Composting Roundup

BioCycle October 2018, Vol. 59, No. 9, p. 12

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: What To Call Our Organics Program?

What terminology is most commonly used throughout the U.S. for composting programs? Do folks say “organics” or “compost” or “food waste”? Like many cities, the Twin Cities Metro area (Minneapolis/St. Paul) is working to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. This includes food and compostable products that make up almost a third of the municipal solid waste stream. To get some answers, organics recycling staff with the City of Minneapolis and Dakota County have launched an online National Organics Terminology Survey to search for the best ways to properly communicate to residents and encourage participation in food waste collection programs.

Explain the city and county representatives: “An Organics Recycling Outreach Guide has been made and updated for our region over the past several years. To continue these efforts, the Minnesota Recycling Education Committee is seeking input from other communities to better understand what terminology is being used across the U.S. for composting/organics recycling programs for residents. We’re looking for input from composters, cities, counties, etc. (basically anyone who is communicating to the public about composting). Please have one person from your organization take the survey. Responses are due by November 21st. Your survey results — and upcoming residential focus groups — will guide our state in future program education and outreach. Results will be shared through the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF) and/or using contact information you provide. Hopefully, the findings will help you refine communications in your programs too.”

Boise, Idaho: Composting Program Exceeding Expectations

Online Exclusive

The City of Boise’s composting program has exceeded city staff expectations for collection and participation rates since its launch in June 2017. Its composting facility, built to accept 90 to 95 tons/day, receives more than 112 tons/day on average, Boise’s Solid Waste Environmental Program Manager Catherine Chertudi told the Idaho Press: “The citizens have embraced it beyond belief, and the material we’re producing is top-notch.”

All Boise residents are able to put source separated organics in their designated curbside carts, which are cocollected weekly with trash. All vegetative materials are accepted, such as table scraps, unused produce, yard trimmings, Christmas trees, fruit pits, coffee grounds and eggshells. Items such as dairy, meat products, animal bones and plastic materials are not permitted. The program is funded through the Boise’s monthly fee of $18.64/household, on average, which goes toward trash, recycling and organics pick up.

Reston, Virginia: Emerging Composter Pitch Competition

The US Composting Council’s (USCC) emerging composter challenge is a business pitch competition open to entrepreneurs of all ages looking to jumpstart their businesses in the organics recycling space. Applications are accepted from October 1st – November 15th.

Applicants from any business that supports the recycling of organics can apply. These include innovators in compost use and markets and software and technology; emerging leaders in organics collection and operations; outreach educators; and researchers in compost science, technology, and engineering. The final round of the competition will be at COMPOST2019 in Phoenix in January, with cash prizes awarded to the top 3 finalists. Application criteria, deadlines, and more information

Results of a new study funded by the Foodservice Packaging Institute and the Biodegradable Products Institute “confirmed that compostable foodservice packaging can be effectively used as a feedstock in commercial composting facilities,” performing as well as wood and other traditional feedstocks. The study’s six phases included food service packaging selection and analysis; feedstock preparation; preprocess sampling and analysis; active composting and monitoring; post-process sampling and analysis; and reporting and peer review. The Compost Manufacturing Alliance conducted operational field tests at two commercial composting facilities. Each test included two control samples using the facilities’ standard composting mix and two samples using compostable foodservice packaging in place of the facilities’ customary bulking agents and carbon sources.

An independent laboratory tested and analyzed the samples throughout the active composting process using Test Method for the Examination of Composting and Compost procedures, to determine if there was any noticeable effect from the compostable food service items. After processing, the finished compost samples were tested for compost characteristics, including pH, nutrient content, organic matter and moisture content. Results of the analyses performed before, during and after active composting “provide evidence that compostable foodservice packaging provided the same benefit as traditional feedstocks, and did not affect the balance of carbon to nitrogen ratios, nutrient levels, moisture content, or porosity to feedstocks or finished compost,” states the report, “Field Study: Foodservice Packaging as Compost Facility Feedstock,” released in October.

Albany, New York: Strengthening Composting Rules To Protect Groundwater

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is implementing regulations governing composting and mulching operations on Long Island that include pile size restrictions, temperature monitoring, buffer zones to neighbors, water bodies, etc., and the requirement for groundwater protection plans. The State’s Part 361 regulations will be revised in 2019 to strengthen the groundwater protection requirements, including methods to minimize liquid that has come into contact with the organic material such as pads on the site or pile covers, and prohibitions on operations in mines.

In June 2018, DEC met with private and municipal mulch producers and engineering consultants to discuss the criteria required by the State’s new regulations. DEC also completed a $400,000, two-year field study of the potential groundwater impacts from various mulch pile configurations to help develop revisions to regulations.

The DEC also announced a new comprehensive strategy to address the potential environmental impacts of mulching and composting operations — including fires, dust, odor, and groundwater — at waste management facilities on Long Island. To develop the new strategy, DEC assessed 80 sites on Long Island to evaluate operations and environmental conditions. Many of these sites were exempt from DEC regulation prior to November 2017 rule revisions. This assessment will be used to determine necessary site-specific controls.

