September 21, 2010 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle September 2010, Vol. 51, No. 9, p. 6

EPA Tool For Wastewater Treatment Plants To Evaluate Codigestion
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pacific Southwest Region, recently released a tool designed to assess the economic feasibility of codigesting food waste and fats, oils and grease (FOG) at wastewater treatment plants. The Co-Digestion Economic Analysis Tool (CoEAT) is designed for decision makers with technical expertise in wastewater treatment or solid waste management. “The emerging practice of food waste codigestion has potential to use existing digester capacity to divert waste, mitigate climate change and generate renewable energy while allowing facilities to be more profitable,” says Laura Moreno, environmental scientist for the EPA. “This tool was created to help communities understand the feasibility of implementing a codigestion program at their wastewater treatment plant.” CoEAT allows users to enter community specific data to calculate the economic, environmental and operational viability of food waste codigestion. The tool can be found at region9/organics/coeat/index.html.

USDA Issues Call For Applications For REAP Feasibility Grants
The USDA announced in early August the beginning of the application period for proposals to conduct feasibility studies on prospective renewable energy systems – including anaerobic digesters – under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Agriculture producers and rural small businesses may apply for a REAP feasibility study grant to help pay for the cost of a comprehensive business-level study that gathers together preliminary data and studies, evaluates the findings and determines whether a proposed energy project would be viable and profitable. The study must be conducted by an independent third party, and the grant may not be used to pay for facility design work or permitting/licensing costs.
Assistance is limited to $50,000 or 25 percent of the cost of the study, whichever is less. Approximately $3 million is available to be awarded. More details are in the August 6, 2010, Federal Register at 2010-19335.pdf. Applications, due by Oct. 5, 2010, may be obtained from local USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinators or from (keyword search: REAP).

WalMart Pledges To Divert All Organics
As part of an ambitious roster of sustainability initiatives announced in spring 2010, Walmart pledged to begin diverting all organic recyclables from stores in all 50 states and Puerto Rico away from landfills and toward more beneficial uses such as composting and energy production by the beginning of August. The mega retailer’s bottom-line goal is zero waste by 2025. Producing energy from food waste (and compost from the digestate) is a significant part of that picture, third in a hierarchy behind point-of-sale waste reduction and feeding humans (donating the food), with composting of food residuals coming in at sixth place. BioCycle caught up with Walmart Director of Solid Waste and Recycling Bobby Fanning in early September to find out how the program was progressing. “It’s going well,” says Fanning. “The program rollout is complete, and we are now focused on outlet/EOL [end of life] type and program refinement.”
Fanning says Walmart is currently partnered with three on-farm anaerobic digester projects – in Prentiss, Mississippi; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Our intention is to seek many additional opportunities,” he says. “We currently have around 12 additional projects throughout the U.S. which should be online within the next 18 months.” Walmart operates three core business: Supercenters, Sam’s Club and Neighborhood Markets, Fanning says, with the food waste portion of the waste stream for each running 36.3%, 51.8% and 78.6%, respectively.

Waste Management Expands Organic Recycling Services
Waste Management (WM) acquired a majority equity interest in Garick LLC, an Ohio-based company whose origins are in the bark products industry and soil products marketing. Over the past few years, Garick has purchased or started composting and wood processing sites in Ohio, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas and Tennessee. “We are building a new business in organics recycling,” says Tim Cesarek, Managing Director of Organic Growth at WM, who, until recently, worked in the petrochemical and refining industry. “From our perspective, Organic Growth is primarily looking at the biogenic material that WM manages. By definition, that is food waste, yard trimmings and wood waste, contaminated paper, paperboard, biosolids and fats, oils and grease. All have some value in the form of a soil amendment or energy – liquid transportation fuels, power – as well as fertilizers and chemicals.”
He adds that WM is against yard trimmings disposal bans, which is why the company and its affiliates have been supporting initiatives to repeal some state bans. “We believe that we need to be able to derive sustainability based upon the highest economic value in the material that we manage,” explains Cesarek. “If the market can support the investment in infrastructure to develop soil amendments, then the market will speak. In many markets, there are economic drivers – whether it is yard waste or food waste – where one can justify investment in composting, anaerobic digestion or fermentation technologies to make green gas, ethanol and green chemicals.” Gary Trinetti, Garick’s CEO, adds that Garick provides WM some capability – “here and now” – to logistically manage organic material. “We also bring the product management experience with high quality soil blends and mulches,” he says. WM currently has about 30 facilities involved in some aspect of organics recycling.

