BioCycle October 2017
Ontario Seeks Food Waste Disposal Ban By 2022
Ontario wants to ban food waste from being thrown in curbside trash bags by 2022, according to a news report by CBC. A discussion paper prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change notes that food and organic waste comprise about one-third of the province’s total waste in 2014, or 2.6 million tons. A draft of the Ministry’s Food and Organic Waste Framework is expected to be released this fall. The ban on disposal of food waste is part of Ontario’s broader Waste-Free Ontario initiative that includes 15 action points to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. Other banned materials would include beverage containers, corrugated cardboard and fluorescent bulbs and tubes
The discussion paper also notes that in 2016, 37 Ontario municipalities offered residential green bin programs voluntarily, covering roughly 70 percent of the province’s population. But the discussion paper notes those numbers may be misleading, adding that “the actual figure should be lower given multiunit residential buildings are offered services in only 7 municipalities.” Banning food waste from disposal in landfills could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 2.2 megatonnes in Ontario.
Organically Farmed Soils Score High On Carbon Sequestration
A new study directed by Northeastern University in collaboration with The Organic Center, a nonprofit in Washington, DC that is a source of information for scientific research about organic foods and farming, shows farming organically cuts greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Soils on organic farms store away appreciably larger amounts of carbon, and for longer periods, than typical agricultural soils. The report, released in September, concludes that organic agricultural practices build healthy soils and can be part of the solution in addressing global warming.
One of the largest field studies of its kind ever conducted, researchers measured 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and 728 conventional soil samples from all 48 contiguous states. On average, organic farms have 13 percent higher soil organic matter than in conventional soils, as well as 150 percent more fulvic acid, 44 percent more humic acid, and 26 percent greater potential for long-term carbon storage. Humic acids in soils are thought to help sequester atmospheric carbon. The new data was published in the Oct. 1 issue of the scientific journal Advances in Agronomy.
PAYT Helps Drive Residential Food Scraps Collection
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted a survey in 2015 of 115 mid-sized U.S. cities (populations greater than 100,000 but less than one million) to assess what factors are associated with municipal adoption of food scraps collection programs. Mid-size cities were selected as they “almost always direct their own waste and recycling policies,” explains Lily Baum Pollans, a recent doctoral graduate of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and now an Assistant Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College. Pollans and Jonathan Krones, a visiting scholar at MIT, conducted the primary research. In all, 46 of the 115 cities were found to have active food scrap recycling programs of various forms, including educational programs, low-cost home composting bins, drop-off facilities, and curbside collection.
By studying those cities, the researchers identified key characteristics of places that have adopted food recycling. Among the findings:
•Food scrap recycling occurs in many areas, including those not strongly associated with recycling programs in general. Over 35 percent of the cities surveyed spanning a large portion of the South have some form of food scrap diversion program (including education and outreach), along with six out of 10 cities in a large portion of the Midwest.
•Multiple economic and social factors, including income levels, seem to have negligible correlation with a city’s tendency to adopt food scrap recycling. Instead, a notable factor that predicts adoption of food scrap recycling, other things being equal, is the existence of Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) trash collection.
“This strongly suggests that programs like PAYT get residents in the habit of actively managing their trash disposal in response to financial incentives — and, as such, makes it seem less burdensome to separate food from other kinds of trash,” explains Krones. Pollans, Krones and Prof. Eran Ben-Joseph of MIT co-authored a paper on the research titled “Patterns in municipal food scrap programming in mid-sized U.S. cities,” published online in the journal Resources, Conservation, and Recycling, where it will also appear in print. Additional papers from the same team are forthcoming. One examines the politics of innovative waste management planning in U.S. cities, focusing on six case studies. The other takes a broader look at 33 different waste and sustainable consumption policies that cities have control over, and explores statistical relationships across socioeconomic and institutional factors.
California Legislature Passes Wasted Food Reduction Bills
In mid-September, the California state legislature passed two bills that offer solutions to some of the leading causes of wasted food. Over 5.5 million tons of food is dumped in landfills every year in California, and an alarming amount of that is actually edible at the time it’s thrown out. The two bills are:
• AB 1219, the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act strengthens and expands a 1977 law that protects food donors from legal liability, in order to encourage food donations. Notably, the bill also requires health inspectors to promote donation and educate restaurants and grocery stores about these liability protections.
