February 22, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle February 2011, Vol. 52, No. 2, p. 12

Vermicomposting Book Review
“Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes and Environmental Management” (CRC Press, 2011) is the first international, comprehensive and definitive work on how earthworms and microorganisms interact to break down organic wastes on a commercial basis. The 35-chapter reference book, edited by Clive Edwards of the Ohio State University, Norman Arancon of the University of Hawaii in Hilo, and Rhonda Sherman of North Carolina State University, explores the dramatic growth and changes in vermiculture technology since 1988. Contributing authors from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States discuss outdoor and indoor windrows, container and wedge systems, and fully-automated continuous-flow vermicomposting reactors that can process more than 1,000 tons/year of organic waste per reactor. Authors highlight the science and biology behind the use and efficacy of vermicomposting, examine its importance to developing countries and explore technologies of the past, present and future. This volume chronicles how vermiculture can be brought into full commercial and industrial development and find application in integrated waste management systems.
Perryville, Missouri
Stan Berkbuegler of BFC in Perryville didn’t plan to go into the composting business. He started a fur trading company in 1992, buying wild animal furs such as raccoon, beaver and deer from hunters and trappers. In 2002, his suppliers told him that they could no longer sell him deer hides because they had no way to dispose of the deer offal, such as the bones, internal organs, skins and heads. Renderers had been collecting the offal to make fertilizer and animal feed. “Deer herds were getting infected with chronic wasting disease, so the renderers could no longer use the offal,” says Berkbuegler. “It was going to put a lot of processors out of business, so I decided to compost it.”
Berkbuegler hadn’t composted before, so he got help from Frank Wideman at the University of Missouri Extension Office. “I started with two compost bins made of railroad ties because I thought there would only be a small volume coming in, but then word got out,” he says. “Smaller butcher shops started asking to be serviced, and we got a lot of residuals during deer season.” He now uses 18 rectangular concrete bunkers, each 8-feet wide, 22-feet long and 6-feet high. The offal is mixed in a bunker with sawdust and five percent horse manure. “We’re in a pretty rural area, so we don’t have access to much green waste here,” Berkbuegler says.
After mixing in the first bunker, materials are transferred to a second bunker with a skid steer and covered with 5 to 6 inches of sawdust. They are composted for six to eight weeks. The compost is periodically turned with the skid steer and covered again with sawdust. When the temperature of the material falls below 131°F, or as the material compacts, it is moved to a new bunker and composted for another six to eight weeks. In the last phase, compost is put in a static pile for at least 90 days. Finished compost is screened with a Screen Machine trommel. BFC doesn’t grind the animal bones before composting them. Instead, they are screened out after the composting cycle is complete and added back to the new material. “It may take two to three composting cycles before the bones break down, but in the meantime they add aeration during the process,” says Berkbuegler.
BFC does most of the collection of the deer and butcher residuals. “Small butchers can’t afford to pay a renderer to pick the offal up,” he adds. The company has two 24-foot vans and does collections as far as 80 miles north and 50 miles south. It charges $5/44-gallon barrel if it does the collection and $2/barrel if delivered to the compost facility. Approximately 50,000 cubic yards/year of compost containing butcher waste are sold under the name Green Garden’s Compost. “Most of the sales are bulk, but we also sell about 50 pallets of bagged product to six retailers,” says Berkbuegler. “The compost has tremendous nutrient value because it contains blood and bone meal.”
In February 2010, BFC also began composting 50 to 60 tons a week of spoiled fruits and vegetables from Walmart and Sam’s Club, which are delivered to the composting facility four days a week through a contract with Organics Recycling of Illinois. The food waste is mixed with wood chips or mulch and composted in outdoor windrows that are turned with a Scarab. BFC also collects waste from two ice cream plants. It arrives in drums, and BFC charges a tip fee per pallet of drums. About 100 tons of ice cream waste are received every three months.
Spencerville, Indiana
Mark Ringenberg, owner of Ringenberg Garten Haus, a landscape company and nursery in Spencerville, has been composting yard trimmings commercially for 12 years. He wants to add more feedstocks – primarily food waste – and is working with legislators to amend state regulations so he can do so. Ringenberg received a permit in 1998 from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to compost yard trimmings. He purchased a tractor-pulled Aeromaster PT 120 compost turner that same year from Midwest Bio-Systems. Local builders and landscapers can drop off scrap lumber, drywall and grass clippings at no charge. Leaves and yard trimmings collected from residents are brought in from two nearby towns, Grabil and Leo-Cedarville. Grabil’s are delivered in paper or biodegradable plastic bags, and Leo-Cedarville’s are delivered mainly by vacuum truck. Fifteen Amish farms provide horse bedding. Some farms deliver the bedding while Ringenberg collects it from others.
