December 14, 2006 | General

BIoCycle World

BioCycle December 2006, Vol. 47, No. 12, p. 6

In Japan, roughly 19.4 million tons of food residuals were generated in 1996. Only about nine percent – or 1.68 million tons – were recovered, with most incinerated or landfilled – contributing to Japan’s growing shortages of final disposal sites. Aware of the problems, the Japanese government in 2001 enacted the Food Recycling Law, requiring that all food-related businesses increase reuse rates by 20 percent by the end of this year. Four recovery methods are recommended in the Law: Composting; Producing fodder for livestock; Manufacturing oil and fat products such as biodiesel and printing inks; and Utilizing methane from fermentation.
In Aya Town of Miyazaki Prefecture, reports the newsletter Japan for Sustainability, organic waste is collected and turned into compost, then sold to local farmers as “Aya’s Natural Fertilizer.” In Kyoto City, officials promote waste oil recycling by processing 5,000 liters of cooking oil into biodiesel as part of its biomass utilization strategy.
At the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, a research team led by Prof. Ralph Noble is showing that composted recycled paper can cut plant disease by as much as 72 percent. Results from trials with conifers using compost made from paper waste indicates that it’s providing similar disease suppressing effect as green compost made from plant waste. Explains Prof. Noble: “In Britain, about half a million tons of these small, unusable fibers are produced each year. They have a potential use in growing media because they hold a lot of water, just like peat and, being a waste product, they have no other value.”
Suppression of plant diseases was particularly noticeable, reports the UK Composting News for Winter 2006, when the green and recycled paper composts were added to peat where “clean and uniform materials make the plants growing in it susceptible to quickly spreading plant diseases.” In contrast, compost contains a diversity of microbes that can suppress plant diseases.
Adds Prof. Noble: “There should be no additional costs involved but we must still test the reliability of using composts for a wide range of commercial crops.” His survey found that when added to peat, green compost suppressed plant disease by the following average amounts: Fusarium oxysporum – 61 percent; Phytophthora nicotianae – 72 percent; Phythium ultimum – 46 percent; Rhizoctonia solani – 29 percent; and Verticillium dahliae – 32 percent.
The Morrisons Cove area of Pennsylvania’s Clover Creek Watershed is home to 25,000 dairy cattle that produce 190 tons of manure daily – but in the Martinsburg borough, elevated nitrate levels in the water supply are causing problems. The Cove Area Regional Digester Project (CARD) was challenged with developing a digester to solve the problem, reports The Rottin’ News, newsletter of the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP). The latest grant – given by The Chesapeake Bay Commission – has enabled CARD to advance into the testing phase, operating for 60 days on a Martinsburg farm. All raw manure will be brought by contracted haulers where – after offloading – will be thickened via a centrifuge to reduce digester volume. Thickened manure will be sent to the modified Anaerobic Egg-Shaped Digester (ESD) which uses advanced wastewater treatment technology to enhance volatile solids destruction and produce more methane gas per pound. ESD will operate at a thermophilic temperature of 145°F with a residence time of 12 days.
