April 21, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle April 2011, Vol. 52, No. 4, p. 11

Williston, Vermont
In light of a strict local interpretation of National Organic Program (NOP) Standards barring compostable plastics as feedstock for compost destined for organic production, Interval Compost Products sent a letter to customers in February saying it would no longer be accepting these products. (See “Compostable Plastics and Organic Farming,” March 2011.) As the March issue of BioCycle went to press, composters in the region were meeting with Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), which oversees the NOP at the local level.
“There were no real surprises at the VOF meeting itself – no bioplastics are allowed in approved compost starting July 1,” reports Dan Goossen, manager of Intervale Compost. “But there was some surprise, perhaps, in how we’re handling the news.” Despite the February letter and limited space at its new facility, Goossen says Intervale Compost will continue to accept all bioplastics that meet ASTM D6400 standards and bear the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) seal. A separate stream to accommodate the NOP Standard and local USDA certified organic farmers will contain only green waste.
Two of the compost operator’s major clients – the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care – utilize compostable serviceware and also collect food residuals in compostable plastic bags. “We’d been hoping there was some way we’d be able to get liner bags exempted here in Vermont, but since that didn’t happen it’s looking like we’re going to continue to accept the full stream of bioplastics, minus cutlery, in order to satisfy everyone using the current system,” says Goossen. (The facility had stopped accepting compostable cutlery more than a year ago because it did not break down sufficiently.) Intervale Compost recently relocated from Burlington to nearby Williston, where space is tighter. While the new facility was not initially designed with dual-stream organics recycling in mind, Goossen says he and his crew will adapt. “In order to make the dual stream system work, we’re planning to designate particular bays in our aeration building to the compost approved for organic use,” he says. “The real challenge will be having to maintain separate piles throughout the entire system. Given the confines of the new facility, we know this will require extra planning, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to make it work.”
United Kingdom
The UK’s Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP) has published an online good practices guide aimed at providing sound advice on use of compost for landscaping and regeneration projects. In particular, the document focuses on compost application for brownfield restoration and establishment of habitat, slope stabilization of highways and waterways, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), green roofs, recreation and sports turf, flower gardening, energy crop production and general landscaping best practices.
The online guide includes links to a multitude of resources, such as The Landscape Institute’s “Compost Specifications for the Landscape Industry” and a WRAP report on Food Waste Depackaging Equipment. Biodegradable packaging standards are also addressed, as are engineered soils and compost application for bioremediation. View or download the full document at: uk/farming_ growing_and_landscaping/landscape_and_design.
State College, Pennsylvania
A curbside recycling program that has been collecting food waste from three residential neighborhoods since January 2010 has been deemed a success and has expanded to area schools and several business including Weis Markets. The initial pilot program was funded with a $280,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP) and an $80,000 match from the borough, which is scheduled to formerly report results back to PaDEP in May.
“This is the first long-term composting project and it’s been going very well,” says Weis Director of Sustainability Patti Olenick. “Our sales associates have embraced the program, and though the official numbers aren’t in yet we’ve seen an observable reduction in our trash. This is a piece of our corporate sustainability puzzle as we look for ways to reduce our waste and decrease our carbon footprint. This is also a test for us to see if it makes sense for our stores as we continue to look at other opportunities for composting.”
The borough hopes to reduce waste going to the landfill by a third by diverting organics to recycling through composting. In 2010, 113.5 tons of organics were collected from residential and commercial customers combined, less than one percent of the total volume of trash landfilled last year.
Camarillo, California
California organics recovery and composting company Agromin and Houweling’s, a large produce grower, have partnered to compost Houweling’s Nurseries’ organics. Houweling’s grows tomatoes and cucumbers year-round in greenhouses at its 124-acre facility. The produce is grown hydroponically without soil and sold at several large chain stores including Costco, Vons, Ralphs, Bristol Farms, Fresh & Easy and other outlets.
Houweling’s generates approximately 15,000 tons of organic matter each year. Agromin will take Houweling’s green material (tomato leaves, vines, tomatoes and cucumbers) and compost the organics in turned windrows. The finished compost will then be sold to local agriculture businesses and the public. Agromin handles organic wastes for more than 50 communities in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Orange counties. It recycled 379,792 tons of organic material from residents and businesses in 2010, up from 365,000 in 2009. Agromin was also listed as the largest organics recovery and composting company in California, according to the latest rankings by Waste & Recycling News.
Seattle, Washington
Forget the free bobbleheads and T-shirts. Show up at Safeco Field on “Compost Night” and you get to take home a bag of last season’s recycled organics. In 2010, the Mariners Major League Baseball team embarked on a program to reduce trash sent to the landfill, the center of which is composting, to boost overall recycling in the ballpark to 82 percent (see “Take Me Out To The Windrow,” December 2010).
The Mariners and Pacific Northwest sports franchises helped found the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit organization with a mission to reduce the environmental impact of professional sports, to inspire fans to join in and to teach them how to do so. Giving baseball fans the fruits of their composting labors to take home and enjoy in their gardens and window boxes is just one of the ways the Mariners are educating their patrons. “We’ve had a culture of consumption,” Mariners Vice President for Ballpark Operations Scott Jenkins told the Seattle Times. “Now we need to have a culture of conservation.”
Elsinore, Denmark
To compost or not to compost – that is the question. “Confess yourself to heaven, repent what’s past, avoid what is to come,” Hamlet tells his mother in Act 3, Scene 4 of The Bard of Avon’s famous play. “And do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker.” So reveals Eliot Epstein, PhD, in an historical perspective on compost as part of the introduction to his new book Industrial Composting: Environmental engineering and facilities management (CRC Press, 2011). Look for a full book review in an upcoming issue of BioCycle.
Brooklyn, New York
GrowNYC, a 40-year-old nonprofit that manages the city’s greenmarkets, community gardens and assists with recycling, estimates that 17 percent of all trash generated in the Big Apple is organics. Now, thanks to a city funded pilot program set up by GrowNYC at the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket and three other pilot sites, residents have the option of composting their food residuals.
Residents who frequent the greenmarkets had been requesting such a collection program for years, but the infrastructure, funding and wherewithal did not exist to make it happen. Enter New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose bold 86-page document FoodWorks sets a “ground to garbage” vision for a sustainable food system. The fifth goal of the plan deals with postconsumer food waste management. The councilwoman’s initiative and clout helped to finally get the composting program off the ground.
Currently the collected compostables are being hauled to Peninsula Compost Company’s Wilmington Organics Recycling Center (WORC) in Delaware for processing. Plans are under way to return some of the compost to the city in bags marketed as “Greenmarket Dirt.”

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