April 22, 2010 | General

Editorial: Springing Ahead

BioCycle April 2010, Vol. 51, No. 4, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

We aren’t sure about other parts of the country, but here in Emmaus, Pennsylvania we just transitioned from winter to flowering trees to leaves in about four days! Springing into spring so quickly, after record snowfalls and frigid temperatures for weeks on end, is symbolic of the lightening pace we are seeing in the BioCycle universe.
Several weeks ago, the USEPA held its annual Resource Conservation Challenge Conference in Crystal City, Virginia. The meeting included a half-day Roundtable on Food Recovery – Taking A Bite Out of Food Waste. It was organized by Jean Schwab of EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, who is leading the agency’s new National Food Recovery Initiative. The Roundtable was divided into four segments: Source reduction; Feed hungry people; Feed animals/industrial uses; and Composting.
Bobby Fanning, director for Solid Waste and Recycling at Wal-Mart Stores, spoke in the session about Wal-Mart’s integrated organic diversion program. The retail giant’s goal, said Fanning, is to create Zero Waste by 2025. Its interim goal is 25 percent reduction in solid waste in three years. Results of Wal-Mart’s waste composition audit/analysis identified organics as 18.8 percent of the company’s MSW stream. The largest fraction is paper, at 41.5 percent.
Wal-Mart’s integrated organics program includes diverting all food scraps from landfill disposal. “We will start on the West Coast,” said Fanning, “and implement a large-scale rollout of food scrap recovery to all 50 states and Puerto Rico by utilizing various methods of source reduction, beneficial reuse and recycling. We will have all 50 states completed by August 1, 2010. We plan to move larger percentages of organic materials to follow the EPA/Wal-Mart Organic Hierarchy.” Going from best to least, the hierarchy starts with waste reduction (at point-of-sale), feeding humans, fuel generation/anaerobic digestion (with composting of digestate), additive in feed production, direct animal feed, and composting. Numbers 9-11 at the bottom of the list of 11 methods are incineration (with or without power generation), landfill bioreactor, and landfilling.
Many of us in the composting and organics recycling world have been interacting with Wal-Mart about its organic diversion plans for a number of years. But this public statement, with rollout to all 50 states and Puerto Rico by the beginning of August, is exciting. Shortly after hearing the Wal-Mart news, we learned that another large supermarket company, Safeway, is planning to roll out composting at stores on the East Coast. Safeway probably has the most stores in the U.S. on composting programs, primarily in the Western U.S.
These announcements are significant in terms of the quantity of nonedible source separated organics soon to be available for anaerobic digestion and composting. Yes, we have sprung into spring in terms of flowers and leaves on trees. And if these corporate plans come to fruition, we are definitely springing ahead in organics diversion.

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