July 18, 2011 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle July 2011, Vol. 52, No. 7, p. 11

Princeton Township, New Jersey
Princeton Township began offering weekly curbside collection of kitchen scraps in June, including meat, fish and bones, along with yard trimmings. Residents have a choice of participating in the three-month pilot program; 165 residents were participating a few weeks after the program’s inception, says Janet Pellichero, recycling coordinator for the township. The goal is to have 500 homes participating by the end of the pilot. Township residents contract directly with a private hauler for their solid waste and must switch to Central Jersey Waste if they want to be in the program, since Premiere Waste Management – the carrier that collects the organic waste – is its sister company.
Pellichero says early results are gratifying: About half of the 3 tons of material collected weekly in the three-month pilot project is organics (1.5 tons), which are transported to the Peninsula Compost Group’s Wilmington Organics Recycling Facility in Delaware. Pellichero intends to target more homeowner associations as the project develops. She notes there have been fears of organics attracting bears and then there’s the “ick” factor related to smell. But, she adds, “so many people are excited about the ability to compost – the ability to take all that out of the landfill and be able to do something positive with it. People who are doing it [organics recycling] are talking it up. Change is good, but it takes a lot to get people to accept change.”
Syracuse, New York
The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) in Syracuse is building a full-scale composting system using aerated static piles, with a goal of eventually diverting up to 60 percent of organics in the county’s waste stream. Greg Gelewski, recycling operations manager, says a pilot project to consider the feasibility of using aerated static piles on a municipal level was conducted in 2009 and “went extremely well.” The pilot, developed with the help of Peter Moon of O2Compost, received about 1,000 tons of food waste a year from commercial and institutional sources.
Construction will start on the $2.5 million facility in 2012 on 13 acres. It will be built in several bays with the capacity to compost 10,000 tons/year of food waste with a three to one mix of yard trimmings to food, generating 30,000 to 40,000 cubic yards/year of compost. OCRRA projects up to 15,000 tons will be composted annually by 2015. Gelewski says OCRRA has been impressed with the efficiency of the aerated static pile composting method utilizing plastic pipe and 1.5 horsepower motors. It requires a relatively small footprint, saves on the cost of equipment needed for windrowing and compost is produced in less than 90 days, he notes.
OCRRA is a nonprofit and receives no revenues from the state, Gelewski adds, so it’s imperative the agency have a good business model. He believes the market for compost will be strong into the future, noting rising costs of petroleum-based fertilizers. “Compost is the backbone of green infrastructure,” he says, “from green walkways to green roofs.”
Compost Quips
“The unmulched garden looks to me like some naked thing which for one reason or another would be better off with a few clothes on.”
– Ruth Stout, author of “How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back: A New Method of Mulch Gardening” (Exposition Press, 1955) and decade worth of gardening books and magazine articles that followed.
Hartford, Connecticut
On June 30, 2011 the state of Connecticut enacted PA-11-217 with the purpose “to increase the state’s food residuals recycling capacity” by requiring commercial food wholesalers or distributors, industrial food manufacturers or processors, supermarkets, resorts, and conference centers that generate an average of at least 104 tons of source separated organic (SSO) materials a year to: 1) Separate such materials from other solid waste; and 2) Ensure that such materials are recycled at a permitted SSO material composting facility that is not more than 20 miles from such generators.
The act defines SSO material as “food scraps, food processing residue, and soiled or unrecyclable paper that has been separated at the point or source of generation from nonorganic material.” It also defines a composting facility as a “process of accelerated biological decomposition of organic material under controlled aerobic or anaerobic conditions.” The law takes effect October 1, 2011, or not later than six months after the establishment of service in the state by two or more permitted SSO material composting facilities.
