January 25, 2009 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle January 2009, Vol. 50, No. 1, p. 6

Scottish Government Funds Composting Initiatives
Six local authorities in Scotland received £500,000 (730,000 USD) in December 2008 to begin residential food waste collection trials. The grants are part of the Scottish Government’s £18 million (26.25 million USD) Zero Waste Fund, which seeks to improve the country’s recycling and composting rates. Local authorities currently trialing food waste collection schemes include Inverclyde, Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross.
“Food waste accounts for about a fifth of the waste we currently send to landfill,” says Iain Gulland, Director for Scotland’s division of WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). “Once there it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is very damaging to the environment. Collecting food waste separately is a very effective way of reducing the amount that gets sent to landfill and the environmental damage this causes.”
Environmental, Energy Benefits Analysis Favors Diversion
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) contracted with the Tellus Institute to do a literature review and modeling of environmental impacts of waste management focused on the life cycle impacts of various approaches. MADEP identified the following technologies to assess: recycling, composting, landfilling and waste-to-energy incineration, plus the emerging technologies of gasification, pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion. The final report, “Assessment of Materials Management Options for the Massachusetts Solid Waste Master Plan Review,” was released in December 2008. Tellus partnered with Cascadia Consulting Group and Sound Resource Management on the project. The environmental benefits calculator described in the October 2008 issue of BioCycle – “Composting: Best Bang for MSW Management Buck” – was used as an assessment tool.
“From a life cycle environmental emissions and energy perspective, source reduction, recycling and composting are the most advantageous management options for all (recyclable/compostable) materials in the waste stream,” concludes the study. “After maximizing diversion, it is appropriate for MADEP to continue to monitor developments regarding alternative waste management technologies that produce energy – gasification, pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion.” Of the three energy recovery options evaluated, anaerobic digestion “may be most suitable for source separated organic material as an alternative to conventional composting,” explains the report. “Ultimately, the degree to which anaerobic digestion makes sense will depend largely on the economics of such facilities, including the energy they produce, versus directly composting such material in aerobic composting facilities.” The authors suggest that MADEP “should recommit to maximizing diversion. In addition to strengthening existing programs to capture higher fractions of divertible material, MADEP should emphasize those high volume materials that are relatively easy to recycle/compost (and for which there are available markets): food waste (residential and commercial), mixed paper, some plastics, as well as wood, wallboard and roofing from the C&D waste stream.”
U.S. Epa Reports 2007 Waste Generation, Recycling And Disposal Facts And Figures
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published, “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures 2007.” The report calculates that 254 million tons of MSW were generated in 2007, out of which 85 million tons were recycled or composted, resulting in an overall 33.4 percent recycling rate. As a comparison, in 2005 the EPA reported a 31.7 percent recycling rate, with a total of 79.4 million tons recycled or composted. The 85 million tons recycled and composted is equivalent to a reduction of 193 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 35 million passenger vehicles.
The report measures several materials in the MSW stream, and notes that organics continue to be the largest component. In 2007, MSW was made up of: 32.7 percent paper; 12.8 percent yard trimmings; 12.5 percent food scraps; 12.1 percent plastics; 8.2 percent metals; 7.6 percent rubber, leather and textiles; 5.6 percent wood; 5.3 percent glass; and 3.2 percent classified as other. The highest recovery rates were achieved for auto batteries (99.2 percent), steel cans (64.3 percent), yard trimmings (64.1 percent) and paper/paperboard (54.5 percent). The roughly 21 million tons of yard trimmings composted in 2007 represents a five-fold increase since 1990. EPA has collected and reported this data for more than 30 years, and uses the information to measure the success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. For more information, or to download the report, visit
Farm Energy And Economic Recovery
In early January, the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, along with a diverse collection of 33 other groups and companies, including the 25×25 Alliance and key farm groups, proposed a “robust and comprehensive suite” of clean energy programs for inclusion in the federal economic recovery program that will stimulate job creation. The proposed Farm Energy Economic Recovery Program has three primary elements:
1) Expand Funding for Farm Bill Energy Title Programs: Include at least $1.2 billion in additional funding for important Farm Bill Energy Title programs like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance and Biomass Crop Assistance Program;
2) Extend and Improve Clean Energy Tax Credits: Extend the federal Production Tax Credits (PTC) for wind and biomass power for five years. Change structure of PTC and investment tax credit to make them fully refundable. Stimulate 2009 investment by permitting tax credits from new investments in 2008 and 2009 to be carried back against tax liability from the past decade. Create a level playing field for producers of renewable electricity by modifying the PTC so all renewable sources of electricity will be eligible for the full credit; and
3) Expand Successful Clean Renewable Energy And Conservation Bond Programs: These bond programs provide PTC-like incentives for electric cooperatives, public power and municipalities to build new renewable energy facilities and invest in energy efficiency. The full proposal can be downloaded at
Time For Steep Emissions Cuts Is Now
According to the Worldwatch Institute’s 26th edition of the State of the World series, emission of carbon dioxide has to end by 2050 to avoid catastrophic disruption to the world’s climate. A chapter by climate scientist W.L. Hare concludes that global greenhouse emissions will need to peak before 2020 and drop 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with further reductions beyond that date. Emissions of CO2 would have to “go negative,” with more being absorbed than emitted during the second half of the century. “We’re privileged to live at a moment in history when we can still avert a climate catastrophe that would leave the planet hostile to human development and well-being,” said Robert Engelman, project codirector for State of the World 2009. “Sealing the deal to save the global climate will require mass public support and worldwide political will to shift to renewable energy, new ways of living and a human scale that matches the atmosphere’s limits.”