Approximately 150,000 cubic yards (cy) of organic materials are composted annually, which produces 50,000 to 56,000 cy of finished compost. Feedstocks are composted outdoors on 6 acres in 28 1,000-foot-long windrows. Ringenberg and one of his nursery employees handle all the composting. He purchased a used Star Screen two years ago to screen the compost. Ringenberger received a permit to compost 15,000 cy of sludge from a steel mill with sawdust and animal bedding in a test project, which he said was quite successful. “It got up to a temperature of 150°F in a day and a half,” he says. “My other compost piles can take up to two weeks to reach that temperature. The sludge is made up of 10 naturally occurring materials, such as lime.” Ringenberg has asked lawmakers to make it legal for him to compost this material as well as to compost postconsumer food waste, fats, oils and grease. The nursery’s current permit does not allow the facility to accept manure unless it is mixed with hay or sawdust bedding, so he is also requesting legislators to draft a bill allowing him to take liquid manure to use as a source of moisture for the compost piles. “I’ve tried it and it works wonderfully,” says Ringenberger. He hopes that the legislation will be passed this session, which ends in April.
Massachusetts, Vermont, Illinois
MassRecycle and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP ) present the 2011 Recycling and Organics Conference and Trade Show Tuesday, March 29, at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Boxborough. The meeting, which includes MADEP’s 11th annual Organics Summit, is themed: Building Sustainability through Recycling, Organics and Resource Management. Details are available at
The 2011 Vermont Organics Recycling Summit (VORS) takes place Thursday, March 31 at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph. This year’s keynote speaker is Will Brinton, founder of Woods End Research Laboratories, Inc. Morning and afternoon workshops will include: Successful school diversion programs; Using social marketing to overcome the “ick” factor and increase diversion; Small-scale in-vessel composting; Compost use to improve water quality and control storm water; and Policy update for composting food scraps on farms. VORS 2011 is hosted by the Composting Association of Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. More information can be found at VORS2011.
The Midwest Composting School 2011 will be held May 31-June 2 on the Illinois State University Normal (ISU) campus with most of the activity centered at the ISU Farm-Lexington, Conference Center and Compost Facility. The program covers handling of composting feedstocks, enhancement of compost quality, sampling and analytical processes, environmental regulation, compost soil application rates, µcomposting of food waste, landscape trimmings and horse bedding and compost markets and marketing. The school includes compost facility operator panel discussions, problem solving exercises, hands-on training and a tour of Central Illinois compost facilities. The website for registration is:
San Jose, California
Zanker Road Resource Management, one of the nation’s leading recycling and composting firms, has listed the first composting greenhouse gas (GHG) offset project, “Z-Best Food Waste Composting,” with the Climate Action Reserve. This paves the way for composters across the nation to sell carbon credits, creating economic incentives for developing processing infrastructure as more food waste is collected from residents and businesses. The city of San Jose provides the majority of the organic waste processed through Zanker’s facility. “This project is a reflection of the leadership and innovation we see in the area and helps to meet San Jose’s Green Vision goals of zero waste to landfills, reduction of GHG and green job creation,” says John Stufflebean, director of the city’s Environmental Services Department.
The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) is North America’s largest carbon offset registry. Its projects must adhere to rigorous standards to earn compliance-grade offset credits, which merit the highest financial value and denote tangible environmental benefits. Earning these credits represents a major undertaking by Zanker since the entire project must follow a strict protocol and is subject to annual verification. Z-Best composts about 283,000 tons of organic waste per year at its Z-Best Compost Facility located in Gilroy, California.
The credits can only be earned for new practices such as food waste diversion; about 20 percent of the collected tonnage is expected to be eligible to earn credits, which each represent one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The enclosed compost technology utilized by Z-Best for food waste processing involves blowing air through long, thermoplastics bags filled with organic waste. This serves to minimize emissions and odors that would be generated from an open composting system. “Zanker is excited to participate in these innovative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change,” says Richard Cristina, president of Zanker.

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