December 19, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle December 2011, Vol. 52, No. 12, p. 14

Charlotte, North Carolina
Vermicomposting At International Airport

The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is tackling its waste stream head on with mixed waste sorting/recycling and composting at the core. Bob Lucas, the Charlotte-Douglas Airport housekeeping manager directing the program, says it was spurred by a waste audit that found 70 percent of the airport’s waste could be recycled. A dirty MRF (a materials recovery facility that accepts single-stream mixed solid waste) is being installed at the Airport Recycling Center (ARC), where the majority of recyclable materials, including food waste, will be sorted. The only exceptions will be glass and coffee grounds, which are source separated. Lucas says that coffee grounds are by far the largest volume of food waste; last year, 57,000 pounds of coffee grounds were generated by airport coffee shops. Other food waste is estimated to be about 1 percent of the total waste stream. “When people pay airport prices for food, they generally eat all the food,” Lucas says. A significant amount of contaminated cardboard and paper products will be composted as well.
The compostable material will first be processed by a DTEnvironmental, DariTech, Inc. grinder, mixer and medium-sized Enviro-Drum with a 30-yard operating capacity. Up to 2 tons/day of composting feedstocks are anticipated. Wood chips and sawdust from an onsite wood debris collection facility will be used as amendment. The partially processed material will be further composted by more than 300 pounds of worms of the Eisenia fetida (red wiggler) variety. The vermicomposting system, supplied by Sustainable Agricultural Technologies, Inc., consists of four 48-foot units, each with a 600 lbs/day potential processing capacity, and one 96-foot system with double that capacity. “Outdoor windrow piles were just not an option for us,” Lucas says, adding that vermicomposting makes it possible to keep the entire operation indoors. With regard to permitting by North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDNR), Lucas says: “They have been more than helpful.” Most of the finished product will be used on the 6,000 acres of the facility grounds, including hundreds of Bradford pear trees located there. “Around here, the theory is that we want to be good neighbors and we are working at this one piece at a time,” he notes. “This is just one more piece we are throwing into the mix.” The dirty MRF and composting systems are expected to be in place by March 2012.

