July 25, 2006 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle July 2006, Vol. 47, No. 7, p. 6

“Proving the adage that a great idea knows no boundaries, the Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) concept is now taking wing internationally,” notes the latest PAYT bulletin from the U.S. EPA ( Pay-as-you-throw is designed to encourage recycling, composting and source reduction by having residential trash collection rates based on the volume of garbage thrown away – the more diverted, the less residents pay. In the decade since EPA launched its PAYT program, communities in 17 other countries have incorporated pay-as-you-throw into their solid waste programs. A report compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to be released this summer, supports the effectiveness of PAYT and concludes that communities around the world can benefit both ecologically and economically by using PAYT waste collection programs. (A list of the countries is on the EPA website.)
One example cited is Prejta, Slovakia. This small town, part of the larger city of Dubnica nad Vahom, implemented a PAYT bag collection system in January 2005. In just one year, the town reduced its municipal waste by nearly 80 percent and cut its costs by more than 84 percent. In addition, residents became motivated to separate more materials for recycling; the town’s paper separation increased by nearly 62 percent, plastics by 95 percent, and metals by approximately 20 percent. In Germany, PAYT accounts for nearly 25 percent of all municipal waste collection programs, serving approximately 9.2 million households. Korea’s PAYT system, in place since 1995, motivated residents to increase recycling from 15.4 percent 49.2 percent in just one decade. During that same time period, Koreans also reduced their municipal waste generation by nearly 14 percent and reported that they were more likely to avoid using nondisposable products. For more information on PAYT in the European Union check
In time for summer and fall special events, the Northeast Recycling Council, (NERC) has released a guidebook titled: Best Management Practices For Special Event-Generated Waste in Rural Communities. Says NERC: “Much of the waste can by recycled, composted – or avoided altogether. Recycling at special events shows attendees they can save the environment anytime – even away from home and work.” Less trash results in lowered landfill water discharges and reduced incinerator air emissions. Data reported is from six events in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont; an agricultural fair in each state and craft fairs. For a copy, contact (802) 254-3636; e-mail infor@ The NERC mission is to advance a sustainable economy by promoting recycling, source and toxicity reduction, and purchase of ecopreferable products and services.
RecycleMania is a “friendly competition among university recycling programs in the U.S. that provides students with a fun, proactive activity in waste reduction,” notes the organization’s website ( Over a 10-week period, schools compete in different contests to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash, and have the highest recycling rate. All participating schools are required to report measurements on a weekly basis in pounds. The university that recycles the most wins. The competition began in 2001 when Ed Newman (Ohio University) and Stacy Edmonds Wheeler (Miami University) decided that something had to be done to increase recycling in residence and dining halls on their campuses – the two areas that are the largest producers of campus waste. The competition has grown and in 2006, 93 colleges and universities around the country competed in the various categories. Those categories include per capita, waste minimization and targeted materials – paper, corrugated cardboard, bottles and cans, and food service organics.
Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont) was the winner in the food service organics standings (with 17 competing). Over the 10-week period, 52.72 lbs of food service organics/person were diverted to the college’s on-site composting facility. The runners up were: Connecticut College – 42.74 lbs/person; Colby College – 27.92 lbs/person; Harvard University – 16.64 lbs/person; and University of Massachusetts, Amherst – 15.09 lbs/person.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) will host the 43rd International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) World Congress in October 6-10, 2006 in Minneapolis, in conjunction with ASLA’s Annual Meeting & Expo. This year’s theme, Green Solutions For A Blue Planet, reflects ASLA’s commitment to taking a leadership role in promoting principles and practices of sustainable landscape design. As part of this commitment, ASLA invited the U.S. EPA’s GreenScapes program ( to design two workshops for landscape architects that cover sustainable landscaping. For the soils workshop, GreenScapes worked with BioCycle to identify speakers with program/project and/or research experience with both compost and the landscape architecture industry. The first workshop, “Building Sustainable Sites from the Ground Up -Soils,” is from 10:30-Noon on October 7, 2006. Speakers include David McDonald from Seattle Public Utilities, Dwayne Stenlund, a landscape architect with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Jeff Shimanski, of Parrott Jungle Island in Florida, and Jennifer Appel, of Jennifer’s Landscape Vitamins. The second workshop related to water conservation is also on October 7th (12:45 pm to 2:15 pm). For more information about the conference or to register, visit the meeting website at
Carbon credits are a financial commodity representing certified reductions in the emission or accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, explains the Environmental Credit Corp. (ECC) of State College, Pennsylvania. Man-made greenhouse gases (GHG) – produced from industrial, agricultural, and municipal sources – include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other compounds. Carbon credits form the basic currency for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and can be traded on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and similar entities. Federal bills that propose regulation of GHG emissions include the Climate Stewardship Act, Clean Air Planning Act and Clean Power Act. At least 28 states have developed strategies to reduce net GHG emissions.
