BioCycle August 2017
Maryland Governor Scraps Zero Waste Plan
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has rescinded the zero waste to landfill rules that the previous governor, Martin O’Malley, put in place during his final days in office. In January 2015, O’Malley issued an Executive Order (EO) affirming statewide waste reduction goals, directing state government to increase recycling, composting and waste diversion and limiting new or expanded municipal and land clearing debris landfills to help drive innovation and achieve those goals. The EO limited new or expanded landfill capacity; the goal was to virtually eliminate landfills by 2040 and achieve a mandatory recycling rate of 65 percent by 2020 with a future goal of 80 percent diversion by 2040. Maryland’s recycling rate stood at 43 percent in 2015, according to the administration.
Hogan issued an EO in August 2017 rescinding the O’Malley order, contending the requirements had become a burden for local governments. The new order cancels the limits on landfill permits and reduces targeted recycling rates. It does call on the Maryland Departments of Environment (DOE) and Commerce to work with local economic development agencies to identify local markets for recycled materials, and to provide siting, permitting and technical assistance for recycling and resource recovery businesses, and for the Maryland Energy Administration to work with DOE to promote methods of recovering energy from waste, including anaerobic digestion.
California Healthy Soils Initiative Moving Forward
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently accepted public comments on Requests for Grant Applications (RGA) for the $6.75 million Healthy Soils Program (HSP), authorized by the Budget Act of 2016, and funded through California’s cap-and-trade program. Grants are available to farmers who take action to capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide, in the soil to help combat climate change. The HSP will be implemented under Incentives and Demonstration Projects programs. An estimated $3.75 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded under the Incentives Program to provide financial assistance for implementation of agricultural management practices that sequester soil carbon and reduce GHG emissions. An estimated $3 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded under the Demonstration Program to projects that monitor and demonstrate to farmers and ranchers in California specific agricultural management practices that sequester carbon, improve soil health and reduce atmospheric GHGs.
Composting Gets Easier In Vermont
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the High Meadows Fund announced awards from two grant programs, totaling nearly $100,000, to help residents compost in their backyards and drop off food scraps at town transfer stations. The High Meadows Fund has given over $55,000 to eight solid waste districts and municipalities, which collectively serve 116 towns. These funds will support food scrap collection bins, signage, and outreach at 48 transfer stations around the state. “The whole purpose is to give people different options for their food waste,” said Gaye Symington, High Meadows Fund President.
The DEC granted over $40,000 to 12 solid waste districts and alliances to cut the cost of backyard composting bins for Vermonters. Residents who participate in their district’s training program can purchase a backyard bin at a 50 percent discount. “The discount has encouraged more people to find out how simple it can be to backyard compost,” says Kristen Benoit of the Windham Solid Waste District. “If folks don’t want to compost at home, they can also drop off food scraps at participating transfer stations, or in some areas, request pick up service from haulers.”
In 2020, Vermont’s Universal Recycling law will ban the disposal of food scraps in trash. Larger producers like supermarkets, colleges, and restaurants have already begun separating their food scraps and sending them to composting facilities, anaerobic digesters, or farms. “Moving food scraps out of the trash will help us achieve our goal of reducing landfill waste by 25% by 2020,” said Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
Commercial Food Waste Reduction
The Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA) released its Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County report, the first-ever study of wasted food prevention and recovery initiatives and opportunities in Alameda County, California. Approximately 72 to 115 million pounds of edible food in the county is disposed, while an estimated 6 million pounds are donated to food assistance organizations. SB1383, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, requires local jurisdictions to reduce or recover for human consumption 20 percent of edible food currently sent to landfills and incinerators by 2025. To comply with SB1383, Alameda County will need to reduce or recover approximately 11 to 17 million pounds. Based on research findings and observations, the NCRA project team identified over 50 potential policy and program solutions categorized into three areas: education and data; policy and logistics and infrastructure. Those categories were further subdivided by implementation timeframe (short-, medium- and long-term).
Funded by StopWaste, the report is available to download on the NCRA website.
School Food Share
For 15 years, Lynn Johnson, Supervisor of Child Nutrition Services at Bremerton School District in Washington State, watched in frustration as schoolchildren threw away perfectly edible food. “At the same time, one in five children in the state of Washington live in a household that struggles to put food on the table, but there was nothing I could do about it,” said Johnson, during a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy presentation on diverting food waste from school cafeterias. Sixty percent of Bremerton students get free or reduced priced lunch. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, in order for a lunch to be reimbursable, students must take three items out of the five following categories: fruits, vegetables, milk, grains, and protein, and at least one must be a fruit or a vegetable.
“In years past, milk was a component that students had to take, but that is no longer the case,” explained Johnson. “However, students have a tendency to take it, even if they may not drink it. Younger kids just have a tendency to waste a lot. But we were not allowed to have share tables or take some food back into our kitchen due to Health Department rules.” In the fall of 2015, Johnson heard from Vicky Salazar, senior sustainability policy advisor at the EPA, who explained that she wanted to help Bremerton keep edible food out of the landfill and get it into the community. After Salazar visited the district, an excited Johnson began her quest to get Bremerton School Board approval to set up food share tables in the cafeterias. Students place items on the tables that they had taken but not consumed.
The School Board was 100 percent on board, but Johnson had to get Kitsap County Health Department approval. The Department first told Johnson she could not have a food share table, but she persisted, explaining that it was not just a District, but an EPA, initiative. Although receptive to the idea, Johnson was told it was a state rule.
After many conversations with officials at the state and federal levels, the Health Department finally told Johnson that Bremerton could file a waiver or variance to have a share/donation table. It had to include an HACCP (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point) on how Bremerton would keep food from getting contaminated, so Johnson collected that information from the local Salvation Army and the Bremerton Food Line, which had agreed to take donations. The two organizations have refrigerated trucks, which helped get Health Department approval, and launched the program in March 2016. Seven out of nine schools in the District participate in School Food Share, capturing an average of 3,000 lbs/month of edible food.
Food Waste Collection Pilot
The town of Scarborough, Maine pays a $70.50/ton tipping fee for garbage sent to the waste-to-energy (WTE) facility at ecomaine in Portland, a cost that is likely to increase as the current ashfill at ecomaine’s WTE plant reaches capacity. Reducing garbage tonnage represents an opportunity to manage costs. After extensive study, the Scarborough Energy Council brought a report to the town council in February 2016 that focused on two primary opportunities for improvement. Scarborough residents currently recycle 32 percent of their trash through the curbside recycling program and the recycling drop-off sites located around the town. Recyclables are not subject to ecomaine’s tipping fee. A 2011 waste characterization study indicated that almost 20 percent of the material in sample MSW loads from Scarborough could have been recycled and that just over 30 percent could be composted.
As a result of this study, Scarborough Public Works is preparing an 8-month food waste pilot in a 260-home neighborhood that began in May and will run through late January 2018. Each home will receive a third cart for the source separated organics, which will be collected weekly. Organics can be bagged in plastic, which will be removed at the Exeter Agri-Energy anaerobic digestion plant, which has the contract to process food waste tipped at ecomaine’s solid waste facility (see “Regional Digester Increases Food Scraps Processing,” November 2016).
The pilot will not include additional collection costs, as Pine Tree Waste, the contractor responsible for transporting waste to ecomaine, will collect garbage and recycling on alternating weeks, i.e., collect food waste and garbage one week, and food waste and recyclables the following week. Residents not living in the pilot area can participate in the organics diversion project by bringing bagged food waste to two recycling drop-off sites in town. There is an additional drop-off site for food waste at Pine Tree Waste.