June 21, 2007 | General

California Links Organics Recycling To Sustainable Future

BioCycle June 2007, Vol. 48, No. 6, p. 20
Chair of the Integrated Waste Management Board reviews initiatives and accomplishments, including 52 percent waste diversion and an infrastructure of over 100 composting and mulch facilities statewide.
Margo Reid Brown

WITH over 42 million residents, California offers many challenges as well as opportunities to address our environmental needs. As part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Integrated Waste Management Board is aggressively working to protect our natural resources, and ensure the health and safety of our residents and our visitors.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also shares this strong devotion to environmental protection and the aspiration for a truly sustainable society. It is no secret that Governor Schwarzenegger has become California’s greenest governor, signing new laws, setting new goals and calling for bold actions to protect and preserve the environment. With unsparing clarity, he has made it clear that sustainability, whether it is alternative fuels or zero waste or greenhouse gas reductions, must be our shared vision.
The many actions he has taken while in office include: Initiated the Hydrogen Highway Network, making California a leader in developing a hydrogen fuel infrastructure; Introduced the Green Building Initiative calling for better energy efficient technologies and construction of green buildings; Introduced the Million Solar Roofs Initiative promoting renewable energy by installing solar panels on homes and businesses; Created and funded the California Ocean Protection Council, leveraging the state’s resources to protect our coastline; Signed into law the most ambitious plan in the world to achieve a greenhouse gas emissions cap based on 1990 levels by 2020.
This law, a first of a kind in the world, will take a great amount of cooperation from the public and private sectors.
The impact that waste diversion has on climate change is amazing. Each year California’s diversion and recycling efforts save enough energy to power nearly 1.5 million homes. These efforts are extremely effective in reducing greenhouse gases while also cutting air pollution, cleaning up our waterways, and providing multiple other benefits.
Diverting organic materials also plays a significant role in greenhouse gas reduction. There are more than 100 active, permitted compost and mulching facilities in the state, diverting over 10 million tons of organics each year. This diversion not only helps to return valuable nutrients to the soil, improve plant productivity and help reduce water usage, erosion, and chemical use, it also can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an equivalent of at least 6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Reduction of organic materials has played a large role in helping California achieve monumental success in its waste diversion efforts. Only 16 years ago, only 10 percent of our waste was being diverted from our landfills. Today, the state has achieved a diversion rate of over 50 percent. This achievement demonstrates what can be done when local and state governments work together. We have legislators, local officials, industry and the public all working to achieve the same goal.
Although we are diverting 52 percent of the 88 million tons of waste generated in California, there still remains 42 million tons that go to landfills. And of that 42 million tons, around 29 million are carbon-based organics, including traditional compost feedstocks, paper and plastics. About 12 million tons in our disposal stream is easily compostable organics such as food waste and landscape trimmings.
Continuing to send these materials to landfills is simply wasting precious resources. We have a responsibility to ensure we are making the most of all our natural resources, using them to their highest and greatest use possible. Whether we are talking about the conservation of energy, food, water or air resources, how we manage our organic materials plays a key role. Knowing this, it is evident that we must coordinate with other agencies, private enterprises and organizations and create new and innovative methods and programs for efficiently managing our organic resources. Compost will play a significant role in addressing this challenge. I also realize we must begin looking to technology as a means of reducing what was normally brought to our landfills.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board has begun examining many of the emerging energy technologies that have been proven to make the most of our resources. And we are working to improve the recovery and use of these materials. Our recently adopted Strategic Objectives is evidence to that effect. In addition to the core values laid out in these objectives – developing sustainable markets, encouraging innovative technologies, reducing greenhouse gases and facilitating the highest and best use of material resources – these objectives also include more specific goals such as reducing the amount of organics in the waste stream by 50 percent by the year 2020, and increasing environmentally responsible procurement by state agencies 10 percent per year.
Future CIWMB programs will be developed with these objectives in mind as we continue to work with our sister agencies on other environmental issues such as organics procurement and air and water quality issues. Presentations by Board staff at BioCycle’s recent 23rd Annual West Coast Conference in San Diego highlighted a number of our initiatives and research projects (see summary in sidebar). They included a look at some of California’s efforts to accurately measure the waste stream; initiatives to facilitate the development of alternative, renewable energy systems; partnerships with Cal Trans in market development and with landscapers to create a widespread industry understanding of sustainable landscaping principles; steps to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through diversion and CIWMB’s participation in the Governor’s Climate Action Initiative; and how California is addressing concerns of odor and emissions from compost facilities in an effort to expand markets.
These presentations provided simply a taste of what we are doing at the California Integrated Waste Management Board. There are many other programs taking place, including agricultural market development efforts, food diversion assistance, our Cal MAX program, manure management efforts, and our Recycling Market Development Zone and Loan program. All are designed to facilitate and assist the efficient use of our resources and develop partnerships with local jurisdictions and businesses.