Following digestion, reports Rottin’ News, which stabilizes the manure, digested solids are dewatered to improve handling characteristics and reduce excess water content. All wastewater on site will be combined and treated to yield a discharge that complies with the highest standards of state and regional regulations. With excess capacity, the CARD will be able to receive municipal biosolids for beneficial use from several municipalities. The digester technology can render material pathogenic free to produce Class A biosolids. Summarizes PROP:
“The concept is to encourage municipalities to ‘recycle’ their biosolids instead of landfilling or land applying. Tipping fee charged at the CARD facility will be lower than tipping fees at landfills. Estimated cost of the project is $25 million with expected annual revenue of $2.3 million from sale of electricity, tipping fees for biosolids disposal, sale of soil amendment products, and carbon trading credits.” For further project information, e-mail Julie Dick of CARD at: covedigester
Organic Matters, the annual publication of the Ecological Farming Association, sheds some new light on the power of algae. “While most current research is focused on terrestrial plants, algae produces substantially greater rates of bioenergy. The per unit yield of oil from algae is seven to 31 times greater than the next best crop, palm oil!” Michael Briggs of the University of New Hampshire Biodiesel Group calls algae one of the most photosynthetically efficient plants that can use human or animal waste as a food source and grow in a wide range of conditions. Both the Universities of New Hampshire and Hawaii have programs that see promise in algae. Ecogenics – a small research nonprofit in Tennessee – has created a closed loop ecosystem that uses animal waste to create methane, which fuels an algae culture greenhouse. The algae is fermented to create biodiesel, writes Organic Matters, and the solids are used as animal and fish feed. Visit
Legislation to recover electronic equipment and prevent toxic components from contaminating local environments is being adopted around the country. Initiatives include: California – Advanced Recovery Fee (ARF) will finance recycling program. Fee to be collected at time of sale of covered electronic devices (CEDs); Maine – Law represents shared responsibility between manufacturers, state and consumers. Municipalities operate and pay for collection sites. End-of-life fees are charged for drop-off; Maryland – Law sets up a 5-year pilot requiring all computer manufacturers to pay a flat fee of $5,000 to sell computers. A portion of the fee money is available for grants to municipalities that set up collection programs; New Hampshire – A disposal ban for video display devices in landfills will take effect on July l, 2007; New Jersey – Hybrid bill requires an ARF for TVs and producer responsibility for computers. Bill may become a full ARF for all covered electronic equipment; Rhode Island – Disposal ban for certain electronic equipment takes effect in 2008; New York – Two bills in 2006 required producer responsibility for electronic equipment recycling, using market share and return share financing mechanisms.
A community composting project is setting up demonstration sites across Europe, reports the British publication Resource! to highlight the many benefits of sustainable waste management – specifically composting. The report begins: “What links recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center on the island of Salamina, off the coast of Athens, with adults with learning difficulties at a care home south of Prague? The answer is that both are establishing composting projects as part of a new initiative to set up community composting demonstration sites across Europe.”
The Growing with Compost project is a partnership between Ecological Recycling Society in Greece; the Czech University of Agriculture in Prague; Friends of the Earth, Slovak Republic; Community Composting Network UK; and RREUSE, a European network funded by the European Commission’s Grundtvig program. Composting is now being added to the list of skills residents can acquire, along with jewelry making and cooking. For more information on the project, visit:
Fuel ethanol could be cheaply and quickly converted into the purer, cleaner alcohol that goes into alcoholic drinks, cough medicines and mouth washes, announced Iowa State University researchers in the October 2006 issue of Resource magazine. Jacek Koziel of the ISU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department is studying two technologies to purify and remove bad-tasting components from fuel ethanol. He is working with Hans van Leeuwen, vice president of a Cedar Rapids firm called Mell03z. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board says the state has 25 plants capable of producing 1.5 billion gallons of fuel ethanol. Multiple distillations required to make food-grade alcohol raise costs to about 50 cents per gallon more. The goal is to drop that amount to less than a penny per gallon.
One technology would be solid phase microextraction to collect samples of compounds in the alcohols. Another is gas chromatography – mass spectrometry to identify and quantify all compounds in the samples. Koziel would use his lab’s olfactometry equipment to separate and analyze smells created by various compounds. He can be contacted at
More than 650 corporations purchase 7.2 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually, an increase of nearly 240 percent since the end of 2004, says the U.S. EPA. Global clean energy markets for wind and solar alone are estimated to be growing to nearly $100 billion by 2015. “We have seen an increasing awareness that major companies are reducing and offsetting their energy footprint,” says an executive with San Francisco-based 3 Phases Energy Services. Overall, the U.S. generated more than 55 million MWh of renewable energy in 2005 equal to 1.5 percent of the nation’s total electricity generation.
A recent announcement from Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania continues to confirm the long-proven fact that recycling is as much a job creation and economic development tool as it is a landfill “diverter.” In announcing that 171 Pennsylvania communities will share grants totaling more than $5.5 million for their recycling efforts in 2004, Rendell cited some encouraging statistics borne from recycling initiatives. According to the governor, more than 3,200 recycling and reuse businesses and organizations in the state generate more than $18 billion in gross annual sales and provide jobs for more than 81,000 employees at an annual payroll of approximately $2.9 billion. These businesses add more than $305 million in taxes to the state treasury. In 2004, nearly 4.8 million tons of recyclable materials were recovered. The economic value of remaking those materials into new and useful products exceeded $113 million. Communities avoided some $260 million in disposal costs based on the estimated statewide average disposal cost of $54 per ton.
