June 16, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle June 2011, Vol. 52, No. 6, p. 12

Washington, D.C
Following the April meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in Seattle, USDA Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, who heads up the National Organic Program (NOP), sent a letter directed to “Stakeholders and Interested Parties” clarifying that there will be no blanket approval for compostable plastics in organic production. The letter was in response to comments received at the public meeting asking the NOP to clarify its position on bioplastics in compost destined for certified organic production and to suggestions that the board accept as allowable any products meeting ASTM D6400 and D6868 and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) compostability standards.
McEvoy wrote: “Several commenters asked that NOP address the use of postconsumer food waste, such as compostable plates, cups, cutlery and plastic bags. We agree that this is a new development in handling food waste, but we believe that these represent synthetic materials that would need review and recommendation by the NOSB before they can be utilized in compost for organic production. Members of the public may wish to file petitions for consideration by the NOSB for these types of materials as compost feedstocks. Instructions for the preparation and submission of petitions are provided at http://www. NOPFilingaPetition.”
The Washington Organic Recycling Council (WORC) presented a proposal to NOSB while the board was having its meeting in Seattle. “The proposal was to not require all synthetic foodware products to have to be individually evaluated for inclusion but rather use the ASTM test methods,” says Jerry Bartlett of Cedar Grove Composting, the official composter for the city of Seattle and a WORC member. “We were trying to avoid the petition process for each synthetic compound. The USDA rejected the proposal, and so it is now the manufacturers’ responsibility to go through the petition process with each synthetic item they want to be composted.” The WORC letter had stated: “WORC recommends that the National Organic Program approve compostable products that meet ASTM Specification Standards D6400 [and] D6868 as feedstocks suitable for incorporation in compost products registered for use in organic agriculture. This action makes sense for all vested parties: it will lessen the burden of feedstock segregation and management currently placed on composters, generate increased volumes of products desired by organic farmers and gardeners across the country, and not yield any significant risk to the environment or consumer.” BPI and some manufacturers continue to explore ways in which the NOP might be convinced to adopt ASTM testing protocols.
Compost Quips
“These heaps of garbage at the corners of the stone blocks, these tumbrils of mire jolting through the streets at night, these horrid scavengers’ carts, these fetid streams of subterranean slime which the pavement hides from you, do you know what all this is? It is the flowering meadow; it is the green grass; it is marjoram and thyme and sage; it is game; it is cattle, it is the satisfied low of huge oxen at evening; it is perfumed hay; it is golden corn; it is bread on your table; it is warm blood in your veins; it is health; it is joy; it is life.”
– Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862
Salt Lake City, Utah
When EcoScraps Inc. cofounders Dan Blake, Craig Martineau and Brandon Sargent began experimenting with composting food waste in their Brigham Young University dorm parking lot two-and-a-half years ago, little did they dream they’d be running a $1.5 million business with eight fulltime and 14 part-time employees and landing themselves on the May 2011 cover of Inc. magazine. “In the house that I grew up in we had a large garden and yard,” explains Blake, now EcoScraps CEO. “I worked in the yard and garden, and because of that I was familiar with compost. I always wanted to go into business for myself. The idea first came to me when I was at an all-you-can-eat diner in Provo after finals. I thought ‘If you could make a business that used what people are throwing away as your raw material and you’re getting it for free, you would have pretty good margins’.”
What Blake attributes to observation and experience is the realization that compost made with food waste seems to retain more macro and micronutrients than manure-based compost. “A cow or a chicken or a turkey has already digested all of those nutrients,” says Blake, explaining that EcoScraps accepts fruits and vegetable waste only and does not work with potentially contaminated green waste such as lawn clippings or landscape debris. For a carbon source, the company takes in wood shavings from local lumber mills and some coffee grounds. All composting is done indoors, with piles moved once every three days via an industrial-sized snow blower. According to Blake, it only takes three weeks from when produce scraps are delivered to the facility and mixed with wood chips and mineral amendments to when the finished product is bagged and shipped to retailers.
EcoScraps has two production sites – its 5,000-sq.ft. facility in a converted steel mill in the industrial district in Salt Lake City, and a 6,000-sq.ft. facility in Tempe, Arizona. Feedstock flow to both plants totals 40 to 60 tons/day of food waste from more than 70 Cosco outlets, grocery stores and produce wholesalers throughout Arizona and Utah. Haulers delivering source separated organic residuals to its facilities receive a substantially reduced tipping fee from what they would pay at local landfills. A discounted rate is also given to clients who separate produce scraps for pickup via the company’s own trucks rather than contracting with conventional trash haulers.
A total of 35 to 40 cubic yards/day of compost is produced. Bagged compost (1 cubic foot) wholesales for $5 and retails for up to $8.50 at garden centers and nurseries throughout the West. Each bag carries a minimum macronutrient promise of .5-.15.-.5 (NPK) with a pH of 6.5 and a moisture content of 33.85. Recently EcoScraps has been talking to Walmart about both carrying the fledgling company’s compost and helping the giant retailer meet its stated goal of diverting all of its organics from disposal.
Salinas, California
The Salinas Valley Waste Authority has contracted with Vision Recycling based in Fremont, California, to operate a processing site in Gonzales at the Johnson Canyon Landfill beginning July 2011. Source separated organics, will include 26,000 tons/year of green waste and yard trimmings. Food scraps will also be included – about 1,000 tons annually from a school and 15 restaurants that were involved in a pilot program. Vision is partnering with John Guzik, “The Good Humus Man,” who has adjacent land that can be utilized for further composting and screening. In addition to deliveries directly to the landfill, feedstock and material will also be received at the Sun Street Transfer Station in downtown Salinas where spotters will sort and separate material from the public into four piles: small brush and yard trimmings, large branch and wood, pallets and lumber, and redwood. Vision Recycling, an organics recycling company with onsite and remote grinding and screening services, will produce a variety of soil and mulch products that will be available to Salinas residents and landscapers.
Bend, Oregon
Newport Ave. Market, an IGA grocery store in Bend, has rolled out a composting program in partnership with Cascade Disposal, which in its first week collected more than 2,100 pounds of food waste from the market for conversion into compost. “Newport Ave. Market is the first business in Bend to adapt our new composting program into its facility and recycling program,” said Tom Leland, manager of Bend-based Cascade Disposal, in an article in the Progressive Grocer. Leland added that Newport Ave. Market and its employees are developing an efficient commercial model that will be launched throughout the region.
The IGA donates produce that can’t be sold due to slight bruising or blemishes but which is still edible to food pantries in the community through its Gleaner Program. Produce and other food waste that’s no longer edible is earmarked for the composting program. Cascade Disposal provides secure containers to dispose of each department’s food waste, including meat, vegetables, seafood, bakery items, eggshells and coffee grounds. The contents are picked up weekly and delivered to Deschutes Recycling, where they are composted and screened to remove oversized material. The resulting compost will bear the U.S. Composting Council Seal of Testing Approval and will be available for purchase by the public. “We are saving approximately $100 per month, but more importantly, we have the satisfaction of knowing we are helping reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill,” Newport Ave. Market owner Rudy Dory told the Progressive Grocer. “It is helping to create jobs and doing the right thing for the neighborhood, community and environment.”

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