Four Indiana dairies have signed an agreement with ECC to create more than one million carbon credits from greenhouse gas-reducing projects. Each credit is equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide prevented from entering the atmosphere. The Bos, Herrema, Hidden View and Windy Ridge dairies located in Fair Oaks, Indiana house 17,000 cows producing more than 100,000 gallons of milk daily. With a commitment to sustainable waste management, each dairy has installed biogas digesters manufactured by GHD, Inc. of Chilton, Wisconsin. ECC also is working with the Haubenschild Farm in Princeton, Minnesota (see “Trading Carbon Credits From Methane Digester,” June 2006).
ECC, a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, will work with the farms to develop protocols, monitor and certify methane emission reductions and manage resulting carbon credits. Carbon credits are currently valued at around $4/ton. More farms are reported to be looking into this new source of revenue from digesters.
We thank Prof. Mary Beth Kirkham of the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas for sending this short report on the funeral industry in Sweden.
– BioCycle Editors
“I learned about ecological funerals in Stiff. The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Norton, New York, 2003), loaned to me by my niece who read it when she took anatomy as a first-year medical student. The book is by Mary Roach, a journalist, who traveled the world to find out about methods of burial and uses of cadavers. She writes with a gentle and dignified humor. The next to last chapter is entitled, ‘Out of the Fire, Into the Compost Bin. And Other New Ways to End Up.’ Ms. Roach states that the modern human compost movement is located on a tiny island of Sweden, Lyrön, due west of Gothenburg. This is the home of Susanne Wiigh-Masak, who has founded a company called Promessa. It seeks to replace cremation, the choice of 70 percent of Swedes, with ‘a technologically enhanced form of organic composting’ (p. 261). The King of Sweden and the Church of Sweden approve of her method. She has major corporate support and an international patent. The body is freeze-dried and then easily shattered by vibration. The pieces can be ‘used as compost for a memorial tree or shrub, either in a churchyard memorial park or in the family’s yard’ (p. 262). Ms. Wiigh-Masak is an environmentalist and says (p. 263), ‘Compost should not be ugly. It should be lovely, it should be romantic. Death is a possibility for new life. The body becomes something else. I would like that that something else be as positive as possible.’ She believes that nothing organic should be treated as waste, but it should be recycled.”
“The crematoria in Sweden are facing new environmental regulations for volatized mercury from dental fillings, and many need to make costly upgrades to their equipment” (p. 267). By purchasing Ms. Wiigh-Masak’s machinery, they would save money, and, at the same time, comply with governmental regulations. Liquid nitrogen, used to freeze bodies, costs less than natural gas.
“The patent for freeze-drying bodies belongs to an American, Phillip Backman” (p. 271). The first person to compost a body is also an America, Tim Evans. As a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Evans “investigated human composting as an option for third-world countries where the majority of the people can’t afford coffins or cremation” (p. 264). Evans coauthored a white paper on the practical advantages of human composting and said, “[the] material can be safely used in land application as a soil amendment or fertilizer” (p. 265). Ms. Roach said, “[Evans] envisions families planting a tree or shrub, which would take up the deceased’s molecules and become a living memorial” (p. 265).
“The attention that Promessa has received in Sweden since its founding in 2001 has ‘forced the funeral industry to deal with the possibility that very soon people may be coming to them requesting to be composted’ (p. 274). In a Swedish newspaper poll taken in 2002, 40 percent of respondents said they would ‘like to be freeze-dried and used to grow a plant’ (p. 274). Scandinavia’s largest mortuary corporation plans to add a link to Promessa on its Web site (p. 276). The funeral directors recognize that this has to be done for economic reasons. The young people in Sweden are moving away from cremation because of the pollution it creates.”
“Ms. Wiigh-Masak says that Promessa’s main concern is the environment, and composting is ‘a vehicle for spreading the gospel of ecology'” (p. 270). Ms. Roach concludes, as she is standing over a rhododendron bush fertilized with a composted cow, Ms. Wiigh-Masak test grave, “[I]t’s great, this quest for an ecologically sound, meaningful memorial” (p. 277).

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