August 20, 2008 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle August 2008, Vol. 49, No. 8, p. 6

BioCycle’s 8th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling will be held October 6-8, 2008 in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference agenda reflects advancements in the knowledge base on how to convert agricultural, municipal and industrial organics into energy and biofuels. Perhaps this is reflected most in the state-of-the-knowledge and sophistication of projects and research related to anaerobic digestion. For example, farm digester projects have gone well beyond being a good idea to manage nutrients and odors from dairy and swine operations. Today, many of these projects are accepting off-farm substrates that significantly boost biogas production and reduce the payback on the investment. Presentations will cover methods to evaluate the digestibility and biogas potential of various substrates, including source separated food waste, and how state regulators are approaching permitting of these projects that no longer neatly fit into solely an agricultural activity.
There will be a session on Anaerobic Digestion of MSW Organics with Brian Van Opstal from the City of Toronto (Ontario) describing the city’s plans to build two 55,000 metric tons/year digesters to process residential source separated organics. Other presenters in that session will discuss options for sorting contaminants out of MSW feedstocks, and report on new project developments. The topic of upgrading digester biogas into renewable natural gas (RNG) will be discussed, looking at the necessary equipment and systems as well as how to work with utilities on RNG purchasing and interconnection standards. The complete agenda can be found on page 7-9 of this issue and at
After Congress failed to extend renewable energy tax credits, the Blue Green Alliance said that the U.S. is missing an enormous opportunity to create middle class green jobs to reinvigorate our economy, increase energy independence and fight the global climate crisis. “The future of our economy depends on investments in renewable energy sources,” says David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance. “We already know that hundreds of thousands of Americans work in jobs that could contribute to a green economy. Failing to extend these tax credits would be a missed opportunity to simultaneously create jobs and make our country more energy independent… We need a new energy policy that reinvests in America. Extending these renewable energy tax credits is a necessary step to moving our country and our economy forward.”
The Blue Green Alliance is a partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club to realize the economic potential of global warming solutions and fair-trade policies. For more info, visit:
Dynamic Compost Tea, based in Nelson, New Zealand, brews compost tea in a 2,000-liter silo. It takes about 24 hours, with 150 liters resulting from every 15 metric tons of compost with each batch tested before use. Robert Luff, of Dynamic Compost Tea, starts with soil tests and analysis at a specific farm, and then decides on the quantity and strength of the tea to be used. The company has worked on restoring the biological balance to the soil on more than 200 farms over the past six years.
Bobcat Farms, a hog farm located near Clinton, North Carolina, switched from incinerating its mortalities to composting them in an in-vessel system. The decision was primarily economic, due to high diesel costs, but also included safety and environmental considerations associated with incineration. The farm installed a 30-foot Biovator rotary drum composter last October after an independent energy audit showed it would save $28,000 to $30,000/year on diesel fuel alone. The resulting compost is used as a fertilizer on the farm’s pastures, which Henry Moore of Bobcat Farms, says have sandy soils and low moisture retention. “It’s been important to utilize all sources of nitrogen that we can on the farm to produce our small grains and our hay,” says Moore.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced steps being taken to strengthen its understanding of disposal practices and potential risks from pharmaceuticals in water. It recently issued an Information Collection Request (ICR) to learn about the healthcare industry’s disposal methods for unused pharmaceuticals in order to inform future potential regulatory actions, and identify best management and proper disposal practices. The agency is also commissioning the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide scientific advice on the potential risk to human health from low levels of pharmaceutical residues in drinking water. The NAS will convene a workshop of scientific experts in December to advise the agency on methods for screening and prioritizing pharmaceuticals to determine potential risk.
Other actions EPA is taking include: Expanding a recent fish tissue pilot study to a national sampling to determine whether residues from pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) may be present in fish and waterways; Developing a methodology to establish water quality criteria to protect aquatic life; and Conducting studies to examine the potential occurrence of PPCPs in sewage sludge and wastewater. To facilitate these efforts, the agency has developed state-of-the-art analytical methods capable of detecting various pharmaceuticals, steroids and hormones at very low levels. More information on EPA’s research and response to PPCPs in the environment is available at:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC), started in 2002, released an updated report with success stories from 2007. The RCC’s areas of coverage include municipal solid waste (MSW), green electronics initiatives, industrial materials recycling and reduction of toxic chemicals. One aspect addressed under MSW is the Pay As You Throw (PAYT) program, where residents are charged based on the amount they throw away, instead of a flat fee or having the tax base cover costs. PAYT offers an economic incentive for residents to reduce their waste and to recycle/compost more. The RCC Update notes that recycling rates increase 32 to 59 percent under a PAYT program. EPA estimates that for every 100,000 citizens using PAYT, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by more than 9,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent – the same annual GHG emissions as more than 6,000 cars.