Among the 10 key challenges to avoid a catastrophe are to think long term, innovate, address population growth, change lifestyles, heal the land so it can remove carbon from the atmosphere and mobilize for change. To order a copy of State of the World 2009, go to
Upcoming Meetings
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) is holding its 9th Massachusetts Organics Recycling Summit, “Greening from the Ground Up,” Wednesday, March 4, 2009 in Devens, Massachusetts. For more information, including exhibitor opportunities, contact Morgan Harriman at
The 3rd Annual Vermont Organics Recycling Summit, “From Waste to Resource: The Future of Organics,” will take place on Monday March 31, 2009 in Randolph Center, Vermont. The Summit is a joint project of the Composting Association of Vermont and the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation. Robert Spencer, a BioCycle Contributing Editor, will be the keynote speaker at the event.
The Composting Council of Canada has issued a Call for Papers for its 19th Annual National Composting Conference, September 30 to October 2, 2009 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Topics to be covered include: Organic Residuals Strategies for Communities, Agriculture, and Business; Compost Technologies and Markets; Regulations and Standards; Analytical and Applied Composting Research; Education and Communication Strategies; and Best Operational Practices. Details are available at
The 3rd International Symposium on Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue and Related Byproducts – Connecting Research, Regulations and Response – is being held July 21 to 23, 2009 at the University of California, Davis. Topics range from disposal in response to routine mortalities, accidental deaths, natural disasters and disease outbreaks to final product use and disposition. Call for papers and registration information will be available at
United Kingdom Consumers Cut Back On Wasted Food
The Waste Reduction Action Programme’s (WRAP) “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign has helped almost two million more households in the UK save money by cutting back on throwing food away. Since launch of the campaign in 2007, research shows that 1.8 million more households are taking steps to be less wasteful, resulting in an overall saving of £296 million a year, and reducing disposal by 137,000 metric tons.WRAP estimates this prevents 600,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases being emitted. The campaign was set up after research found that 6.7 million metric tons of food is thrown away from UK homes annually – a third of the food purchased. The cost to consumers of wasted food is £10 billion a year. Love Food Hate Waste’s role is to provide practical help to cut back on this waste. “At a time when every penny counts, saving nearly £300 million is a great achievement for hard pressed consumers,” says Liz Goodwin, Chief Executive of WRAP.
The campaign provides practical advice and tips to help people make the most of the food they are buying, and waste less. Steps households have taken include becoming better at planning meals so that food isn’t wasted; Using food that is already in the fridge or cupboard before buying new food; Measuring correct portion sizes; and Becoming better at using our freezers. But WRAP’s research also shows that 84 percent of people surveyed still feel they don’t waste significant amounts of food. Therefore the campaign’s aim is to continue to raise awareness of the issue, along with the financial benefits of wasting less food. More information on the campaign is available at: WRAP’s website is
Cleaning And Greening Communities
The Great American Cleanup, an annual campaign organized by Keep America Beautiful, created more than 48,000 gardens, green spaces and xeriscapes in 2008. The Great American Cleanup works to clean and green communities across the U.S., and this is the first year that the organization tracked the number of gardens created (previously, only numbers of trees, flowers, shrubs, etc. were tracked). “Every one of these public spaces could be providing a quiet place to reflect on nature, food for the community, a gateway to the neighborhood, an activity space for kids, or even an offset to a community’s carbon footprint,” says Matthew McKenna, President and CEO of Keep America Beautiful.
Hotel Chain’s “Key” To Being Green
Marriott International, with over 3,000 lodging properties, announced plans to begin replacing the 24 million plastic key cards it purchases annually in the U.S. with cards made from 50 percent recycled material, saving 66 tons of plastic from being landfilled yearly. The hotel chain plans on greening its $10-billion supply chain in other ways this coming year as well, including: Replacing the 100,000 synthetic pillows purchased annually with those filled with fiber made from 100 percent recycled PET bottles; Using coreless toilet paper rolls, eliminating 2 million cores from the landfill annually; Purchasing 47 million BIC Evolutions™ pens annually, made from preconsumer recycled plastic; and Replacing the 1 million towels purchased annually with “room-ready” towels, eliminating the initial wash cycle and therefore saving 6 million gallons of water/year.
Waterless Urinals Conserve Millions Of Gallons Per Year
Old urinals use 3 gallons of water or more per flush. Even water-efficient urinals, which use 1 to 1.5 gallons per flush, average 40,000 gallons/year. Carlsbad Unified School District, in Southern California, installed about 100 waterless urinals in its 14 buildings, conserving millions of gallons of water each year. The no-flush urinals installed at Carlsbad, made by Waterless Co. LLC, have no moving parts, saving on maintenance costs as well.

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