Composting Roundup

BioCycle January 2019, Vol. 60 No. 1, p. 14

Raleigh, North Carolina: Carcass Composting Plays Role In Hurricane Recovery

North Carolina agricultural officials have turned to composting to help manage the 4.2 million turkeys and chickens that died from the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence. Poultry carcass composting hasn’t been tried on such a mass scale following a weather disaster until Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which had about half that amount of dead birds to manage, says Joe Reardon, consumer protection assistant commissioner for the state Department of Agriculture. The process is relatively simple, he adds, utilizing a carbon source such as wood chips on the ground, followed by a layer of sawdust. The dead poultry and litter are placed on top of the sawdust, then covered with more sawdust and wood chips to form a windrow. The pile sits for 10 to 15 days at temperatures between 140° and 160°F. The entire process takes about 21 days, adds Reardon, noting “there is no odor, no smell, and no leachate.”

The state brought in outside experts to better control the composting process at each farm that had to use it. “It took a lot of work and people but at the end of the day we’re just so proud to say no farms had any buried birds,” he says. As part of an agreement with FEMA, farmers can use the compost on their fields as fertilizer or give it to their neighbors. They cannot sell it. Reardon adds that North Carolina is the only state that has applied for and received FEMA money for poultry composting after a natural disaster. The state will provide 25 percent of the costs in a matching agreement with FEMA. State agricultural officials calculated the loss of 4.2 million chickens and turkeys at $15.2 million.

Encinitas, California: Food Cycle Drop-Off

The Solana Center For Environmental Innovation in Encinitas began a food scraps drop-off program at the center in October 2017 to service households, businesses and local governments. Pre and postconsumer inedible food waste is accepted. It is first preprocessed using the bokashi fermentation method, followed by composting in aerated static pile bins. Participants are charged a one-time fee — $50 for households and $75 for businesses — when they enroll to cover the cost of the 5-gallon buckets and bokashi bran. The bran is sprinkled on top of the food waste kept in the airtight buckets with each addition of food waste. Participants also pay $5 to exchange a bucket full of food waste for a clean bucket. Over two tons of food waste have been composted since the program began; about 60 participants are enrolled in the program. Households drop off about every 5 weeks. Buckets average approximately 30 pounds. The center receives, on average, eight 5-gallon buckets/week of food waste.

Solana Center For Environmental Innovation’s food waste drop-off

Solana Center For Environmental Innovation’s food waste drop-off

“Food Cycle drop-off is only at our office site right now,” explains Jessica Toth, Solana Center’s executive director. “We are in discussions with jurisdictions to replicate the program at other locations. Our regular business and residential participants require little staff involvement — they enter their drop-off bucket number in our reception kiosk and take a clean bucket.”

After it is dropped off, food waste remains in the buckets for a minimum of 3 weeks to continue fermenting. Next, the contents are put in two aerated static pile (ASP) boxes for 4 to 6 weeks. The compost cures for 4 to 8 weeks. Until recently, each box could hold 1.8 cubic yards (cy), equivalent to 18 5-gallon buckets of food waste. “In December, 2 staff and 9 volunteers converted the 1.8-cy aerated static pile (ASP) square box to a 4.6-cy ASP hexagon,” says Toth. “Almost 1,300 lbs of bokashi-processed food scraps, 97 lbs of coffee grounds, and 82 lbs of juice pulp went into the hexagon, along with mulch and about 650 lbs of horse manure. A total of 2,125 lbs were diverted with this build — plus mulch, which we didn’t weigh.”

Changsha, China: Biochar Cocomposting Shown To Improve Soil Remediation

Online Exclusive

A team of researchers at Hunan University in China have tested composting of hydrocarbon- and metals-contaminated soils with and without biochar, concluding that the stronger metals adsorption and microbial activity induced by the biochar reduced concentrations of metals and available polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The soils tested came from Dongting Lake in the Yangtze River basin, contaminated with discharges from mining and metallurgical industries. Biochar was manufactured by slow pyrolysis of corncobs in kilns operating at 450°C for 2 hours. A portion of the biochar was treated with hydrochloric acid to increase the number of reactive sites on the biochar surfaces.

The remediation recipe was comprised of chopped straw, wheat bran, rotten vegetables, and soil at a weight ratio of 11:2:3:8, which served as the control. Biochar was added at a 7 percent weight ratio. Piles were turned daily for 18 days and water added to maintain moisture at 55 to 60 percent. Samples were taken at day 0, 7, 15, 30 and 45.

The biochar-amended piles heated up faster and held high temperatures longer. Piles using the activated biochar reduced zinc and cadmium levels by a factor of 7 and 2.5, respectively, compared to the fresh biochar-amended piles (the control piles showed metals reduction solely due to dilution, given that metals cannot be biologically degraded). PAHs were reduced by 96.9 percent after 45 days in the activated biochar piles, compared to 94.5 percent in the fresh biochar-amended piles and 90.5 percent in the control piles. The study is reported in the January 2019 issue of Resource Conservation and Recycling.

