November 18, 2004 | General

Forward With Food Residuals Diversion

BioCycle November 2004, Vol. 45, No. 11, p. 31
Recent decisions pave the way for Metro/City of Portland, Oregon and Seattle to go full-scale with commercial organics diversion, as Toronto’s 3-stream residential program expands.
Nora Goldstein

IN early October, the Metro Council, the Portland, Oregon area’s regional government, voted unanimously to pass a tip fee rate for source separated organics and authorized Metro to enter into a contract with a Washington-based composter for transportation, processing and composting. “We have been working for at least ten years to get an organics program going here,” says Jennifer Erickson, Senior Planner in Metro’s Waste Reduction & Outreach division.
“We have tested different approaches to collection, gathered data on quantities generated and after years and years of hard work, we are thrilled to reach this point.”
Portland’s program covers commercial organics, not the residential stream. Metro Council adopted a rate of $47.50/ton at its transfer station – $39 for transportation and composting as well as $8.50/ton to reload materials into long haul containers. As of late October, Metro was in its final contract negotiations with Cedar Grove Composting of Seattle, Washington, which owns two composting facilities, one in Maple Valley, Washington and a brand new facility in Everett. Both are permitted to accept pre and postconsumer food residuals and soiled paper. In the contract, Cedar Grove has agreed to pursue development of a composting facility in the Portland area, once the annual flow of food residuals reaches 10,000 tons/year on an ongoing basis. “At that point, we are obligated to start looking and permitting a site,” says Jerry Bartlett of Cedar Grove. “We are already evaluating options.”
The rate doesn’t go into effect for 90 days, which means the program will actually get underway in early January. The $47.50/ton rate is significantly lower than the solid waste tip fee at the transfer station of $72/ton. “No fees or taxes are charged on the source separated loads because that material is not going to a landfill,” says Erickson. “And if Cedar Grove builds a local facility, that would eliminate the $8.50/ton reload cost.”
Metro had offered the companies bidding on its RFP for source separated organics collection and processing $500,000 in grants to offset costs of setting up the program. Cedar Grove was the only applicant that didn’t accept that money as part of its proposal, which Metro viewed favorably. “While Cedar Grove’s tip fee wasn’t the lowest, when it came to the overall package, financially it was the best because they didn’t ask for any of our funds,” she adds. “They also had a permitted and open facility where the food residuals can be taken.” In addition, Cedar Grove will share in revenues from compost products sold above the price of $14/cubic yard.
The city of Portland is likely to be the first jurisdiction in the region to launch the program, beginning with commercial businesses because they generate 75 percent of the city’s waste. The goal is to start with the largest generators in the city. (See “Calculating Food Residuals Generation Quantities,” August 2003 for the results of a waste stream analysis conducted by Portland that identified the larger scale generators.) “We want to start the program on a voluntary basis with businesses generating large enough quantities of organics that they might see some savings,” explains Judy Crockett with Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development. Adds Erickson: “We anticipate that close to 25,000 tons will come from generators in the city alone.”
The city of Portland is performing a cost of service study to evaluate which of several regulatory approaches will facilitate greater recycling, including food residuals diversion, and at what cost to the system and its customers. “While the city mandates commercial recycling, it has decided to take a more gradual approach with food residuals due to the complexities of collection in a city with 60 commercial hauling companies,” adds Crockett. Erickson estimates that the average cost in the region to generators right now, if collection is included, is $125 to $150/ton. “It varies depending on the size of the container and the frequency of collection,” she says. Large businesses generating primarily food residuals will probably benefit most directly from any potential cost savings, as they are paying the $72/ton rate at the transfer station now.
Some of the $500,000 not used by Cedar Grove may be allocated to other needs such as outreach and training or purchasing containers. The city of Portland will take primary responsibility for direct contact with its businesses, including distribution of color-coded containers for organics and educational materials. Applied Compost Consulting in Oakland, California was hired to conduct the training and outreach and Tim Dabereiner to do the recruitment. Cedar Grove will not accept material in plastic bags, however it will allow biodegradable bags. Businesses will be allowed to line containers with traditional plastic bags, but they must remain in the container when the organics are collected.
In its contract negotiations with Cedar Grove, Metro agreed to less than a five percent feedstock contamination rate by volume. “The primary contaminants we are worried about are plastics,” says Erickson. “Acceptable material is all food, and all nonrecyclable paper, e.g. waxed corrugated boxes, milk cartons, paper that has been in contact with food, butcher paper, etc.”
Because loads will be tipped prior to long hauling, there is an opportunity to inspect them for contaminants. “That is one of the positive elements of the long haul,” notes Bartlett. “All collection route trucks have to go to the transfer station, and that creates a good opportunity for Metro’s transfer station contractor to inspect loads and pull out contaminants prior to reloading. We don’t usually get that opportunity with our Maple Valley facility, as collection trucks come there directly.” He adds that a five percent contamination threshold is pretty low. “It takes a lot of education and outreach to achieve that low level.”