Allentown, Pennsylvania
Halloween “Trick” Yields Unexpected Woody Debris 

The City of Allentown came grinding to a halt the afternoon of Saturday, October 29, due to widespread power outages at the heels of an unseasonably early snowstorm. Trees and limbs were down literally across almost every city block. One reason so much wood came down at once was that many deciduous trees had not yet lost their leaves, catching more snow than they would have if bare. In addition, a particularly wet late summer and early fall also caused trees to topple under the added weight because the soil holding down relatively shallow root systems in the naturally rocky ground was so saturated.
Allentown’s Parks & Recreation Department went into high gear to remove and process woody debris blocking roadways and disturbing power lines. While the power lines task was the responsibility of the local utility and its subcontractors, it was up to the parks department to manage all the debris where it ultimately fell. “Our parks department did a great job of clearing public right of ways, streets and sidewalks,” says Ann Saurman, manager of the Allentown Bureau of Recycling and Solid Waste. “Public health and safety were our first goals – clearing the roadways and restoring power.”
The city has one dedicated yard trimmings site and recently purchased a Vermeer TG 7000 tub grinder to process woody debris. Following the October storm, which dumped up to 15 inches of wet, heavy snow on the region in a matter of hours, the parks department also set up a temporary staging/processing area at a public park a few miles north of its dedicated site. That site, still active in early December and set up for a quicker turnaround, has been serviced by a smaller Morbark 1100 tub grinder.
“They have been grinding and double grinding the material right away,” says Saurman, adding that both sites have been open for extended hours for contractors and residents to drop off wood waste for processing as well as for residents to pick up bark mulch. “We have a good product. We are processing it for our parks department for all the flowerbeds and trails in the parks in Allentown, and we give it away at no cost to Allentown residents if they want to come and get it. Our feeling is that the yard waste is generated by Allentown residents, so we ought to help supply [mulch] for them.”
Lamont, California
Judge Orders Compost Plant To Remain Open
Following a bleak Thanksgiving for at least 130 employees put out of work by the sudden closure of Community Recycling & Recovery, Inc., at the heels of an October accident that took the lives of two workers, a Kern County Superior Court Judge has rescinded an order given by the county board of supervisors two weeks earlier to close the plant. The Kern County Board of Supervisors had revoked the operating permit November 15, citing various land use and other violations. Cal-OSHA, the state labor commission, and the U.S. Department of Labor continue to investigate the deaths of 16-year-old Armando Ramiriez, who had been working under the identity of a 30-year-old, and his brother, Heladio, 22. The older brother had spotted his younger brother lying at the bottom of an 8-foot underground shaft and was overcome by fumes when he went to rescue him. Armando Ramirez was pronounced dead at the hospital and his brother was taken off life support two days later, both apparent victims of hydrogen sulfide exposure. The company also faces $3.2 million in fines.
While public outcry was fierce following the accident, it was also strong following the November 15 order to close the plant and remove all material within 30 days. The facility processes source separated organics, including commercial and institutional food waste, yard trimmings, grass clippings, wood and manure. It was among the largest composting facilities in the U.S., servicing close to 1,500 grocery stores in the region, including the Los Angeles metro area. It also utilizes more than 1 million gallons a day of the Lamont Public Utility district’s waste sewer water to irrigate its compost piles. Community Recycling and the utility filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court arguing the facility should be allowed to reopen because the plaintiffs were not given adequate notice or a fair hearing ahead of the order to shut down the site. An attorney for the utility district, Community Recycling’s landlord, argued that if the facility was not allowed to take the district’s waste, sewer water would spill onto nearby public highways. The judge’s stay to reopen the facility will be in effect until at least January 24, 2012, when the hearing on the merits of the lawsuit is scheduled to continue.
Palo Alto, California
Voters Decide: Let There Be Compost!
Palo Alto voters have approved a measure that repurposes 10 acres of open space for a state-of-the-art composting facility. The site is part of 126 acres that were dedicated to expanding a local public park following closure of the Palo Alto Landfill. Proponents of the plan had expressed concerns that if the facility were not built, the city’s organic recyclables would have to be trucked out of town, resulting in increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly two-thirds of citizens who turned out to vote approved the referendum, known as Measure E.
Some who were opposed to giving up already designated open space said they would continue the fight. The passage of Measure E answers one question but leaves several unanswered. While land is now dedicated to the possibility of building a facility to manage the community’s organic waste, what type of a facility will be built has yet to be determined. Organics needing to be managed include food scraps, yard trimmings and biosolids. (Palo Alto is one of only two communities in the state that still incinerates its biosolids.) One organic-waste-to-renewable-energy option being considered is anaerobic digestion.
Besides pitting open-space environmentalists against organics recycling environmentalists, Measure E was also contentious in that the cash-strapped city is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing with its refuse. Current waste management contracts require Palo Alto to either deliver a certain amount of garbage to the landfill it is using now or else pay a penalty for each ton not brought there. In other words, diversion can potentially cost the city in dollars.
Butte, Montana
Composting Brewery Waste In Hoop House
At the National Center for Appropriate Technology Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training Program (SIFT), Americorp volunteer Camille Green has worked out a deal with a local brewery to compost its spent hops and grains. A composting pile contained in one of its four hoop houses and one outside are part of an experiment in how to extend the growing season in Montana’s cold, dry climate. To be answered are whether the sheltered compost will fare better than the one exposed to the elements and also whether the microbial activity will raise the temperature inside the hoop house.
Green says there was no special reason to choose the grains and hops as feedstock for the experiment other than there were ample quantities close at hand. She will be supplying the brewery with finished compost for planters in an outdoor seating area where decorative hops will be grown. “Sustainable agriculture is really good at creating community involvement,” she says. In addition to the brewery, SIFT is working with area schools, coffee shops and supermarkets to gather organics for composting.
Ronkonkoma, New York
USCC Launches Compost Use Program
The U.S. Composting Council (USCC) is launching a Consumer Compost Use Program in order to clearly identify the types of uses for a particular compost product. The categories of use are: Trees & Shrubs, Flower & Vegetable Gardens and Lawn. Each classification is represented by an easily interpreted icon reflecting the compost’s optimum use or uses. Only compost producers in the USCC’s Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) program can use these symbols, as they are tied to STA analytical data. The new icons are expected to become part of STA compost producers’ literature, websites and packaging, and will also be available as rack cards in garden centers and nurseries. “We now have an easy way for the homeowner to identify quality compost products that can be applied to their specific gardening needs,” says USCC President Frank Franciosi. Along with the Consumer Compost Use Program, the USCC will launch a “Strive for 5%” campaign, designed to reinforce the idea promoted by farming and gardening experts that soils should contain at least 5 percent organic matter and that compost helps achieve this goal. Learn more at consumer-compost-use-program.
La Paz, Bolivia
Composting Coca
While a certain amount of coca cultivation for traditional and medicinal purposes is protected by the Bolivian constitution, the country’s annual production exceeds what’s lawful by about 42,000 acres (around 200 percent), according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. But a new program is under way in the world’s third largest coca-producing country – behind Colombia and Peru – to turn what often becomes a human stimulant in the form of cocaine into a plant stimulant in the form of compost.
The Bolivian government typically confiscates between 700 to 1,000 tons of illegal unprocessed coca leaves annually. Miguel Callisaya heads up the government-run program to mix the unprocessed coca leaves with other organic matter such as tree leaves, vegetable scraps and poultry manure and produce compost in rectangular pits under a thatched roof. Total retention time is 120 days. The University of Cochabamba has confirmed the coca-based compost has a high nutrient value.

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