New York, New York: BPI Addresses Claims Of “Toxic” Chemicals In Compostable Products

In December, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future released a report, Take Out Toxics: PFAS Chemicals In Food Packaging, which found nearly two-thirds of paper takeout containers, like those used at self-serve salad and hot bars, contained elevated levels of fluorine, indicating they were likely treated with PFAS. Eleven percent of bakery and deli papers tested were also likely treated with PFAS. Researchers tested 78 food packaging samples from five of the nation’s largest grocery stores: Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market.

One testing result getting a lot of press highlighted Whole Foods — 4 out of 5 analyzed takeout containers from Whole Foods Market were likely treated with PFAS. In response, Whole Foods Market said, “Whole Foods Market introduced compostable containers to reduce our environmental footprint, but given new concerns about the possible presence of PFAS, we have removed all prepared foods and bakery packaging highlighted in the report. We’re actively working with our suppliers to find and scale new compostable packaging options.”

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), North America’s leading certifier of compostable products and packaging, issued a press release to clarify that it has already put measures in place to restrict and then eliminate the use of fluorinated chemicals in the products and packaging it certifies for compostability. Due to growing concerns around fluorinated chemicals, often referred to as perfluorinated or polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) as a class of chemicals, BPI engaged with composters, municipalities, and environmental groups, hiring an expert advisor in 2017 to develop a path forward.

In November 2017, the BPI membership and Board of Directors voted to approve a 100 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine limit in its certification to address the entire class of chemicals, followed by a statement of no intentionally added fluorinated chemicals. BPI certified compostable products and packaging not meeting the 100 ppm total fluorine requirement must be phased out of the marketplace by the end of 2019. “Most BPI certified products already do not contain fluorinated chemicals, instead achieving water and grease barriers through the use of compostable biopolymers like PLA, PBAT, PBS, or PHA, as well as compostable waxes,” notes BPI executive director Rhodes Yepsen.

Austin, Texas: City Moves To 100% Biosolids Composting

Synagro, a Baltimore-based provider of biosolids and residuals solutions services, was awarded a biosolids management contract for up to 10 years by the city of Austin, effective November 1, 2018. “Synagro has managed Austin’s biosolids since 2008,” says Andrew Bosinger, a Synagro vice president. “This contract enables the City to move to a 100 percent composting solution for production of the Dillo Dirt, the compost historically produced by the city.” Synagro also will produce and market All Gro™ compost, its own brand, and will invest in expanding the market for compost in the Austin area. The city of Austin anticipates saving at least $1 million per year by entering this public-private partnership with Synagro, notes the company.

Saugerties, New York: Residential Food Scraps Drop-Off Launched

Saugerties, a town of 19,500 people on the banks of the Hudson River in Ulster County, started its residential food scraps drop-off program on November 1. According to an article in the Daily Freeman, food scraps can be brought to the site between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There is no additional charge for people who have transfer station permits, which cost $35/year for Saugerties residents. Permits solely for dropping off food scraps cost $15/per year. Material must be delivered in plastic containers or buckets; items in plastic bags or containing liquids, grease or oils, are not allowed.

The town will pay New Paltz-based Community Composting Co. about $310/month to collect food waste from the transfer station and bring it to its composting site.

Tokyo, Japan: Hay Imports Tainted By Clopyralid

Although recent news about international trade has focused on China, Japan remains the biggest buyer for all hay types exported by the U.S. It currently purchases 35 percent of the U.S. total export hay market, representing about $400 million/year in export sales. Chemical residue concerns in hay imports is becoming a big issue for Japan, John Szczepanski, director of the U.S. Forage Export Council, told Hay & Forage Grower. This is especially the case for clopyralid, the active ingredient in herbicides such as Stinger and Curtail among others. Clopyralid is an auxin-like compound used for killing broadleaf weeds and is not metabolized in plants. Not only broadleaf weeds but also broadleaf crops are affected at clopyralid concentrations of “Vegetable growers in Japan use a lot of compost,” Szczepanski explained. “Because clopyralid doesn’t break down easily, it can show up in animal manure and ultimately the compost being used on crops such as tomatoes. The chemical can and has caused considerable crop damage.”

Increasing livestock densities in Japan began to cause serious problems with the disposal of manure, so in 1999, the government restricted open-air composting by livestock farmers to decrease the leaching of nitrates into the environment. Crop damage due to clopyralid began to appear in the early 2000s, even though clopyralid is not registered for use in Japan. Compost made with livestock manure from dairy cows fed on imported hay contaminated with clopyralid was the source of the damage, because the restriction on open-air composting also decreased the leaching of residual clopyralid, which is highly water-soluble. The Japanese government is beginning to pay more attention to the clopyralid problem and is asking hay exporters to ensure that growers are not exporting hay from fields where the chemical was used during the same calendar year.

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