November 18, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle November 2011, Vol. 52, No. 11, p. 9
Portland, Oregon
The City of Portland’s new curbside organics recycling program, which began October 31, offers a tangible representation of a two-year overhaul of state composting regulations (BioCycle will have a full report on the new rules in December). Residential and/or commercial food waste recycling programs – including meat and dairy – had already been launched in other Oregon cities such as Corvallis, Salem, Bend and Keizer.
In the greater Portland area, including a few neighborhoods outside the city proper, around 150,000 single-family households and multifamily complexes with four or fewer units switched to every other week trash pickup and weekly service for mixed compostables (yard and food waste). The program was piloted for a year and a half with 2,000 households in four different neighborhoods throughout the city. That’s when the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability learned that households in the program were generating 30 percent less trash per week and decided to go with every other week refuse pickup (commingled recyclables get picked up weekly on the same day as the organics). Each residential account was provided with a kitchen garbage pail for composting. Private haulers pick up the compostables and deliver them to transfer stations where they are shipped out to composting facilities (either Pacific Region Compost in Benton County, owned by Allied Waste, or Nature’s Needs in Washington County, owned by Recology).
“It’s going really well,” says Arianne Sperry, Portland Recycles! coordinator. “We’ve received feedback from customers that people have shifted from anticipation of the program to actually trying to figure out how to make changes happen in their own kitchens. They’re changing their habits, and it takes some time to make habits change.” One surprise for many households is that they can now put meat and bones in their compost, a practice generally off limits for urban backyard composters. “It’s very different from backyard composting,” she adds.
In Eugene, local garbage haulers, commercial composters, the City of Eugene and area businesses teamed up to begin a commercial organics recycling program. While the program is not mandatory, local haulers must provide collection services and training to those businesses that request it. Rates are set 20 percent below commercial garbage rates in order to encourage participation. The city provides free material and resources to participating businesses. The program is funded through solid waste license fees and a Waste Prevention Fund grant from Lane County Waste Management.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Last October, Matt Rostetter set out with passion, a bright idea and his Honda Element; now he has his own business, CompostNow is a residential food waste shuttle. “I wanted to compost, but I live in a townhome and so have nowhere to start a pile,” says Rostetter. “Then it became clear as day. There had to be others out there like me.”
CompostNow enables customers to compost their kitchen scraps without having to compost at home. The company serves townhomes, apartments, condos and those who simply prefer not to have at-home bins. The company also offers the option to “earn soil.” Customers can redeem up to 50 percent of the food waste weight they divert back in finished compost. Food waste collected by CompostNow is processed by Brooks Contractors in Goldston, about 45 miles outside of Raleigh. Brooks is the only commercial composting facility in the area that is permitted to process a variety of food waste including dairy, meat, bones and corn-based plastics that are included in CompostNow’s pick ups.
To raise funds to expand the business, Rostetter started a Ripple campaign, a web-based financing tool to help “empower entrepreneurs to build sustainable enterprises by tapping in to the power of their communities” ( Basically, customers pay upfront for the food waste collection service, and CompostNow can use those “deposits” to purchase supplies and a diesel pickup truck. “We want to be able to run the truck on biodiesel and cut down even further on the impact to the environment,” says Rostetter.
Williston, Vermont
Green Mountain Compost formally opened its doors with a celebration on November 4 and 5 that included a facility tour, free food and a free bag of compost – for now still bearing the name “Intervale Compost,” reflecting the move from its old facility seven miles down the road in Burlington. “We had a great open house this past weekend with attendance from lots of customers, food scrap generators, haulers and community partners,” says Green Mountain Compost General Manager Dan Goossen. “We took the opportunity to show the highlights of our new facility and announce our new name – Green Mountain Compost. We’re still finalizing our logos and expect to have a full brand launch in time for the spring sales season.”
The new facility is running quite well and meeting all expectations for increased efficiencies so far, says Goossen. “We’ve now cycled through about 15 batches since we began in July, and we’ve had great success screening the 8- to 9-week old compost. We’ve realized great improvements over our old processes at the Intervale Compost location and are excited to be producing a higher quality, drier and more finely screened end product than ever before. We’re also looking at potential water shortages at the new site as opposed to the excess water we were always dealing with at the Intervale location – a problem that’s much easier to correct!”
Vermont’s largest composting operation was located at the Intervale in Burlington for 24 years before shuttering that location early last summer following a series of closure extensions. The new $2 million facility includes environmental safeguards that address some of the problems the old location ran into with state regulators. It’s estimated the new facility will produce about 15,500 tons/year of compost.
Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is expected to adopt new composting rules by the end of this year. During its review of the rules, the agency considered regulatory changes that may promote growth in food scraps recovery while maintaining protection of the environment. The regulatory model in Ohio has been conducive to growth in the composting industry since the 1990s, but the evolution in materials management has encouraged Ohio EPA to keep up with these industry changes. Proposed changes that are expected to become effective later this year include an exemption from the composting regulations for any business that composts onsite when the facility footprint does not exceed 300 square feet; an exemption from financial assurance for any licensed composting facility when the closure cost estimate does not exceed $3,500 and; a definition created for compostable serviceware. Over the past two years, the state has amended its solid waste statutes to exempt food scraps and other organics from solid waste disposal fees when received at composting facilities and a new fee schedule was established for composting facility licenses. The regulatory and statutory changes in Ohio are designed to keep pace with trends in how food scraps are being managed in the marketplace. An update on Ohio’s progress in food scraps recovery will run in the next issue.
Sechelt, British Columbia
When the Sechelt First Nation started Salish Soils, a composting and soils production facility, it had a larger vision for its community in mind. Located on the Sunshine Coast, the Nation decided it wanted to grow more of its food, which all has to be brought in by ferry from Vancouver. As described in the article, “Under Cover Composting” in this issue (page 33), Salish Soils began composting fish waste with various carbon amendments in the fall of 2010. It plans to use the compost to remediate and replenish surrounding mine land. This past summer, it partnered with the First Nation’s Education Society and Lehigh Materials (the gravel mine owner) to train and employ members of the community in food production on a 5-acre demonstration and research garden. The premium fish compost was blended with organic green mulches and Glacial Rock Dust and used as the soil medium and source of nutrients.
“We hired Dave Ryan (Farmer Dave) this summer who has run successful training programs in other communities, and we had six students who did an exceptional job in this year’s program,” says Aaron Joe, CEO of Salish Soils. “And they will serve as full-time mentors for a larger 2012 class.” In addition to the outdoor gardens, greenhouses will be built adjacent to the composting site, utilizing heat from the composting operation. By 2013, the Sechelt First Nation hopes to have 25 acres in production. “We are advancing our community’s sustainability by recycling fish waste and carbon, healing a landscape through the reclamation of the mined lands and educating and employing our people,” adds Joe. “This is all creating some stimulus and excitement around here as we renew our commitment as the stewards of our traditional territories. Our elders have been particularly enthusiastic and supportive as they see how this project truly aligns with the traditional values of our Nation.”
Dane County, Wisconsin
Dane County operates three yard trimmings composting sites. Municipalities using the sites are charged on a per capita basis (versus paying a tipping fee). The county’s Westport facility was part of a tour during BioCycle’s recent 11th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling. Prior to the fall of 2010, incoming materials were put in piles roughly 40- to 50-feet wide and 10- to 15-feet high and turned at most once a year with a bucket loader or excavator, said Robert Regan, a Dane County engineer who oversees the composting sites. “We’ve begun to shift our mindset and run these sites more in line with a typical commercial composting operation, versus a leaf and yard waste disposal site.”
Toward that end, the county purchased a Komptech Topturn self-propelled compost turner, with the capacity to turn about 5,000 cubic yards/hour. The turner is shared between the three composting sites, as is a McCloskey trommel to screen finished compost. “We put incoming material directly into windrows that are 300- to 400-feet long,” Regan added. About 8,000 to 10,000 cy of compost are produced annually (from all three sites); about 70 percent is sold to contractors. “With the Komptech, we hope to have finished compost to market in about six months,” he said.
Allentown, Pennsylvania
A Food-Waste-To-Compost seminar sponsored by the Lehigh County Conservation District attracted food service professionals serving local universities and hospitals, grocery stores, restaurateurs, local government staff and farmers who make and sell compost as part of their farming operations. The program began with an overview of food waste composting in Pennsylvania. According to Wayne Bowen, program manager for the nonprofit Pennsylvania Recycling Market Center (RMC), about 13 percent of the compostable organics in Pennsylvania are being recycled, a figure that could easily be improved with more infrastructure. He contrasted Pennsylvania’s roughly 15,000 tons of current annual available permitted capacity with one vendor’s (Wal-Mart’s) projected need within the state of 71,000 tons. “Collection is an issue,” he said. “It has to make sense economically.”
Bowen added that a full third of the food waste going to the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center in nearby Delaware – a commercial composting facility – is coming from Pennsylvania (see “Urban Facility Delivers Food Waste Composting Capacity,” June 2010). “They used traditional forms of capital to build that facility, which should be very encouraging to the composting industry because it shows that lending institutions see it as a viable form of business.”

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