. No data was found comparing ability to balance compost carbon to nitrogen ratios, moisture content, porosity, composting rate, ammonia volatilization, and final compost properties.

Collecting In-Flight Compostables

In direct response to requests from employees, Sun Country Airlines, based in Eagan, Minnesota, began offering in-flight organics collection in December 2016, focusing on food waste from meals, compostable cups and coffee grounds. The airline’s Soaring to Sustainability initiative includes waste diversion at its headquarters in Eagan, the commissary and on international and domestic flights.  The Sun Country commissary, which prepares all in-flight meals, has been diverting food scraps, including meat and dairy, to composting since April 2016.

A month into the new service, everything seems to be going smoothly, according to Susan Clark, Sun Country Commissary/Catering Quality Assurance Coordinator.  “It can be difficult to recycle on the planes due to safety reasons, but we are flexible and doing whatever we need to make it work,” she notes.  Flight attendants are asked to separate recyclables, compostables and trash into color-coded bags. The traditional trash cart is now used primarily for recyclables with the option for flight attendants to secure either the trash bag or compostables bag to the cart when collecting refuse. “We understand this is about continual education, and we will keep talking with flight attendants to see what improvements we could make like adapting carts for collection,” adds Clark, who estimates that approximately 4,000 lbs/week of organic residuals are being collected between planes and the commissary.  In-flight organics are collected primarily from domestic flights as federal regulations require all food waste from international flights be incinerated.

The organics are composted at Specialized Environmental Technologies in Empire Township and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Organics Recycling Facility in Shakopee, Minnesota. The program has received financial support from Hennepin County, which provides $750,000 in grants to various businesses to reduce waste and increase diversion of recyclables and organics.  “We saw Sun Country airlines as a great project to fund due to the potential for education,” explains Andre Xiong, Hennepin County Business Recycling Program Coordinator. “Passengers will notice the bag and the program and it will have far reaching impacts across the state and nation.  That was an added benefit in addition to the local diversion.” Notes Eric Curry, Sun Country’s Vice President of Customer Experience and Sales: “As a small airline we can implement things in a short window. I think it has already been successful, because we know we are doing the right thing and the employees are happy.”

Laser produce labels

Image courtesy Nature & More®

Laser Produce Labels

Nature & More, part of Eosta — a Netherlands-based international distributor of fresh organic and fair trade fruits and vegetables — will mark organic fruits and vegetables with Natural Branding, a laser beam that removes a bit of pigment from the outer layer of the peel. Working in close cooperation with Swedish supermarket chain ICA, Natural Branding will help to eliminate separate packaging of organic produce to distinguish it from conventional product sold in bulk, or having to default to plastic produce stickers. The laser method was approved by the European Union Organic certifier SKAL; no additional substances are used, and the method is so superficial that it has no effect on taste or shelf life, according to Nature & More.  The first organic products to be sold with Natural Branding are avocados and sweet potatoes.

Economics Of Forest Biomass

The economics of moving wood waste from where it is generated in the forest to processing facilities that can convert it into products were evaluated by researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. They combined an evaluation of costs for collecting, transporting and processing biomass with the potential locations of regional processing facilities in western Oregon. Each location was chosen because it is adjacent to an existing or recently closed wood product operation such as a sawmill or plywood manufacturing plant. The study, published in Forest Policy and Economics, focused on biomass generated during timber harvesting operations — branches and treetops that are generally left in the woods or burned. In some easily accessible locations, these residues are ground up or chipped and used to make a product known as “hog fuel.”

The cost of harvesting, chipping and loading biomass at timber harvesting sites is about $37.50/dry ton, researchers estimated. Operating costs of a regional processing facility, including labor, fuel, maintenance, electricity and supplies, would add another $11/dry ton. These estimates do not include transportation and facility construction. The researchers estimated that a processing facility operating three shifts per day and producing 75,000 dry tons/year would create about 19 jobs. Support for the research came from the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance led by Washington State funded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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