BioCycle May 2018
Seattle, Washington: Compost Lottery For Popular Product
The Seattle Woodland Park Zoo launched a lottery program for customers to preorder Zoo Doo, its popular compost. Zoo Doo is composed of manure contributed by a variety of the zoo’s non-primate herbivores, such as hippos, giraffes, mountain goats and tapirs, and is ideal for growing vegetables and annuals. The zoo added a second product, “Bedspread,” that includes a percentage of animal bedding mixed in to avoid compaction and help loosen up Zoo Doo and improve water retention.
Customers can buy 1-pint and 2-gallon containers year-round on the Zoo’s website. In addition, twice a year, the Zoo holds “Fecal Fest,” a lottery to buy Zoo Doo or Bedspread in bulk. Bedspread bulk prices vary from $40 to $60 depending on the dimensions of a pickup truck bed while bulk Zoo Doo is sold in varying sizes ranging from $5 for 5 gallons to $50 for 100 gallons, or from $50 to $80 per pickup truck bed load. Customers had to register online in mid-to-late March, and if their names were selected, they had one week in late April to pick up their product.
Austin, Texas: City Expands Curbside Collection Program
Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), a department of the City of Austin, is expanding its residential curbside source separated organics collection program to approximately 38,000 additional Austin households. The service is scheduled to begin the week of June 25, 2018 on households’ weekly collection day. Currently 52,000 homes are included in the curbside composting program. This expansion will bring the total to over 90,000, providing the service to nearly half of ARR’s curbside customers. Austin Resource Recovery plans to add all curbside customers to the service by 2020, pending funding approval by City Council in future years. This program is part of the City of Austin’s Zero Waste goal to divert 90 percent of materials from landfills by 2040.
The program collects food scraps, yard trimmings and food soiled paper, and routes them to a local composting facility, Organics By Gosh. The initial pilot began in 2013, with 14,000 homes participating. Households were provided 96-gallon carts for food scraps and yard trimmings. Lessons learned from that pilot included that the 96-gallon cart was too big, so the cart size was reduced to 32 gallons for the current expansion.
Detroit, Michigan: GM Expands Composting Program
General Motors is taking its composting program to a whole new level at its global headquarters in the Renaissance Center (RENCEN) in Detroit. What began as an organics collection program with select restaurants at the RENCEN has now expanded to include participation from all floors and occupants of the complex. Through this expansion, the automaker hopes to reduce its environmental impact and contribute to the city’s revitalization. The RENCEN complex covers over 5 million square feet and houses a hotel, 23 restaurants, 36 retailers and 10 other businesses. It accommodates 12,000 office workers and 3,000 visitors daily.
GM began the program in 2014 to support the site’s landfill free status, diverting food preparation waste from various restaurants to benefit urban farming initiatives in the area. Since then, it has worked with a local composting company, Detroit Dirt, to collect food scraps from the RENCEN. The material is mixed with herbivore manure to produce compost that is used to cultivate urban gardens throughout the city, including the automaker’s Beaubien rooftop garden. Produce harvested from the Beaubien garden is donated to the Italian restaurant Andiamo Riverfront. The restaurant in turn makes donations equal to the food’s value to a local warming center serving the Detroit’s homeless. In 2017 alone, the composting program collected more than 125,000 pounds of scraps, supporting multiple garden initiatives.
Boulder, Colorado: Green Bag Giveaway
In mid-2016, the City of Boulder passed a Universal Zero Waste Ordinance that requires every property owner in Boulder — residential, multifamily and commercial — to subscribe to trash, recycling and compostables collection services. Furthermore, businesses that rent their premises are required to essentially “use” this collection service, by providing bins and signs and education to their employees and bins and signs for their customers for trash, recyclables and compostables, explains Kara Mertz, Environmental Manager for the City of Boulder. “While it’s not required, many businesses use compostable bags for lining their organics collection bins.”
To help businesses comply with the composting part of the ordinance, a “Green Bag Giveaway” was launched in March, offering a free six-month supply of compostable bags. The City of Boulder has a “disposable bag fee” that levies a 10-cent per paper or plastic bag fee for each bag used at supermarkets and big-box stores that sell food. Proceeds from that fee are being used to cover the costs of the Green Bag Giveaway. To qualify, businesses of all types must fill out an online application that shows they are complying with the composting and recycling requirements in the Zero Waste Ordinance. “The city began enforcing the Ordinance in mid-2017,” says Mertz. “Property owners are given a warning, and then have 30 days to correct the situation. The vast majority are coming into compliance.”
