BioCycle January 2011, Vol. 52, No. 1, p. 6
Biocycle’s Findacomposter.Com – Add Or Update Your Free Listing
Last October, BioCycle released a new version of www.findacomposter.com, its online directory of composting facilities in North America. Since then, close to 600 listings have been added to or updated in the directory, and more are coming in daily. BioCycle’s FindAComposter.com is a free service, created to make it easy to find composting facilities – either to receive organic waste streams or purchase compost products. There is no fee to list a composting facility; all facility information is verified by BioCycle editors before the listing goes live on www.findacomposter.com. Plans are under way for FindAComposter News, a blog to feature facilities in the directory as well as provide quick tips on optimizing facility operations and expanding markets for high-quality compost products. All composting facilities in North America are invited to take advantage of your free listing. Go to BioCycle’s www.findacomposter.com to complete the online directory form.
Agriculture Supporting Community
Nestled into Montana’s Bitterroot Mountain range, the picturesque town of Missoula belies a community wracked by recent double-digit unemployment, where many residents fall below the poverty line and some even lack a place to live. Single moms struggle to put food on their families’ tables, troubled teens grapple with staying in school and out of the court system, and lines at local soup kitchens may stretch for blocks. Jeremy Smith’s “Growing a Garden City” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010) is at once a how-to manual and collection of personal narratives that tell the story of how Missoula has met these challenges head-on with imagination and heart, learning to feed itself wholesome, local and organically grown produce through a patchwork of community farms/gardens cum social-service and educational projects. Under the umbrella of “Garden City Harvest” – a moniker reflecting the town’s historic roots as an agricultural cornucopia due to its relatively mild climate compared to the rest of the state -staff, volunteers, college students and court-appointed community service youth produce tens of thousands of pounds of food for the traditionally underserved while building meaningful relationships between people and with the natural environment.
Projects described include a student-run farm in partnership with the University of Montana; community gardens and neighborhood farms where residents can rent a garden plot for a nominal fee and have access to tools, water, compost and the knowledge of others; a youth work-therapy program, and extensive community education. Peppered with photographs illustrating the various programs taken by collaborators Chad Harder and Sepp Jannotta and stories by the participants themselves, a compelling forward by Bill McKibben and dust jacket endorsement by Jane Goodall, among others, Growing a Garden City will both inspire and teach anyone interested in food justice, food literacy, food security and community building. “I love this book,” Goodall gushes. “It proves that every one of us, and every patch of soil, can make a difference. The way we connect with nature, with our food and with each other can change the world.”
Italy Bans The Bag
A ban on nonbiodegradable plastic bags went into effect in Italy on January 1. A grandfather clause will allow shops to use bags they already have stockpiled until they run out after which biodegradable (paper or plastic) or reusable cloth bags will be the only option. The country goes through around 20 billion plastic bags a year and accounts for about 20 percent of all plastic bag use across Europe. While around 200 of Italy’s approximately 8,000 municipalities have already enacted plastic bag bans, some worry the country won’t be able to handle such an abrupt nationwide change.
Other areas have been successful in curbing plastic use through tariffs. For example, plastic bag use in Washington, DC, fell by 85 percent within a month after a 5-cent fee was put in place last year. Also in 2010, Californians narrowly rejected a plastic bag ban, which would have made their use illegal in grocery and convenience stores across the state.
Peak Phosphorous … And Biosolids Recycling
A new report from the United Kingdom’s nonprofit Soil Association reveals that supplies of phosphate rock are running out faster than previously thought and that declining supplies and higher prices present a new threat to global food security. “A Rock And A Hard Place: Peak Phosphorus And The Threat To Our Food Security” highlights the urgent need for farming to become less reliant on phosphate rock-based fertilizer. According to the report, conventional agriculture is totally dependent on phosphate for the fertility needed to grow crops. Worldwide, 158 million metric tons of phosphate rock is mined every year, but the supply is finite. Recent analysis suggests that we may hit “peak” phosphate as early as 2033, after which supplies will become increasingly scarce and more expensive. According to the report, the world is unprepared to deal with shortages in phosphorus inputs, the drop in production and the resulting hike in food prices.