The recycling grants are awarded to communities based on their performance. “These grants give Pennsylvania communities a direct incentive to recycle,” Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty says. “The more they recycle, the more they receive in recycling performance grants. I encourage local officials to use this money to support even stronger municipal recycling programs, which play an essential role in environmental protection and economic growth in communities across the state.” The recycling efforts also save energy, reduce air and water pollution, and limit the need for virgin materials in manufacturing. According to the commonwealth’s statistics, recycling saved almost 66 trillion British thermal units (BTUs) of energy, enough to power 643,000 homes for one year in Pennsylvania or the equivalent of conserving 531 million gallons of gasoline.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) published a report in late November that addresses the question, “Can American farmers feed the growing fuel industry?” The publication explains the potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and the potential of no-till cropping for greater residue collection. It also proposes guidelines and incentives to encourage farmers to produce, harvest and deliver feedstock to the growing biorefinery industry. The report examines sustainable harvesting of farm residues – such as corn stover and cereal straws, and discusses economic benefits for farmers who invest in practices and equipment needed. BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies who are involved in development. For a complete copy, visit
A two-year study at the Immokalee campus of the University of Florida showed that compost can help maintain the same level of soil moisture that can reduce runoff and deep percolation, while achieving water conservation. The study was done by C. Pandey and S. Shukla, and reported in the Autumn 2006 issue of Compost Science & Utilization. The objective was to quantify effects of composted yard trimmings on water movement, especially with retention for vegetable production systems with raised bed and plastic mulch. “Results indicated that soil moisture in the compost field, was consistently higher,” they point out. “Addition of compost increased soil moisture in the root zone as well as the capillary fringe, which can lower water table depth. The compost can maintain the same moisture that would be present for the shallower water table.”
Biosolids compost is a good organic amendment but immature compost can exhibit phytotoxic behavior reflecting different toxic substances, note two University of Buenos Aires scientists in Argentina. They write: “Our objective was to determine the phytoxicity of Biosolids; Mix of biosolids and sawdust a day after composting started; same materials at end of thermophilic stage; cured compost.” Observed researchers Maria Zubillaga and Paul Lavado: Phytotoxicity was related mainly to extract pH and electrical conductivity. Potentially toxic elements, volatile organic acids, phenolic compounds and ammonia were not related to germination, they write in the Autumn 2006 issue of Compost Science & Utilization. To get a copy of the issue – or subscribe to CS&U e-mail or call 610-967-4135 ext. 21.
A California firm that recycles scrap tires and rubber into sidewalks will partner with an East Coast company that shares their environmental vision. The latest issue of Scrap Tire News explains how a Gardens, California firm called Rubbersidewalks Inc. has supplied special panels to more than 60 municipalities since 2004. To defray shipping costs and increase availability, RubberForm Recycled Products LLC will produce rubber panels at its 16,100 sq ft facility in Lockport, New York. Founded in 2001, Rubbersidewalks kept testing the concept and in 2005 began seeking an East Coast partner. Explains the firm: “Sidewalks made of rubber, recycled shredded tires, hold up longer than concrete because they bend, instead of breaking from weather extremes and tree roots.” STN also reports that the Boston City Council is proposing to install sidewalks made from recycled tires and that “repairs would be quieter because jackhammers would not be needed.”
As part of its steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Michigan State University (MSU) has joined the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), North America’s only emission registry. Imbalances – such as too much carbon gas released into the air – result in global warming. Members of the CCX seek to reduce direct emissions by conserving energy and to provide opportunities to offset emissions such as no-till farming, tree farming or other carbon credits. MSU will work to achieve the prescribed six percent reduction goal. “We have 10,000 graduates each year,” explains Fred Poston, vice president of operations at MSU. “We want to send them off equipped to be environmentally responsible. MSU’s strength is that the integration of students speeds the translation to behavioral change.” Membership in CCX will also position the state’s bioeconomy base, helping to move farming toward solutions in renewable fuels and environmentally sound practices (like composting). MSU will be the fifth university to join CCX – along with Tufts, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota and University of Oklahoma.

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