San Diego, California: Sustainable Landscape Manual
The Sustainable Landscapes Program partners, comprised of the San Diego County Water Authority, the City and County of San Diego, Surfrider Foundation, California American Water and the Association of Compost Producers, have produced a comprehensive, 71-page color guide entitled San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines which details best practices and recommendations for a watershed approach to landscaping. “The watershed approach considers every garden as though it were a mini-watershed, holding onto or cleaning all the water that falls on it and nurturing a diverse habitat of plants and insects,” states the introduction to the manual. The section on soil does a fantastic job of walking through all the critical steps of building soil health, including use of compost and mulch. Best of all, the guidelines are free to download at SustainableLandscapessd.org/guidelines. The steps outlined for the San Diego County watershed can be modified to fit watersheds everywhere.
Beyruth, Germany: Compost And Microplastics
The contamination of the environment with microplastic particles (MPP), defined as particles smaller than 5 mm (about 1/8”), has emerged as a global challenge because they may pose risks to biota and public health. Current research focuses predominantly on aquatic systems, whereas comparatively little is known about the sources, pathways, and possible accumulation of plastic particles in terrestrial ecosystems. A team of German researchers investigated organic fertilizers (composts, digestates, and percolate-leachates from digestion, which is used as liquid fertilizer) from recycled biowaste as possible vehicles for the entry of MPPs >1 mm into the environment. One biowaste composting plant and one biowaste digester were studied in detail. An agricultural energy crop digester processing only energy crops and no biowaste served as a reference. Particles were classified by size and identified by attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.
The following findings were reported in the research article published in Science Advances:
“Although all samples from the biowaste treatment plants contained MPPs, significant differences in the level of contamination were observed. High quality compost (‘quality seal’ label) from the biowaste composting plant contained less than 25 MPPs per kilogram dry weight, whereas the contamination of the composts/digestates from the biowaste digester was nearly an order of magnitude higher. Several factors may have contributed to this result. Although aerobic rotting (composting) reduces the dry mass of the material by approximately 50 percent, anaerobic conversion to biogas, followed by composting, will often achieve a reduction of more than 80 percent. Nondigested material, such as MPPs, is therefore enriched by a factor of 5 during anaerobic biowaste digestion but by only a factor of 2 during simple composting. Concomitantly, in the biowaste composting plant, biowaste from private households was mixed with at least equal amounts of green clippings. The latter is typically much less contaminated with plastics and thus dilutes the MPP contamination.”
Among the most abundant synthetic polymers observed were those used for common consumer products.
Los Angeles, California: Food Waste Grant Challenge Winners
The City of Los Angeles announced the winners of its first-ever food waste grant challenge competition. Project categories included food waste prevention, food donation, upcycled use (including animal feed or fuel) and composting. The total grant pool reached approximately $100,000 and includes 3 administrative grant winners — LA Compost, LA Food Policy Council and California Bioproducts Innovation Center — and 7 project grant winners, which include:
• Netiya in West Los Angeles will educate and mobilize the student population at deToledo High School to institute a comprehensive program that incorporates food waste recovery and composting for an on-site food garden.
• Proyecto Jardín, Los Angeles (PJLA) will offer its signature 8-week course, Make Compost, Not War, as a compost academy to an intergenerational cohort of 30 Eastside Los Angeles residents.
• Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s Sustainable Little Tokyo’s Bokashi Compost Project will educate Little Tokyo residents and food businesses about food waste and its impacts; demonstrate Bokashi and composting to reduce food waste; and host community gatherings at composting sites to share skills, challenges, progress updates, and compost uses.
• Garden School Foundation’s project involves designing and implementing a month-long Cafeteria to Compost Challenge for students, teachers, faculty, parents and community stakeholders of 24th Street Elementary.
• LA Conservation Corps, an environmentally focused workforce development agency, will work with LA Community Garden Council and LA Compost to build composting hubs at 10 community garden sites. The hubs will serve community gardeners and will be open to local residents and business owners during specified hours each week as a collection site for kitchen scraps. Their program will impact 1,400 people.