“A Rock And A Hard Place” calls for drastic global changes in how we farm, eat and deal with human waste. It suggests abandoning our current “flush-and-forget” toilet systems in favor of “ecologic sanitation” that returns nutrients to the soil, and calls for changes to the European Union’s organic regulations to allow for use of human effluent – which is rich in “natural” phosphate – on agricultural land to ensure phosphate levels are maintained. Globally, the report states, only 10 percent of human waste is returned to agricultural soils; urine alone contains more than 50 percent of the phosphorus excreted by humans. Without fertilization from phosphorus, it is estimated that wheat yields could dwindle by more than half in coming decades. The current price of phosphate rock is approximately twice that of 2006. When demand for phosphate fertilizer outstripped supply in 2007/08, the price rose 800 percent. According to the report, organic farms are more resilient to the coming shortage as they rely less on outside inputs and more on nutrient recycling through crop rotation, cover cropping and composting. Organic crops also generally have a lower fertilizer requirement than nonorganic crops, with a greater capacity to scavenge for nutrients through denser and deeper root systems. Find the full report at: www.soilassociation.org/peakphosphate.aspx.
Atlanta Soup Kitchen Serves Up Zero Waste Thanksgiving
This past Thanksgiving, the Open Door Community in Atlanta served around 300 homeless men and women a full Thanksgiving meal. The annual feast included everything one would expect at a traditional holiday meal, with one exception – there was no garbage left over at the end. Open Door had committed to the idea that zero waste would be sent to the landfill. A large portion of the food for the event came from donations recovered from other Thanksgiving meals around the city, including the private and progressive Paideia School, which ran its own annual zero waste Thanksgiving meal for 1,000 students, alumni and teachers the previous day. The Open Door event was able to be waste-free by using mainly reusable plates, cups and cutlery as well as some certified compostable products. All plastic, aluminum, glass and paper were collected for recycling in four 95-gallon toters. With help from Greenco Environmental, a regional commercial composting facility, all kitchen scraps and plate scrapings – even the turkey carcasses after they were used to make a soup – were collected in BioBags for composting. “Having Greenco’s composting facility has made zero waste possible,” said Tania Herbert, whose son attends the Paideia School and who helped organize both trash-free turkey dinners. “They are putting us on the map, and we’re catching up with the rest of the country. It was a great partnership, because the Open Door Community doesn’t think there is any waste in this world. They see value in everything, whether it is food residuals or people.”
Other ongoing sustainability initiatives at the Open Door Community include composting fruit and vegetable scraps daily to make compost for its garden; and low-flow toilets and showerheads with much of the energy for heating the huge water heaters coming from solar panels on the roof.
Board Of Supervisors Cracks Down On Predatory Marketing
If it’s marketed as a “Happy Meal” but it’s really a crappy meal, then you can’t bait children with plastic toys within the city of San Francisco, says the Board of Supervisors in an 8-3 vote overruling a veto from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom – who called the measure too far-reaching. According to the ordinance, which will take effect December 11, 2011, meals that include “free” toys will now have to meet certain nutritional guidelines that McDonald’s prize-containing Happy Meals currently do not. These criteria include limits on sodium, calories and fat and a requirement that the combo meals include at least one vegetable or fruit item. Similar legislation is already on the books in nearby Santa Clara County. According to an AP report, the supervisors hope to set a precedent and force fast food chains to either make their meals healthier or stop predatory marketing to children too young to discern what’s bad for them by enticing them with toys. McDonalds countered that the measure hurts business and stifles parents’ ability to make their own choices for their families.
New York Plans To Reduce Waste
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a new solid waste management plan setting ambitious waste reduction goals for the next 20 years. “Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Material Management Strategy,” proposes new ways for state and local government, businesses and individual citizens to move toward materials management approaches that reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution, save energy and create green jobs. The 20-year goal is to reduce the average amount of waste New Yorkers dispose of from 4.1 to 0.6 lbs/person/day. According to an executive summary, these new approaches represent a shift from focusing on “end-of-the-pipe” waste management techniques to looking “upstream” at how materials that would otherwise become waste can be more sustainably managed.
This shift is central to the state’s ability to adapt to an age of growing pressure to reduce demand for energy, reduce dependence on disposal, minimize emission of greenhouse gases and create green jobs, according to DEC. Strategies include influencing product and packaging design to minimize waste and maximize the use of recyclable materials and will involve all players in the production and supply chain – manufacturers, distributors, retailers, consumers and government. The plan calls for increased investment in recycling and distribution/reverse distribution infrastructure and a decreased reliance on waste disposal. A new materials management plan would capture the economic value of waste materials, conserve their imbedded energy and in the process, minimize generation of greenhouse gases and pollution. The plan could create 67,000 green jobs by 2030 as well as other economic opportunities.
January 25, 2011 | General
BioCycle January 2011, Vol. 52, No. 1, p. 6