We are proud of our success in achieving over 50 percent diversion, and building a mainstream industry that strengthens our environment, creates jobs, grows our economy, and with each passing day, moves us closer to a truly sustainable society. The sustainable management of organic materials, in particular, is a great example of this. After all, it is carbon that is the key atom in energy, food, production, and greenhouse gases, and carbon that is, by its definition, organic. Looking to the future, we hope that California will provide the leadership and courage needed to develop and expand organics markets, improve facilities, increase capacity, examine new technologies, and efficiently manage our precious resources.
Margo Reid Brown is Chair of the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Ms. Reid Brown gave the keynote address at BioCycle’s 23rd Annual West Coast Conference, April 16-18, 2007 in San Diego, California.
AT BioCycle’s recent West Coast Conference in San Diego, staff from the California Integrated Waste Management Board gave presentations on a number of CIWMB initiatives related to composting, organics recycling, renewable energy and waste diversion. Slides from these presentations, as well as many other conference speakers, can be viewed at (click on conferences link). Here are a few highlights from the talks by CIWMB staff:
Greenhouse Gas Reduction: Judith Friedman described the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets established by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order and Assembly Bill 32. The Executive Order set the following target dates: reduce to 2000 emission levels by 2010, 1990 emission levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. AB 32 requires the state to adopt man-datory reporting rules for significant sources of GHG, and adopt regulations by January 1, 2011 to achieve maximum technology feasible and cost-effective reductions. Waste activities account for about 3 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, noted Friedman, who also cited significant energy savings from recycling (e.g., 206.9 Million Btu/ton of aluminum recycled). CIWMB is looking at a lifecycle approach to organic materials management, considering an array of waste management options and how each reduces GHG emissions while increasing diversion at the lowest cost. An RFP was issued to conduct the lifecycle analysis and a complete economic analysis of the options.
Waste Disposal And Characterization Data: Lorraine Van Kekerix explained the process by which California calculates its diversion rate (currently at 52%). California is the only state in the U.S. that requires cities and unincorporated county areas to divert a specified amount of their waste streams (25% by 1995; 50% by 2000) and impose financial penalties if those rates are not met. Proof of diversion is measured by the amount of waste disposed; the three primary components of the measurement system are: 1) Base year generation using data from jurisdiction generation studies; 2) Adjustment method to correct base data for changes over time; and 3) Measurement year disposal from the jurisdiction’s disposal reporting system. Van Kekerix provided insight into how CIWMB calculates those three measurements, and where there have been challenges over the years. Some issues with the existing system are that it is complex, data needed to calculate diversion rates (adjustment factors) are sometimes not available until a year after the measurement year, about half of the jurisdictions have 1990 base years that may no longer be accurate, and disposal data for small, rural jurisdictions has large annual fluctuations. A new CIWMB Strategic Directive is to “seek statutory authority by September 2008 to develop a timely and accurate compliance measurement system.” Van Kekerix also noted there is a bill in the Legislature to raise the diversion requirement to 75 percent.
Conversion Technologies Infrastructure: Fernando Berton discussed conversion technology infrastructure developments in California. He noted that there are 80 billion bone dry tons/year of fuel feedstocks (“gross resources”). The three principal sources are agriculture in the Central Valley, forestry in the northern and central mountains, and waste in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas. Governor Schwarzenegger’s Bioenergy Executive Order set production and use targets for ethanol and biodiesel of 20 percent by 2010, 40 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050. Berton described a cellulosic facility being built by Bluefire Ethanol that will use 700 tons/day of green waste and wood from landfills to produce 19 million gallons/year. Bluefire was one of a half-dozen cellulosic ethanol projects in the U.S. to recently receive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. Berton also noted that Los Angeles County is evaluating five conversion technology proposals for a demonstration project that would be located with a materials recovery facility (MRF). Technologies under review include anaerobic digestion, thermal depolymerization, pyrolysis only, gasification only, and a combination of the two.
Compost Market Development: Brian Larimore has been working with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to increase utilization of compost and mulch for roadside management (see “California Agencies Partner To Increase Compost Use On Roadsides,” March 2007). Larimore mentioned that a state senator (Sen. Wiggins) introduced SB 697 to require Caltrans to develop a 10-year plan to increase use of mulch and compost, while phasing out the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. He explained that Caltrans has authority over 230,000 acres of roadside; the agency utilized about 20,000 cubic yards of compost and 50,000 cy of mulch in 2006. The partnership between Caltrans and CIWMB has resulted in development of specifications.
Compost Emissions Monitoring and Measurement: CIWMB has funded the Compost Research Laboratory at San Diego State University (SDSU) to conduct bench- and full-scale research on air emissions from composting operations. Impetus for the research came from rules adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District on ammonia, VOC and particulate emissions from composting and mulch facilities. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also has developed air quality rules for composting sites. Brenda Smyth of CIWMB and Fatih Buyuksonmez of SDSU presented their findings on methods to mitigate emissions from green waste composting sites. Four windrows were set up at the City of Modesto (CA) composting facility; they were comprised of green waste only, green waste and food waste (15-20% of total); green waste and additives (GOC Technologies 2600 and 2500); and green waste and a “pseudo-biofilter” compost cap (19 tons of finished compost applied on ridge top, draped down sides for initial cap, then 11 tons of unscreened compost applied after turning events). Among the conclusions are the biofilter is most effective at mitigating emissions, application of additives was effective until the windrow was turned, and there was high variability among the mitigation methods tested.

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