• AB 954 promotes use of uniform phrases for food expiration dates to reduce the estimated 20 percent of consumer food waste that comes from the misinterpretation of date labels. This bill narrows the number of confusing phrases down to two terms: peak freshness dates, when food is likely to taste best, and a safety date, when food may be unsafe to eat. AB 954 also discourages use of consumer-visible sell-by dates that are inherently misleading and wasteful.
Californians Against Waste (CAW) sponsored AB 954 and cosponsored AB 1219 with the California Association of Food Banks. Gov. Jerry Brown has until October 15th to approve both bills.
Terry J. Logan, Long-Time Soils And Biosolids Advocate
Terry J. Logan, PhD, who spent much of his career teaching and working in soil science, biosolids management, and composting, passed away in August 2017. Dr. Logan was a retired professor of soil science from The Ohio State University. A native of Guyana, he obtained his undergraduate degree in soil science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and his masters and PhD in soil chemistry from Ohio State. After retirement, Dr. Logan became President and CEO of N-Viro International, Inc., a waste management company. He also operated consulting businesses with his wife to encourage beneficial use of solid waste and energy efficiency. He judged science fair competitions at Beaufort County schools in South Carolina for many years. Dr. Logan was a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society for the Advancement of Science, and Editor-in-Chief of Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology.
“True” Zero Waste Rating System
Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), an organization that independently recognizes excellence in green business industry performance and practice globally, introduced TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency), the new brand identity for its zero waste rating system that helps businesses and facilities define, pursue and achieve zero waste goals through project certification and professional credentialing. The TRUE Zero Waste certification, previously administered by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, was acquired by GBCI in 2016. TRUE is a whole systems approach that helps organizations understand how materials flow through their facilities and identify redesign opportunities so that all products are reused.
TRUE-certified projects meet a minimum of 90 percent waste diversion for 12 months from landfills, incinerators (waste-to-energy) or the environment. It is administered by GBCI and serves as a complement to the LEED green building rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Currently, there are 88 TRUE-certified facilities around the world, See “Deeper Dive Into Zero Waste”, which describes the certification program.
Pennsylvania Needs Organics Recycling Law To Reduce Food Waste
Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank based in Pennsylvania, released a new report with 28 recommendations for reducing food waste in Pennsylvania. Researched by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (HFLPC), the report gives particular emphasis to passing a food waste recycling law, such as an organic waste disposal ban similar to what four New England states have done. Gradually phasing in requirements for all generators — with an emphasis on food recovery — is seen as most preferable.
According to Philabundance, Pennsylvania has 14 composting facilities and 14 anaerobic digesters, but more than half of the state’s counties don’t have either infrastructure. The report recommends updating state permitting regulations, offering grants or loans for new facilities and working with farmers to develop composting operations on their sites. Other priorities from Philabundance, based on this report, include date labeling standardization; liability protection for food recovery organizations that charge end recipients for food that has undergone value-added processing; offer a separate, dedicated state-level tax credit for food donations; and incorporate a specific food donation section into Pennsylvania’s statewide food safety regulations.
Food Scraps Diversion Policy Debate
The Metro Council of Portland, Oregon, responsible for the region’s solid waste management, is taking comments on a proposed policy to require some area businesses that generate food waste to source separate it for landfill diversion. The Metro Councilors will vote on the policy in December. If adopted, it would eventually include about 2,700 businesses as well as K-12 schools. The policy would be implemented in phases, starting in 2019 with the largest food waste generators (about 872), and culminate in 2023 with a ban on food disposal from all businesses.
Large food–oriented businesses would include chain restaurants, food manufacturers, large hospitals, and grocery stores.
In the early years, planners estimate that between 30 and 50 percent of total commercial food scraps generated would be collected, which is between 25,000 and 42,000 tons annually. Phase 2, starting in March 2020, would add 1,088 businesses generating between 6,000 and 10,000 tons of food scraps per year to the mandatory collection program. Phase 3, beginning in September 2021, would include another 740 businesses as well as K-12 schools. Cumulative food scraps from Phase 3 implementation are estimated to be between 3,900 and 6,500 tons annually.
Small restaurants, coffee shops and food carts that generate less than 250 pounds/week of food scraps would not be affected by the mandate. Some of these, as well as many larger food businesses — about 1,300 in total — currently participate in voluntary food scraps collection programs.