According to K.C. Alexander of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recycling Program, there is one permitted SSO facility in operation in the state at this time, with another in the permitting process. Alexander said the new law should assist DEEP’s efforts to meet the state’s recycling goals as outlined in its solid waste management plan, and that “DEEP will prioritize permit applications for SSO waste processing.” The new law also allows such generators of source separated organics to comply by composting source separated organic materials on-site. To review PA-11-217, go to
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
A composting operation in danger of closing because of revenue shortfalls will remain open under a contract with a private operator, Middle Smithfield Materials, Inc. in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Lehigh County officials had announced plans to close the facility – which has historically served all 25 municipalities within its jurisdiction – in order to save up to $250,000 in annual operating costs. The county had not historically charged municipalities for the service – even those required by state law to provide it based on size – to take care of their own organics recycling. In June, commissioners rubber-stamped a lease agreement to keep the site – for years Pennsylvania’s largest publicly owned composting facility – open to municipalities, residents and commercial users in a deal that will return dollars to the public coffers. Some of the generated revenues will come from continued sale of compost and mulch to residents and businesses. Additional funds will come from Middle Smithfield Materials, which will pay the county $500 a month rent in the second and third year of operation, $1,000 a month in the fourth and fifth year and $1 per cubic yard of compost sold throughout that time. No rent will be paid the first year.
“When we went out with the RFP, we didn’t specify anything,” says Lehigh County General Services Manager Tim Bollinger. “If someone proposed to offer to pay something, we wanted to see what that would be.” Middle Smithfield Materials owner Alan Siberini submitted the best proposal, Bollinger adds. “We took his compensation package into consideration as well as the rate structure he was guaranteeing to municipalities. Our first and foremost concern was to make sure municipalities were taken care of and that services continue at the level they had in the past.”
The new operator will continue to charge municipalities a tipping fee of $5/cubic yard (cy) for the first 1,000 cy of yard trimmings annually, $4/cy for the next 2,000 cy, $3/cy for the next 3,000 to 7,500 cy and $2.50/cy for any volume over 7,500 cy (over each of the first two years). Following that initial agreement period, Middle Smithfield is permitted to raise its flat rates by no more than 15 percent annually. Bollinger says Siberini is willing to meet with municipalities individually and lower tipping fees for those able to guarantee minimum volumes over a certain timeframe. Adds Bollinger: “The County will continue to receive material [compost and mulch] and have access to free tipping of leaves, grass, and yard waste from county-run operations like our Parks Department and Building Maintenance for as long as our license agreement is in effect.”
Alexandria, Virginia
T.C. Williams High School is exposing its students to a host of environmental solutions. One is a project that takes food waste from the cafeteria to compost in the school’s Discovery Garden. Patrick Earle, environmental science teacher at T.C. Williams, reports that collected buckets of food waste are composted weekly in a three-bin system with a cubic yard in each bin. The school’s garden club also gets leaf mulch from city gardeners because the school garden is adjacent to a community garden. “I use composting to talk about the whole carbon cycle,” says Earle, who has taught at the two-campus, 2,800-student school for 11 years. He has spearheaded other environmental programs, including the Chinquapin Park Restoration where students in his ecology classes met their environmental service requirement by pulling invasive weeds along a 300-yard creek side corridor. Students will soon be able to plant native species in the park.
T.C. Williams also boasts a LEED-certified school building, completed in 2007. Earle says it is among a host of environmental projects shepherded by the City of Alexandria, which also mandates composting in all schools in the city. The city has a 20-year strategic plan that is committed to “greenovation,” he adds. One idea being considered is to invest in an anaerobic digester to compost food waste from all city schools.
Marlborough, Massachusetts
This year’s meeting of the Rotating Biological Reactor Users Group will be held in Marlborough on September 15-16. The theme of this meeting is marketing and rotary drum maintenance, says Phil Hayes of the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District in Arizona, a long-time rotary drum users and organizer of the annual event. On Friday, September 16, there will be a tour of the Marlborough composting facility, which processes MSW, source separated organics and biosolids in rotary drums prior to indoor aerated windrow composting. Cost to attend the event is $100. “Australia and Canada will be represented and perhaps France,” says Hayes. “Most of the operating facilities in the U.S. will have people attending as well.” For more information, contact Hayes ( or Jeff Hodges (

Sign up