September 22, 2008 | General


BioCycle September 2008, Vol. 49, No. 9, p. 6

A total of 639 businesses and individuals in 43 states have been selected to receive $35 million in grants and loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency in farm and business operations. Awarded through USDA’s Rural Development’s Section 9006 renewable energy and energy efficiency program, the monies support projects across a wide range of technologies encompassing biomass (including anaerobic digesters), geothermal, hydrogen, solar and wind energy. Of the $35 million announced in late August, $27.5 million are grants and $7.4 million are guaranteed loans. For more information on the funding program, visit
The Association For Organics Recycling (AFOR) – formerly The Composting Association – in the United Kingdom released its annual survey findings, “The State of Composting and Biological Waste Treatment in the UK.” Both the 2005/06 and the draft 2006/07 reports indicate that about only one percent of the household kitchen waste from curbside collections is composted. The study estimates that approximately 20 percent of the UK’s household waste is comprised of food and biodegradable waste. The annual survey is funded by WRAP, the Waste Reduction Action Programme, which supports recycling, composting and other diversion initiatives in the UK. WRAP also released a report this year, “The Food We Waste,” which found that 6.7 million metric tons of food waste are thrown away annually, equating to 30 percent of the food purchased in the UK.
Jeremy Jacobs, Acting Director of AFOR, notes that the biowaste industry in the UK is undergoing significant expansion and development using a diverse range of technologies for the treatment of biowastes. “The emphasis on anaerobic digestion technology to process food waste is endorsed by AFOR,” he says. “We support emerging technologies to work in parallel with the current windrow and aerobic in-vessel systems, in order to build a robust and diverse biowaste processing infrastructure for the future, to capture and treat all types of biodegradable wastes. It is for this very reason AFOR recently changed its name to widen its remit and to reflect the organization’s values and membership opportunities.”
Last month while attending the annual agricultural fair in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, we took note of the signs on the carnival rides stating they were fueled by Pennsylvania-grown biodiesel. While tracking down more details on that midway operator, we came across a news item out of Sacramento, regarding the annual California State Fair also held in August. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and developer BioEnergy Solutions powered a children’s train ride with renewable biogas, generated by a dairy anaerobic digester. The gas is purified and fed into a PG&E pipeline. The ride, “Barnyard Animal Train,” is owned by Ray Cammack Shows and was located in the Kaiser Permanente Kids Park at the State Fair.
“Powering a children’s ride at the state fair with biogas is a celebration of the great efforts of California’s dairy farmers to help us meet our energy needs,” said Robert Howard, PG&E Vice President of Gas Transmission and Distribution. “We’re proud to partner with these innovative dairy farmers and demonstrate the potential for the state’s agriculture and power sectors to work together to meet California’s climate goals.”
The city of Cote St.-Luc, Quebec, rolled out a residential food waste and yard trimmings program in September, giving 4,800 single-family homes and duplexes large brown bins. The town experimented with a pilot program for 500 homes in September 2007. City officials report that the pilot was successful, with about 50 percent of all organic waste captured, up from 3 percent beforehand. The first collection for the 4,800 homes is scheduled for mid-October.
Organized citizens and small business owners of Frederick County, Maryland want to know: “Pro or Con: Is a 1,500 tons/day garbage incineration plant being planned by the Frederick Board of County Commissioners compatible with a sustainable environment and economy?” The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) in Washington, DC and small businesses in Frederick County are offering a $250 prize for the best answer to this question, pro or con. “Answers may be in prose (500 words or less) or graphic depiction such as a cartoon,” explains Neil Seldman, president of ILSR. “All responses will be forwarded to a citizen’s committee comprised of small business owners, elected officials, journalists and long-time residents of Frederick County.”
All submissions must be dated no later than October 15, 2008. The winner will be announced by November 15, 2008 and the prize money forwarded immediately thereafter. Send contest entries to Neil Seldman, ILSR, 927 15th St., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20005; or
Months of planning for a green Democratic National Convention largely succeeded in the waste diversion department, with tons of materials now in composting windrows or making their way through the recycling process. “We said this would be the greenest convention ever and it has been,” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper told the Rocky Mountain News the morning after the event ended. Nearly 70 percent of the trash generated was diverted from the landfill; volunteers sorted through materials to maximize materials recovery. One afternoon, sorters picked out 150 lbs of laptop batteries and discarded cell phones for recycling. Another green initiative was having 1,000 free bikes available for public use. Each was ridden more than five times with 26,416 total miles logged – the equivalent of 9.2 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided, notes the Rocky Mountain News article.
A Climate Action Team created by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire in 2007 has been moving forward rapidly on initiatives – both policy and legislative – to address impacts that global warming could have on the state’s environment and economy. The 2008 Climate Action Team (CAT) has been tasked with transforming the comprehensive recommendations developed in 2007 into a small number of focused, refined, and effective set of actions that Gregoire and the Washington Legislature can implement. Various workgroups were created to accomplish the ambitious goals, including the Beyond Waste Implementation Workgroup (BWIWG). The BWIWG has developed proposals that will contribute to reduction of greenhouse gas generation associated with solid wastes. Among the proposals in a draft document on the group’s weblink ( are to optimize the collection of recyclable materials and products, construction and demolition wastes and organics for recycling in Washington State to meet a new recycling goal of 80 percent by 2020.
