July 21, 2009 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle July 2009, Vol. 50, No. 7, p. 6

New Search Tools On
BioCycle is pleased to announce new search capabilities for its free on-line, searchable database, Facilities can be located by zip/postal code proximity search, feedstock type, and any other information category on the facility data form. Categorization of facility types, as well as feedstocks – especially as they relate to food waste – have been refined. There are over 350 composting facility entries in from across the United States and Canada. Facilities in the database are being contacted to update the information in their listings so that they match the revisions. We strongly encourage composting facilities in the U.S. and Canada that are not in the database to go to and click, “Add Composting Facility.” Interest in diverting organic waste streams to composting is growing exponentially, and there is a perceived lack of infrastructure. Stand up and be counted! There is no fee to have a listing, nor a fee to do a search. Contact BioCycle with any questions:
Mandatory Recycling And Composting Ordinance Passes In San Francisco
Diversion of food waste and other organics is now required in San Francisco, following passage of a mandatory recycling ordinance by the Board of Supervisors in June. All residences and businesses must take advantage of the city’s recycling and composting collection programs. While several other cities require recycling service and participation, San Francisco is the first in the U.S. to require the collection of food scraps and other compostables. Refuse collection has been mandatory since the 1930s. Under the ordinance, residential and commercial building owners have to sign up for recycling and composting services. “I am pleased with the leadership the Board of Supervisors has demonstrated on this important legislation,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “By collaborating with all of our stakeholders, businesses, colleagues and citizens, we can build on our success and continue to lead the nation in recycling.”
A comprehensive study conducted by the city’s Department of the Environment found that 36 percent of what San Francisco sends to landfills is compostable, primarily food scraps, and 31 percent is recyclable – which is mostly paper. There are already facilities in the City and surrounding areas that reuse, recycle, compost, process and market most materials discarded in San Francisco, saving this material from landfills and creating green-collar jobs. Newsom said a primary goal of the mandatory recycling ordinance, is to get recycling and composting happening in buildings where it is not currently provided. “Many tenants want to recycle and compost, but the building does not offer the service. We’re going to change that.” He added that “if all of the recyclable and compostable materials currently going to landfills were captured by our programs, San Francisco’s recycling rate would soar from 70 percent to 90 percent.”
No fines are specified in the ordinance, but there is a cap of $100 established for residences and businesses that generate less than one cubic yard of refuse per week, which is the equivalent of six 32-gallon carts. Fines higher than $100 may still apply to businesses and to landlords of large apartment buildings who refuse to offer recycling and composting opportunities to tenants when feasible. Under San Francisco’s refuse rates, residents and businesses generally save money by reducing waste and participating in recycling and composting programs.

USDA Awards $49 Million For Biomass Energy Projects
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that 30 projects in 14 states were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – $49 million for wood-to-energy and $8 million for biomass utilization. “These projects will promote the development of biofuels from wood and help private sector businesses establish renewable energy infrastructure and accelerate availability in the marketplace,” says USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “Additionally, hazardous fuels reduction projects utilize biomass from forested lands that, when left untreated, increase wildland fire risks to communities and natural resources.” An expected outcome of the grants is increased value of biomass generated during forest restoration projects and removal of economic barriers to using small diameter trees and woody biomass. These funds may also help communities and entrepreneurs turn residues from forest restoration activities into marketable energy products. Projects were nominated by Forest Service regional offices and selected nationally through a competitive basis on objective criteria. Information about specific projects can be found at:

Climate Bill Potentially Limits Carbon Offsets For Composters, Digesters

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives, is a critical step in establishing the fundamental regulatory structure needed to significantly reduce carbon emissions while growing the economy and dramatically increasing the sustainable use of organic resources. However, the bill, as currently drafted, will not fully accomplish its goal of substantially reducing landfill methane emissions, a significant source of U.S. greenhouse gases. The legislation employs a performance standard approach for reducing landfill methane emissions versus encouraging diversion of methane-producing waste from landfills. “There are two fundamental approaches to reduce methane emissions from landfills,” explains Scott Subler, president of Environmental Credit Corporation, who has been closely tracking and providing input on the climate bill. “One is to capture and destroy methane from landfills as it is being generated. The other is to not put organic wastes in landfills and avoid methane production in the first place. Of the two, avoiding landfill methane is much more effective than capturing it.”
Essentially, ACES may require EPA to extend its existing New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that regulate larger landfills on methane capture to all landfills, i.e., install gas collection systems. However, according to the USEPA’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emission and Sink (2009), on a national average, for each ton of organic waste that is landfilled in the U.S., only about 45 percent of the methane produced is captured. Therefore, even if all landfills were required to install conventional gas collection systems, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the methane produced by organic wastes would be emitted to the atmosphere due to the lag time between waste disposition and onset of gas collection.
Furthermore, the performance standards approach may impact the “additionality” of avoided landfill emissions, and therefore creates substantial uncertainty about the eligibility of composting and municipal anaerobic digestion projects to earn carbon offset credits. Under the new Chicago Climate Exchange Composting Protocol (see “Compost Generates Cash For Greenhouse Gas Benefits,” BioCycle June 2009), projects have to provide landfill methane avoidance; as a law on the books, NSPS rules for all landfills would serve to restrict or eliminate the organics recycling category of methane avoidance, even though methane is still being emitted. (For example, landfill bans on yard waste eliminate the option of earning carbon offsets for green waste composting under the market-based, carbon offset programs; the NSPS rules could effectively do the same.)
A position paper to communicate these issues was drafted for the composting, organics recycling and anaerobic digestion industries. The paper highlights two sections in ACESA that would need to be changed in order for composting and municipal anaerobic digestion projects to remain eligible for carbon offsets: In Title III, Section 331, Section 811, Standards of Performance, add “and landfill methane emissions” to the end of Sentence B; and in Section 733, Eligible Offset Types, add an Initial List of eligible projects that would include landfill methane avoidance via composting and anaerobic digestion. Complete text of the position paper being circulated on this issue can be downloaded at the COOL 2012 campaign’s website.