Lexington, Massachusetts: Evolution Of Yard Trimmings Composting Facility

When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ yard trimmings recycling mandate took effect in 1987, leaders in the town of Lexington converted an outdated, unused 30-acre landfill into a composting site to eliminate transfer costs for all the green waste they were collecting. Thirty years later, the facility “is a completely self-supporting operation that produces a positive cashflow for the city,” reports Kerry Weaver, Operations Manager of the site. “All our labor and equipment investments come from our revenues, and we’re still able to give back to the budget. Residents can drop off material at no charge. The compost we produce is then sold back into the community to landscapers and individuals, so all those organics are eventually returned to our land.”

In 2016, city leaders voted to convert 5.5 acres of the composting site into a solar farm that generates nearly 2.2 MW of electricity to help offset the cost of powering the municipal buildings around town. “All of our windrows had been previously set down with 20 feet of buffer between them,” explains Weaver. “We turned with front-end loaders, so the extra space was necessary. When we lost the acreage to the solar project, we didn’t want to reduce our overall production so we needed to find a solution.”

Lexington converted an outdated, ununsed 30-acre landfill into a composting site. Operators use BACKHUS A60 compost turner and Doppstadt SM 720K trommel screen.

Lexington converted an outdated, ununsed 30-acre landfill into a composting site. Operators use BACKHUS A60 compost turner and Doppstadt SM 720K trommel screen.

The facility decided to purchase a BACKHUS A60 compost turner that enabled the operation to build the windrows “toe to toe,” thus gaining space, and as it turns out labor and fuel. Turning with front-end loaders required two people, 10 days and 800 gallons of fuel, says Kerry. “Now we can turn an equal amount of material with one person in 8 hours, using only 100 gallons of fuel.”

The town also started producing leaf and bark mulches that are popular with residents. The addition of mulches increased the demand for screening time with an outside contractor that came to the facility to screen the compost. “We knew we wanted a trommel screen to produce a finer compost product, but since we started making mulches too, a star screen also seemed appealing,” explains Kerry, noting the City of Lexington opted for a Doppstadt SM 720K trommel screen with a star screen insert. “The ability to run a trommel drum, but easily switch to a star screen insert suited our flexibility quite well. Now, when we’re making bark mulches, or if our compost is really wet, we can swap in the star unit and keep our production rates running at peak.”

Los Maitenes, Chile: Soil Remediation With Compost — Six Years Later

Online Exclusive

A team of Chilean researchers returned to a site contaminated with metals six years after remediation with two treatments — one using lime only and one with lime plus compost — to see how well the soil chemistry and planting growth had improved. The site is in the semi-arid Chilean coastal region of the Puchuncavi Valley, with low soil pH (5.4-5.7) leading to high bioavailability of copper in the metals-contaminated site. A single application of amendments (lime with and without compost) took place in 2009, applying 6.7 metric tons/hectare (3 tons/acre) of lime and 133 metric tons/hectare (60 tons/acre) of compost.

After six years, soil pH remained elevated at 7.1 to 7.6, organic matter in the compost treated area declined from 5.2 to 2.4 percent, nitrogen remained relatively constant at 11 milligrams/kilogram (mg/kg) and phosphorus declined from 142 mg/kg to 79 mg/kg. Although soil organic matter levels decreased in the compost-treated area, plant cover remained fairly constant over time, even with the lack of ongoing maintenance or reapplication of compost treatment over the six-year period. Aboveground biomass and plant species composition displayed differences between years one and six, which researchers attributed to differences in climatic conditions over the time frame. The study will appear in the December 2018 issue of Geoderma.

Augusta, Maine: Expanding Recycling And Composting At Workplaces

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded $88,000 in grants to help six Maine companies and other organizations expand their waste recycling and composting efforts. The DEP received seven applications for the grant program, its first supporting businesses, institutions and municipalities in solid waste management, the department said in a news release.
Recipients using grant funds for organics recycling are:
Town of Falmouth: Conduct a pilot project to assess the effect of increasing the convenience of collection drop-off sites on the diversion of food scraps from disposal to composting. Falmouth will construct and operate three food scrap collection locations with educational kiosks.
University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI): Establish a year-round composting operation on the UMPI campus.
Bo’ Lait Farm, Washington, Maine: Establish an on-farm commercial composting facility accessible to the underserved Midcoast area. Bo’ Lait will team up with ScrapDogs Community Compost from Camden to offer food scrap composting services to area schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other businesses and households.
Pleasant River Farms, Mason Township: Expanding its on-site composting operation and organics diversion, transportation and marketing/education services. This will provide a local composting alternative to disposal for food scraps for schools, institutions and businesses in Maine’s western mountains area.

Larchmont-Mamaroneck, New York: Food Waste Drop-Off

The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Joint Garbage Disposal Commission started a voluntary, drop-off food waste recycling program in September 2017 to service residents in Mamaroneck and Larchmont. Households can purchase a Starter Kit for $20, which includes a 2-gallon countertop pail, a 6-gallon home storage and transportation bin, and a roll of 25 compostable bags. Those items can also be purchased individually, and residents are not required to use them in order to participate. All food waste is accepted, along with soiled paper towels and napkins and cut flowers.

The drop-off location is at the Maxwell Avenue Recycling Center in Larchmont, which is open at different times every day excepting Saturday. Food scraps can be brought to the Larchmont Farmers Market (open seasonally) on Saturday mornings. Food waste brought in plastic bags must be emptied out into the 64-gallon carts at the recycling center. The carts are serviced weekly by a private hauler that brings collected material to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency’s composting facility in Kingston, New York. Finished compost is sold to landscapers and garden centers.

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