The fundamental strategy to achieve this goal is to require source separation of materials and wastes by generators and require participation in provided collection services with differentiation between residential and commercial generation as to how that service is provided. BWIWG is suggesting the following for the 2009 legislative session: 1. Optimize the Solid Waste Collection System – focuses on collection and creates financing mechanisms to accomplish these actions; 2. Product stewardship framework legislation – Aimed at improving the environmental performance of products, specifically reducing their carbon footprint and increasing their recycling; and 3. Establishing a comprehensive organics management system that includes: a) Green electricity – biopower/anaerobic digestion legislation; b) Compost products use subsidy; and c) Compost product procurement by the Department of Transportation.
At the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn meeting in early September, held at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, researchers from Guildford, United Kingdom (UK) announced successful development of a bacteria strain that can break down organic wastes into ethanol. Unlike traditional yeast-based fermentation for ethanol, which is energy intensive and expensive, the bacteria is expected to create ethanol more efficiently and cheaply. TMO Renewables, based in Guildford, screened thousands of bacteria before finding one that could both survive high temperatures and thrive on a wide variety of plant materials. “We found some heat-loving bacteria in a compost heap, from the Geobacillus family, which in their wild form produce lactic acid as a by-product of sugar synthesis when they break down biomass,” says Paul Milner, TMO’s Fermentation Development Manager. “We altered their internal metabolism, adapting them to produce substantial amounts of ethanol instead.” The company’s scientists estimate that the 7 million tons/year of surplus straw in the UK could alone replace 10 percent of the country’s gasoline fuel consumption if converted into ethanol. “We also believe that our process can be used successfully beyond biofuels to produce other high-value chemicals and drug ingredients that are currently derived from oil,” notes Milner.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, is calling on individuals to cut their carbon footprints by transforming their diets. “Meat production represents 18 percent of global human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including 37 percent of global methane emissions, which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2 and 65 percent of nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the warming potential of CO2,” says Pachauri. “While the world is looking for sharp reductions in GHG responsible for climate change, growing global meat production is going to severely compromise future efforts. An average household would reduce the impact of their GHG emissions by more if they halved their meat consumption than if they halved their car usage.”
He adds that more than 60 billion farm animals are reared annually – a figure that is set to double by 2050. “The need to change our diet is increasingly urgent,” says Pachauri. “There is, as yet, inadequate awareness on this subject, though voices are rising. A small reduction can make a difference. For example, a study from the University of Chicago showed that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by 20 percent, it would be as if they switched from a standard sedan to the ultra-efficient Prius.”
The Professional Recyclers Of Pennsylvania (PROP) offers three online courses on composting and recycling, with Continuing Education Credits granted through Penn State University. The newest course, “Backyard Composting Basics,” is a three-hour online class that covers how to determine your composting needs, what to compost and building a pile. It has an optional unit on composting bin distribution programs. Another three-hour course, “Collection Techniques and Options,” teaches collection theory, how to establish a program, collection strategies and techniques, and principles of routing. For more information about PROP and online composting classes, visit:
Austin, Texas will purchase all of the power a 100 MW wood-fired plant can generate based upon a 20 year agreement that will see almost a fifth of the city’s energy come from renewables. To go online in 2012, the plant will burn wood waste from logging and mills, as well as wood waste from urban activities.
Austin Energy is to sign the contract with plant builders Nacogdoches Power – billed as a joint venture between Boston-based Energy Management Inc. and Portsmouth-based BayCorp Holdings. Nacogdoches was a wholly-owned subsidiary of BayCorp when the Bahamas-based Sloane Group acquired the company in 2005.
The deal will see 18 percent of Austin’s energy coming from renewable sources in 2012. The City’s original goal was to have 20 percent of its energy coming from renewables in 2020, but that target has since risen to 30 percent.
Skip Cameron, president of a local conservation group known as the Bull Creek Foundation, argued that the city was trying too hard to meet unrealistic targets: “This might have been be a reasonable goal if technically achievable, but it appears Austin Energy is not looking at what is real and what is merely disguised as ‘renewable: to fulfill an arbitrary requirement.'” He added that he felt the plant would be polluting and would draw too heavily on wood resources. Nacogdoches Power downplayed the suggestion the plant would lead to a deterioration in local air quality, pointing out that it will come with a baghouse to control particulate emissions, as well as a selective non-catalytic reduction system for controlling nitrogen oxide levels.
Based upon interviews with 6,500 persons in 13 countries, only 3 percent recycle their old cell phones. One of the main reasons cited was simply not knowing they could be recycled. Two-thirds of residents did not know how to recycle a cell phone, and 71 percent were unaware of where to do so. “Many people are simply unaware that these old and unused mobiles lying around in drawers can be recycled or how to do this,” says Markus Terho, Director of Environmental Affairs at Nokia Corp., which conducted the survey. About 65 to 80 percent of a phone is recyclable.

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