BioCycle December 2017
Houston, Texas: Composting Sites Weather Hurricane Harvey
The LETCO Group LLC, which does business as Living Earth™, is a Dallas-based composting and mulch production company with 18 processing facilities that include retail yards located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region and Houston, and 3 stand-alone retail yards. BioCycle contacted Mark Rose, president and CEO of The LETCO Group, to check on impacts from Hurricane Harvey in August. Our thought was that the company would be managing significant amounts of storm debris. We thought incorrectly, as Rose explained to us:
“This time, with Hurricane Harvey, we actually went down a little bit in volume. In our area it was all flooding, therefore, not a lot a clean wood and tree debris were left behind for processing and recycling. Instead, the debris is/was pretty much wet sheetrock, insulation, carpet etc. Given the flooding, I feel we did a really good job preparing our locations for the hurricane. We built big, flat, compacted piles of mulch about six feet tall and parked all of our equipment and trucks on top [see photos]. It worked great! The area was pretty much shut down and no one wanted any product so we closed two days before the storm hit, giving our employees enough time to deal with their personal situations. As the flooding rescinded we opened the sites back up.”
Denver, Colorado: Curbside Organics Program Expands Citywide
Denver Public Works recently announced that its residential curbside organics collection program is available in every neighborhood of the city. Households have to opt-in to receive the fee-based service. Choices include a quarterly payment plan of $29.25 every three months or a one-time payment of $107 for the entire year. Residents who sign up for the Denver Composts program receive a large green compost cart and a two-gallon kitchen pail to collect all food scraps, nonrecyclable paper and yard trimmings. There are about 176,000 eligible homes in Denver; currently, about 12,000 participate.
Baltimore, Maryland: National Aquarium Opts For Compostable Food Serviceware
The National Aquarium, located in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, recently decided to replace all conventional disposable food serviceware plastic products with reusable, compostable or more sustainable options. The switch actually simplifies things for guests, notes Sarah Martinez of Eco-Products, which is supplying the compostable cups, plates, lids, utensils, container and trays to the Aquarium’s food service locations. All plates, utensils and trays can go into the same bin for compostables, along with any leftover food. “It’s hard to get guests to first scrape the cheese off a plastic plate — and then toss the cheese into one bin to be composted and the plate into another.” explains Martinez, director of marketing at Eco-Products. “This makes it as easy as possible to divert materials from landfills. Guests can throw their plate, cup and any leftover food into the same bin.”
All separated organics are taken to Recycled Green Industries, a commercial composting facility in Woodbine, Maryland. A portion of the resulting compost will return to the Inner Harbor to be used in the Waterfront Park surrounding the Aquarium. “This change is at the heart of our conservation mission, eliminating sources of pollution both for the ecosystem and human health, and inspiring our guests to do the same, even after their visit,” says Kris Hoellen, chief conservation officer at the National Aquarium. This latest initiative culminates a multiyear program to reduce use of conventional disposable plastics across the Aquarium’s operations. Working closely with on-site partners Sodexo, the Classic Catering People, Pepsi and others, the Aquarium had already eliminated all disposable water bottles, ended the use of plastic bags in the gift shops and eliminated conventional single-use plastics at catering events.
Alameda, California: Straws On Request
The City of Alameda’s “Straws on Request”/Compostable Food Ware Ordinance was adopted by the Alameda City Council in early October, reports Ruth Abbe of Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda. The ordinance, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits food vendors from providing single-use drinking straws to customers unless specifically requested. In addition, food vendors who supply a straw or any type of disposable food ware have to supply one that is reusable, recyclable (i.e., aluminum), or compostable (i.e., paper).
The City of Alameda also received a $400,000 grant from the Clean Water Action Fund to implement a program called “ReThink Disposable: Unpackaging Alameda.” This grant program was launched by Clean Water Action to create a model ”unpackaged” community and will enable 80 to 100 of the City’s food vendors to receive support and guidance on how to save an annual average of $5,000 and eliminate 2,000 pounds of waste by promoting reusable food ware, reducing food ware packaging, and eliminating single-use disposable items such as straws.
Encinitas, California: You Ferment, We Compost
The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation kicked off a pilot community composting program where residents pay $50 for a start-up kit that includes a 5-gallon bucket and a bag of bokashi bran. Residents ferment their food scraps in the bucket, then return it to the Solana Center, which composts and cures them. Finished compost is distributed to participating residents, and the cycle continues, explains Jessica Toth, the Solana Center’s executive director. Composting of the food scraps and amendments takes place on a 750-square-foot section of the Solana Center’s property.
The county’s Department of Environmental Health Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency approved the pilot in September with a limit of 100 cubic yards of food waste from single-day events in addition to the residential returns. County officials have asked the Solana Center to report the results of the companion food decomposition study in six months, at which time Toth said they could choose to expand the project. “We feel the program has the potential to be the seed of a very impactful movement for Encinitas and beyond,” she adds.
