June 7, 2017 | General

Composting Roundup

BioCycle June 2017

Limpopo Province, South Africa: Tomato Grower Expands Into Composting

South Africa’s largest tomato grower, ZZ2, has developed an integrated composting facility and farm, known as “Natuurboerdery” (Nature Farming), which incorporates composting, compost tea brewing and use, and predatory insects into traditional farming measures like choice of rootstocks, growing regions, planting times and planting varieties. “Physically mining your soils and your environment in order to produce crops is not sustainable,” the company’s chief agronomist Bertus Venter told “We want to do as little as possible to the environment to disturb it — we also look at what the nature and environment give back to you that you can actually utilize in your farming practices.”
ZZ2 produces about 65,000 cubic yards/year of compost from sawdust, wood chips, poultry litter and cattle manure, along with residuals from its production operations, such as citrus pulp and sawdust used in tomato packing, on a 70-acre site. According to ZZ2 general manager Burtie van Zyl, composting has proven its weight in gold in recent years in the Western Cape apple sector. “It was very hot and dry in the cape in the last two years, and our yields and quality were much better compared to all the neighbors who just continued with the regular programs,” he noted.
Venter adds ZZ2 uses compost to grow all its products, but there are differences in the types. “On the tomatoes, we want a plant feeding compost, whereas for the avocados, we produce compost that is more focused on improving the soil’s physical characteristics — we call it soil conditioning compost, and apply about 10 tons/hectare annually,” he explained to “For the tomatoes we like to use the nutrients in the compost. That compost takes about 180 to 220 days to produce; the composting process for the avocados is between 120 and 150 days.” In addition, in 2016, ZZ2 brewed and used 660,000 gallons of compost tea.

Alachua, Florida: Aminopyralid Contamination Detected In Compost

The May 10 Gainesville Sun reported that an Alachua, Florida farm-based composting operation, Floyd’s Organic Soil, encountered an aminopyralid herbicide contamination problem. Apparently, the composting facility took in dairy manure from the University of Florida’s (UF) dairy farm in Hague, where employees had sprayed a hay field used for animal feed with GrazonNext HL, a broadleaf herbicide that contains aminopyralid. Floyd’s Organic Soil produces blends containing compost, peanut shells and/or bark fines, and sand.  It makes compost from 100 percent dairy manure solids using windrows.  Its composting and curing times run 4 months and 2 months, respectively. During active composting, Flloyd’s meets the PFRP requirement of 5 turnings in 15 days while temperatures exceed 55°C (131°F).  While it does not routinely test for compost quality, “since this has come to our attention, we have established bioassay procedures for each lot of compost as it becomes available for sale,” notes Jason Gainey of Floyd’s Organic Soils.
BioCycle also reached out to the University of Florida for information. “Having only learned of this incident recently, it will take some time to understand the details,” a UF spokesperson said. “UF/IFAS has begun investigating to understand what happened in order to develop a plan to resolve the situation and improve the chain of supply for all goods sold to the public.  The chemical was not historically used on the hayfields. We have no plans to use it again. We also intend to work with Alachua County and the university in reviewing our processes and procedures, and to ensure that this situation is not repeated. At this point, we self-reported the incident to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and to UF’s Environmental Health and Safety. We are conducting soil analyses at farms and gardens to determine the impact. We are working with the individuals impacted to resolve the issues.”

Fairfax County, Virginia: Pilot Promotes Food Waste Composting

The Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) is promoting a pilot that encourages growth of local companies that collect food waste from homes, events, businesses, etc., for diversion to composting. The first company to register with Fairfax County is The Compost Crew, LLC, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, which provides food scraps collection to customers in Fairfax County either as a subscription service (they pick up weekly) or for special events such as weddings and conferences. Once registered with the county, contact information for food waste collection companies like the Compost Crew will be published on the Fairfax County website, similar to the published list of licensed solid waste collectors.
“We are pleased to see Compost Crew set such a high standard as the first company to register with our program,” notes Charlie Forbes, SWMP’s Chief of Recycling. “The company operates equipment specifically designed to protect the environment, and the staff are well-trained and highly motivated.” While not an endorsement, being listed as a registered food waste collection service and/or composter lets potential customers know that the company’s equipment and operations have been reviewed, and that customers can have confidence that the vendor is following best practices for safe sanitation and protection of public health. “We’re excited to launch our subscription service in Fairfax County and appreciate the support and flexibility we’ve been shown by the county, which has set intelligent standards, but is allowing this new idea to get off to a good start,” says Ryan Walter, cofounder of the Compost Crew. The company provided food waste receptacles at SpringFest Fairfax, the county’s annual Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration.

Anchorage, Alaska: Community Composting Expansion

After a successful pilot year, Anchorage Solid Waste Services is quadrupling the size of its community composting program, reports an Anchorage news station. One thousand residents will be able to sign up for the program in 2017. Participants receive an official 5-gallon municipal composting bucket that can be filled with food scraps and returned for a bucket of finished compost. In last year’s pilot program, 250 residents were eligible to participate, which resulted in diversion of seven tons of food from the landfill. Accepted food scraps include fruits and vegetables, egg shells, and coffee grounds. Meat, fish, poultry or animal waste are not accepted. “Diverting that waste really helps extend the lifespan of the regional landfill,” said recycling coordinator Travis Smith. “It’s scheduled to close in 2050, so making sure that we conserve that airspace is essential to the long-term benefit of the whole community.”