Key Vote For National Recycling Coalition
On June 5, 2009, the National Recycling Coalition’s (NRC) Board of Directors approved a proposal from Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (KAB) that would combine operations of the two organizations. The final decision on whether to proceed is based on the outcome of an NRC member vote in August. Concerned that the nation’s largest recycling organization would fail to advance serious improvements to the country’s lagging recycling systems, nearly 50 leaders of the NRC created Save the NRC to urge members to reject the merger. “This proposed takeover will eliminate NRC as an independent voice for recycling, giving recyclers just a limited advisory role in an organization that has historically failed to support the structural changes that are essential if progressive recycling policies are to be adopted in this country,” says Clifford Case, founder, former NRC President and spokesperson for Save the NRC. “At a time when concerns over energy and climate change are at last driving national efforts to conserve resources and reduce our carbon footprint, this is precisely the wrong way to go.”
Under the merger proposal, a NRC “Advisory Council” would become a small unit of a much larger KAB. Three seats on the KAB board of directors would be allotted to NRC. Those three directors would be recommended by the NRC Advisory Council, but would have to be approved by the KAB board. “While KAB has done some important recycling work on the ground, the structure and interests of their organization do not mesh with those of the NRC,” said Amy Perlmutter, former NRC board member. Pat Franklin, also a former board member, notes that the NRC is a coalition comprised of a unique blend of diverse interests – federal, state, and local governments; scrap recyclers; haulers; waste generating businesses; recycling end markets; nonprofit organizations; college and universities; and environmental groups – that are all part of making recycling work. “KAB, on the national level, is not a coalition, and is dominated by contributing commercial interests, most of whom are unwilling or unable to address the systemic changes needed to improve recycling,” says Franklin.
According to Save the NRC, a “no” vote could create a number of scenarios including: Going into Chapter 11 and reorganizing its debts and its priorities; Operating again as a volunteer (no paid staff) organization, contracting out all services; Dissolving completely and another broad-based organization committed to its goals may, or may not, arise from the ashes; or Merging with another organization. “We sincerely hope that the NRC membership will carefully consider the proposal before them,” says Mark Lichtenstein, former NRC board president, “and that they will not only vote ‘NO’ on the proposed agreement, but will let the NRC board know that they want them to consider other options.” More information on the proposed NRC-KAB merger, and their viewpoints, is available at

Landfill Gate Rates Rise In 2008
Based on a monthly survey in 2008, the Chartwell Solid Waste Group found that the average nationwide gate rate at landfills had risen to $42.10/ton, up from $40.56/ton in 2007. Chartwell’s national average gate rate is considered an annual benchmark. During the period of 2002 through 2008, the MSW gate rate rose by $7.89/ton, from $34.21 to $42.10 – a 23 percent increase. “When looking at this data, one needs to be mindful that the national average gate rate is a MSW market benchmark,” explains Cary Perket, President of the Envirobiz Group, which took over this research initiative from Chartwell Information Publishers in 2006. “Individual state average gate rates ranged from a low of about $22/ton to a high of $106/ton. Similarly, there is a wide range in gate rate changes found on a statewide basis as well as within state markets.” More details on this survey – and how the finding impact alternative waste management scenarios – will be covered by Perket in an article in next month’s BioCycle.

Dry Toilets And Soil Health In Haiti
William Larsen, Professor Emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), wrote to BioCycle several months ago about some resource recovery projects he is assisting with in Haiti. One in particular is to install dry composting toilets in communities in Northern Haiti. “Dry toilets separate feces from urine ‘at the source,’ permitting the subsequent efficient composting of feces as well as the separate use of diluted urine for plant growth,” explained Larsen is his letter. “No flushing water is required.” He enclosed a picture of one of the communal dry toilets built under the supervision of Sarah Brownell, an RIT graduate. Brownell works with Sasha Kramer, a founder of SOIL – Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods – a nonprofit dedicated to protecting soil resources, empowering communities and transforming wastes into resources in Haiti. “SOIL promotes integrated approaches to the problem of poverty, poor public health, agriculture productivity and environmental destruction,” said Brownell and Kramer in a Haitian Times article. They estimate that using half of Haitians’ human waste as fertilizer would amount to a 17-fold increase in fertilizer use, more than doubling the country’s agricultural production.
About 50 dry toilets have been installed in the northern coastal communities (visit for more details). Adds Larsen: “This important work in sanitation is what we call ‘mundane science,’ no whistles or bells but nevertheless accomplishment of a desired result.”

Drop In Waste Disposal Volumes
Reflecting a national trend, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reported a 5.2 percent decline in waste disposal in 2008 from the previous year (a decline of 842,000 tons to about 15.4 million tons). Wastes imported from other states, mostly Maryland, New York, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and New Jersey, dropped by 533,000 tons to about 6.6 million tons (a 7.5 percent decrease). According to BioCycle‘s 2008 State of Garbage In America Report (December 2008), Virginia landfills about 48 percent of its MSW, recycles about 34 percent and combusts about 18 percent.

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