Arlington County, Virginia: Composting Cast Off Pumpkins
On the Saturday after Halloween, Arlington County’s Solid Waste Bureau (SWB) received over 3,300 pounds of cast-off pumpkins for composting as part of free monthly services at its 3-acre Earth Products Recycling Yard. The pumpkins were loaded into SWB’s new Intermodal Earth Flow portable food waste composting system from Green Mountain Technologies. Since September, the Earth Flow machine has processed approximately 3,000 pounds/month of residential food waste from drop-off locations at the Yard and Columbia Pike Farmers Market, as well as organics from events such as the Marine Corps Marathon and County Fair, notes Phil Bresee, manager of the SWB’s Environmental Management Office.
In April 2016, SWB went from only seasonal to year-round yard trimmings collection, providing 64-gallon green rolling carts to the 33,200 single-family houses and town homes it services. The change contributed to an 8.4 percent increase in total yard trimmings collected, from about 13,000 tons to 14,000 tons. Success of the year-round collection is accelerating consideration of curbside food waste collection, and SWB is examining the feasibility of allowing residents to add food scraps to the green bins.
Olympia, Washington: Composting Deceased Pets
A new company, Rooted, has emerged to provide composting services to pet owners. The Daily Dot , an online newspaper, spoke with Paul Tschetter, the general manager and cocreator of Rooted, about his company and why composting should be considered when it comes time to say goodbye to your pet. “Our intention isn’t to replace pet burial or cremation, but rather to provide an alternative option that is environmentally sustainable and meaningful,” said Tschetter. “Cremation, the most widely used method for pet aftercare, is low cost and sterile, however, the energy required to heat up a crematory oven is tremendous.… The recomposition process takes 6 to 8 weeks, and we will notify you once it is complete. Per your request, the resulting compost will either be donated to one of our tree planting initiatives or returned to you in one of our memorial products.”
Rooted offers the communal (standard) option of five pounds of compost made from “recomposition of donated pet remains,” or the individual (premium) option for people who want to receive compost made exclusively from their pet. Currently, the company has systems in place to pick up pets from veterinary partners up and down the I-5 corridor in and around Seattle.
Xiaogan, China: Vermicomposting Reduces Heavy Metals
A team of Chinese researchers has found that vermicomposting reduces heavy metals concentrations in composted cow manure, reducing the risk of soil buildup of metals from repeated land application of the manure. Heavy metals are a consideration in intensive livestock farming as it is common to add trace metals, such as copper, zinc and chromium, in the feed additives to improve growth properties and prevent diseases. But due to low metabolism rates in the livestock, most of the metals are excreted in the manure.
Cow manure was vermicomposted by the Eisenia fetida species. Testing of the vermicompost showed heavy metal concentrations declined significantly. Exchangeable (dissolved and available to plant roots) concentrations of metals in the vermicompost were measured and found to decrease for lead and cadmium, but to rise for chromium (but the total concentration of chromium decreased). Analysis of bacterial diversity in the vermicompost showed 12 genera with species having heavy metal resistance/tolerance. Vermicomposting effectively reduced the total concentration of, and toxicity for, heavy metals. The full study appears in the December 2017 issue of Bioresource Technology.
Toronto, Ontario: Processing Compostable Coffee Pods
Compostable coffee pods are increasingly available on store shelves but some large municipal programs in Ontario have yet to approve their inclusion in curbside organics collection programs. “There is a difference between (being) laboratory-certified compostable and what municipal composting systems can achieve,” Jim McKay, general manager of solid waste management services for the City of Toronto, told The Hamilton Spectator. City staff are testing the compatibility of the certified compostable coffee pods with their composting program and plan to report their findings in February 2018, he added.
Ottawa and Hamilton also do not accept compostable coffee pods in their curbside organics bin programs. “The compostable coffee pods do not get completely decomposed during the duration of processing,” Hamilton spokesperson Clorinda Pagliari explained. “Hamilton’s (composting) facility is designed to process material for approximately 42 days. The pods do not decompose within this time frame and may present as contamination in the final product.”
Calgary, Alberta: Composting Facility Wins Project Infrastructure Award
The City of Calgary Compost Facility and Chinook Resource Management Group (CRMG) won the Silver Award for Infrastructure from the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) National Awards for Innovation & Excellence. The award recognizes excellence and innovation in project development, financing, service delivery, infrastructure investment and economic benefit, which result in the enhanced quality of public services.
The facility, developed under a Design-Build-Finance-Operate (DBFO) model with CRMG, consists of a main processing building and an adjacent curing building and storage area. In total, the three main structures are more than 500,000-square-feet in size and provide a completely enclosed and covered process area. This is the largest composting facility in Canada and the first constructed under a PPP model. It is designed to compost approximately 110,000 tons/year of source separated organics collected in a new city-wide program. The facility will also compost approximately 45,500 wet metric tons/year of dewatered biosolids from the City’s Bonnybrook wastewater treatment plant.
The project utilized the City’s PPP funding model that included short-term financing through the construction phase. In structuring the CRMG team, Bird Construction partnered with Maple Reinders and focused on identifying key firms with sector expertise and resources necessary to successfully execute and deliver the DBFO initiative. There was also a focus on the long-term integration and continuity of the team to meet the requirements of the operational phase of the project.