Lansing, Michigan: Priorities And Recommendations For Organics Recovery

The Michigan Organics Council of the Michigan Recycling Association has published a new snapshot and evaluation of the state of organics recovery in Michigan and recommended steps to improve diversion rates. In 2014, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made a commitment to double Michigan’s recycling rate from 15 to 30 percent. A 2015 waste characterization study found the second largest portion of the recycling stream was organics; a 2016 waste composition study found that 35 percent of MSW in the state was organics.
Yard trimmings have been banned from Michigan landfills since 1995, but, despite the ban, landfill disposal remains the most common method of organics management. However, because of the ban, there are 121 registered yard trimmings composting facilities in the state, many of which are municipal operations. Of the 121 facilities, 9 composted 16,000 tons of food waste in 2015. In addition, there are 6 on-farm and 4 commercial anaerobic digesters handling another 14,000 tons of food and food processing residuals.
To meet the Governor’s new recycling target, the report authors conclude that recycling organics is critically important, and offer seven policy and advocacy priorities to help meet that target: Uphold the Michigan yard trimmings ban (which has been under regulatory repeal pressure since 2013); Modify existing regulations to reduce pricing preference for waste disposal; Create and fund a regulatory structure focused on program performance that levels the playing field for composters, and provide compliance assistance to producers and enforce regulations; Establish an Organics Management stakeholder work group to identify ways to increase organics recycling, and integrate organics into materials management policy and planning statewide; Increase food scrap donations by removing barriers, providing education, and providing incentives to food processors and the food service industry; Educate and incentivize the use of compost; and Foster development of organics recycling through education and grant funding. “We need to better understand and share the financial, social and environmental benefits and costs of producing and using compost,” states the report, available at

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada: City’s Compost Achieves OMRI Certification

The City of Whitehorse has been windrow composting since 2008 at its municipal facility located at the City’s landfill just north of the downtown. In June 2015, the City banned disposal of organics in its landfill and took over operation of the composting facility from a private operator later that year. Its compost collection services accept food waste — including raw or cooked meat and fish and dairy products — yard trimmings, food soiled paper (pizza boxes), human and pet hair, sawdust and wood shavings, coffee grounds and filters, loose tea and fiber tea bags, eggshells, and shellfish including the shells. The tipping fee at the facility is about $28/ton. About 6.6 tons/week are received. Whitehorse recently obtained certification from the Organic Materials Review Institute that its compost is approved for use in organic agriculture. Bagged compost (0.7 cubic feet) is sold for about $3.70/bag; bulk compost sells for $22 to about $34, depending on quantity purchased.

Boise, Idaho: Household Organics Collection Kicks Off

Beginning the first week of June, Boise residents will have the opportunity to divert their household food scraps and lawn debris at the curb. The City of Boise is contracting with Republic Services to collect and compost household organic residuals. Residents receive pick up service once a week and can choose from 48-, 65- or 95-gallon wheeled carts.
Modeled after Boise’s recycling program, residential customers can opt out of the service, but will not receive a $5 rebate if they choose not to participate. Most participating customers will have an overall rate increase of $3.40; those that opt out will pay a higher rate. Home composters will have the option of applying for a waiver, but will still pay $3.40 for the overall solid waste rate increase.
According to Catherine Chertudi, Solid Waste Program Manager for the City of Boise, a residential composting program was originally identified as a long-term priority as part of a strategic planning initiative in 2008. In 2013 the city revisited its plans. In tandem, the local landfill conducted a waste audit and found 45 percent of household waste was organics. “This was our ‘aha’ moment that we could be doing a better job,” notes Chertudi.
In 2015, the city began talking with Republic Services about adding organics collection and building a composting facility.
With no nearby composting operations, the city had to start from scratch to build the program. Fortunately, the city owns a 4,225-acre farm with room for a composting operation. It will have capacity to compost 95 tons/day of materials, however Chertudi anticipates it will be processing about half that tonnage with residential participation rates hovering around 80 to 85 percent in the initial stages of the program. The facility will be operated by Republic Services and use the turned windrow composting method. An irrigation system will keep the piles moist in Boise’s semi-arid climate. Chertudi anticipates that the process will take about 100 days from delivery to a finished product. It will initially only process materials from the residential program, but will consider assisting nearby communities should they start their own programs.
To help ensure high quality finished compost the city launched a preemptive educational campaign last fall to inform customers of the program and what could and could not be composted. On the list of materials not accepted are meats, bones and compostable products. In addition, cart lids have acceptable items embedded on the lid, and drivers will leave notes for residents if obvious contamination is found. Further inspections will be performed during delivery at the facility and in a final screening once the compost is finished. A grinder will also be used at the composting facility prior to material being placed in windrows. Finished compost will be made available for free to participating residents with the rest sold in bulk. “We want to reward the people who have invested in this,” says Chertudi of the decision to give compost back to residential customers.

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