More than 7,000 communities in the U.S., as well as around the world, use the PAYT system. For more information on PAYT, visit For more on Resource Recovery Challenge, visit
The Finca Santa Barbara coffee farm in Panama grows organic coffee in soils reconditioned with vermicompost, produced by California red worms. Notes the Organic Coffee Company, which markets this limited, private reserve coffee, “Finca Santa Barbara is now a biodiverse, nutrient-rich, organic coffee farm growing on formerly trampled cattle land. The farm planted 82,000 trees on the land including coffee trees as well as native species that now supply food to birds and animals and provide shade to the coffee trees. The local village of Jaramillio has reported that their supply of spring water has actually reemerged where previously it had dried up.”
The Sacramento (CA) Municipal Utility District (SMUD) will issue a request for proposals (RFP) on August 28th for renewable energy power purchase agreements (PPA). The proposals are due by late October, and are intended to help SMUD reach a goal of 23 percent renewable energy from retail sales by 2011. Solicitation includes conventional and emerging renewables, including wind, geothermal, small hydroelectric, landfill gas, biomass, biodiesel, biogas injected into natural gas pipeline, ocean thermal, ocean wave, tidal current, PV and solar thermal. SMUD will also consider Tradable Renewable Energy Credits. To download RFP documents, visit:
Two SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) regions have issued RFPs. SARE offers grants in five areas: Research and Education ($30,000 to $150,000); Professional Development; Producer ($1,000 to $15,000); On Farm Research/Partnership; and Sustainable Community Innovation. Submission dates depend on the category of grant, and region of the country. For more information, visit:
The Center for Farmland Policy Innovation, at Ohio State University, issued RFPs for funding, with a deadline of October 31, 2008. Grants will range from $1,000 to $10,000 for community-based agricultural economic development. The Center works with local communities on their farmland protection priorities. More information can be found at:
Countrystyle Composting recently opened a £3 million (5.84 million USD) in-vessel composting plant in Kent, United Kingdom. Located on an eight-acre site that previously processed woody materials, the new system will process 35,000 metric tons/year, including residential and commercial food scraps. The operation has six bunkers with ventilated floors and wireless monitoring. In addition, a £1.4 million ($2.7 million USD) materials recycling facility (MRF) is being constructed at the site to process materials from local authorities already supplying organics. Countrystyle Recycling is also considering an anaerobic digestion facility at a second site in Kent, which would process 25,000 metric tons/year.
Converting livestock manure into a domestic renewable fuel source could generate enough electricity to meet up to three percent of North America’s entire consumption needs and lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to a paper published in July in the Institute of Physics’ Environmental Research Letters. The paper, “Cow Power: The Energy and Emissions Benefits of Converting Manure to Biogas,” is the first attempt to outline a procedure for quantifying the national amount of renewable energy that herds of cattle and other livestock can generate and the concomitant GHG emission reductions. Livestock manure, left to decompose naturally, emits two particularly potent GHGs -nitrous oxide and methane. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nitrous oxide warms the atmosphere 310 times more than carbon dioxide; methane does so 21 times more.
The journal paper creates two hypothetical scenarios and quantifies them to compare energy savings and GHG reducing benefits. The first is “business as usual” with coal burned for energy and manure left to decompose naturally. In the second scenario, manure is anaerobically digested to create biogas and then burned to offset coal. The hundreds of millions of livestock inhabiting the U.S. could produce approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power millions of homes and offices. There also is a net potential GHG emissions reduction of 99 million metric tons, wiping out approximately four percent of the country’s GHG emissions from electricity production. “In light of the criticism that has been leveled against biofuels, biogas production from manure has the less controversial benefit of reusing an existing waste source and has the potential to improve the environment,” write the authors of the paper, Dr. Michael E. Webber and Amanda D Cuellar from the University of Texas at Austin. “Nonetheless, the logistics of widespread biogas production, including feedstock and digestates transportation, must be determined at the local level to produce the most environmentally advantageous, economical, and energy efficient system.”
Several modifications have been made to the Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) Program, a national compost certification program administered by the U.S. Composting Council. One major change is the inclusion of certification for vermicompost and digestate products, as long as they have gone through a composting phase. This change will make the program more inclusive as new products are developed and popularized. The program has also become more accessible to smaller composters (2,500 tons or less), with lower participation fees.
Blended products containing STA certified composts now must include at least 25 percent compost to have the STA logo, instead of the former 15 percent. Only STA composts may be included in the blended product with the STA label. However, companies reselling certified compost in bulk, bagged or blended form can now use the STA logo even when the product is sold under a different product name.
A recent report released by ForestEthics attacks junk mail, declaring that it has the climate change impact equivalent to 9 million cars, or the emissions generated by heating almost 13 million homes during winter. NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen released a statement with the report. “It is hard to imagine waste more unnecessary than the 100 billion pieces of junk mail Americans receive each year, and these new findings, revealing that the emissions of junk mail are equal to those of over nine million cars, underscore the prudent necessity of a Do Not Mail Registry,” says Dr. Hansen. ForestEthics launched a Do Not Mail campaign in March 2008, with almost 60,000 signatures on a petition, including several celebrities. To download the report, visit: To learn about the Do Not Mail campaign, go to:

Sign up