State Polarized Over Future Of Woody Biomass
A Massachusetts study comparing the carbon footprint of woody biomass to other forms of energy production has some individuals and groups frustrated over both the conclusions of the report and the ensuing media spin. The gist of a study by the Manomet Center for Conservation and Science and commissioned by the state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is that burning woody biomass for energy is not as carbon neutral as previously assumed. Taking some of the findings out of context, several mainstream news stories telegraphed the headlines that woody biomass had been demonstrated to be less carbon-friendly than coal. What the study did find was a complex “debt-then-dividend” scenario with the potential carbon impacts and benefits heavily dependent on forest management practices. Still, many comments were critical of the modeling used in the analysis.
“Manomet’s analysis of greenhouse gas emissions … suggests that emissions are always greater in the near-term for biomass than for fossil fuels and that net reductions in GHG emissions attributable to bioenergy usually do not become apparent for many years,” stated a letter from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. “The fatal flaw in this analysis is Manomet’s invalid assumption that modeling harvested stands is equivalent to modeling forests comprising a diverse population of stands.” Other public comments posted on the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs website said the study focused too much on the burning of whole tree chips as opposed to waste wood.
Others lauded the report: “…the state of Massachusetts deserves congratulations for courageously calling out the naked emperor on his fantastical claims that forest burning is carbon neutral,” said a letter in support of the study from Massachusetts Forest Watch. “This important shift may literally help the entire world step back from the suicidal notion of burning its forests for energy.”
The state will consider the report as well as comments made via letters and a series of public meetings as it crafts its new renewable energy policy, with a draft expected by October 31 and formal adoption by the end of the year. At issue is whether biomass should receive renewable energy credits, a decision which will no doubt have great bearing on the future of that industry in Massachusetts.

Logsdon Shouts “Manure” From The Mountaintops
Contrary Farmer Gene Logsdon’s most-recent title “Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind” (Chelsea Green, 2010) may sound a bit irreverent at first blush, but nothing could be farther from the truth. With characteristic wit and humor, Logsdon draws extensively from his wide and varied background as a farmer, scholar of anthropology and archeology, agricultural journalist and longtime BioCycle contributor to make a solid case for not flushing and forgetting about one of the world’s most precious resources. “Most people, even farmers, do not have really good grasp of the food chain,” says Logsdon, whose book offers chapters on such varied but complementary topics as pitchforks and their proper use, maintaining and operating a small manure spreader, animal husbandry and manure management, recycling grey water for irrigation, and composting cat, dog and human waste.
“Nothing prepared me better for writing this book more than working for BioCycle,” says Logsdon. “Before that, I never thought about waste at all – most of us don’t.” Logsdon says what was initially planned as a small volume on handling barn manure soon took on a life of its own. “I realized all the stuff I learned at BioCycle fits into this book,” he adds.
Logsdon, who grew up on a farm, contends that Western civilization is consumed with an unnatural paranoia about excrement and thus goes to great expense and folly to keep it out of site and out of mind. This includes expending an estimated 58,400 gallons of water a year per household to flush it away. Meanwhile, the author points out, synthetic fertilizer costs skyrocket while farms are left devoid of organic material and the beneficial microbiology – or as Logsdon put it, “livestock” – that comes with it.
Logsdon’s historical and personal anecdotes are equal parts entertaining and informative. For instance, the author informs us not far into Chapter 1 that once upon a time in China, “The polite thing to do after enjoying a meal at a friend’s house was to go to the bathroom before you departed. I am not making that up,” he promises. “Manure was treated like a precious gem because it was a precious gem.” When Logsdon reveals over polite dinner party conversation with some “Very Nice People” that he “manures” his garden ever year, the reader can almost hear the gentrified jaw drop.
No subject is taboo for Logsdon including his exploration of applying treated biosolids to agricultural lands. “Humans discharge from their bodies something approaching 50 million tons of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium per year,” he writes. “We’re talking $50 billion a year in biosolids fertilizer that we are mostly throwing away, after spending incalculable amounts of money to do the throwing.”
Whether you keep a couple of backyard chickens, run a small truck patch, operate a dairy or sometimes just get the urge to sit and think deeply about things, you will no doubt find many nuggets of wisdom between the covers of “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind.”

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