The most recent article BioCycle published about Cedar Grove describes its installation of the GORE Cover System at the Maple Valley site (see “Composter ‘Upgrades’ To Receive Postconsumer Food Residuals,” February 2004). Installation of the covered composting technology enabled Cedar Grove to be permitted for postconsumer food residuals from commercial generators and residents. (It already had been permitted to compost preconsumer vegetative materials from commercial generators, which it composts in its open aerated static piles.) The company is in the process of converting more of its site over to the Gore technology. In October, it opened the Everett site in neighboring Snohomish County, which is permitted to process 81,000 tons/year of all food residuals and yard trimmings using the same covered composting system. “We already are receiving residential organics from three cities in King County – Kirkland and Redmond at the Everett site, and Bellevue at the Maple Valley site,” he says.
Erickson anticipates that Metro and the city will cross the 10,000 tons/year threshold in 12 to 18 months. “We want to see a three month rolling average of tonnage that equals 10,000 tons/year,” she explains. “That way, we can account for anomalies in the waste flow.”
Assuming the flow reaches that level, Cedar Grove anticipates building a facility similar in design to its new site in Everett. The goal is to keep the facility close enough to the Metro area to avoid having to transfer materials from collection to long haul trucks. Sites being evaluated include an industrial park and one on the footprint of a landfill. Cedar Grove’s contract with Metro is for five years, with an option to renew. “It is not our intention to long haul the anticipated quantities of food residuals through the entire length of the contract,” says Bartlett, who fully anticipates being able to construct a site in the Portland metropolitan area.
On October 4, 2004, the Seattle City Council approved a series of contract amendments to help businesses comply with the city’s new recycling requirements adopted earlier this year. Among the amendments is a new Commercial Food Waste Collection Service and rate – to be offered by both of the city’s two contracted haulers, Waste Management and Rabanco, to interested Seattle food generating businesses. In addition, notes Gabriella Uhlar-Heffner of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), the council approved changes to the existing residential curbside yard debris collection program. These include a switch to carts for curbside setouts, biweekly collection year round, and possible allowance of certain types of food scraps (to be approved by the King County Health Department) to be added in the carts. Cedar Grove Composting will process all food residuals collected. “The rollout of the commercial and residential food waste-related program depends on the Health Department’s approval of operations plans and transfer sites,” explains Uhlar-Heffner. “Cedar Grove has the necessary permits, but certain private transfer stations are operating above capacity and that situation needs to be addressed.”
While some Seattle businesses (primarily supermarkets and produce companies) have been diverting preconsumer vegetative food scraps to composting for a number of years, the quantity of food residuals remaining in the waste stream is substantial. In 2001, notes SPU, around 70,000 tons of food scraps and compostable paper were in the disposed commercial garbage stream. The new recycling program, to be offered in mid-2005, will collect “compostable food scraps” from any city business. Allowable materials include preconsumer vegetables and fruits as well as postconsumer meat, vegetable, fruit and dairy food scraps and soiled and waxed paper. Restaurants will place organic materials in a separate kitchen container that ideally will be lined with a paper or certified biodegradable plastic bag liner. These materials will be emptied into an outside, separate 32- or 64-gallon container or a dumpster that will be collected at least once a week and transported to the Cedar Grove composting facility in Maple Valley.
“The new Seattle commercial food scrap collection service should be particularly beneficial to restaurants, grocery stores and other food waste generating retail outlets,” notes Uhlar-Heffner. “These types of businesses may be able to save money by subscribing to this new recycling service and then downsizing or reducing the frequency of collection for their garbage service. The container and dumpster rates set by the city for the new compostable waste collection service on a per unit basis will be less than the rates set for garbage collection. Whether or not a business participates may also depend on the alley space for additional containers or dumpsters.”
The Seattle City Council also expanded the existing Small Business Recycling Program, whereby eligible small businesses can receive the same free commingled recycling service as residents, to all size businesses in the city that request the service. “The City Council approved this expanded collection in order to help businesses comply with the new commercial recycling requirements it adopted that cover recyclable cardboard and paper,” says Uhlar-Heffner. “The garbage company currently providing service to a business will deliver up to two 96-gallon recycling containers for commingled paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic cans and bottles. Up to two 10-gallon inserts also will be delivered for glass containers. Recyclables pickup will be biweekly, and will begin in early 2005. This service, while free, may not fit all the recycling needs of a business since the collection frequency and container space is more limited than that provided by other recycling companies. It is meant to assist businesses in complying with the 2005 prohibitions on significant amounts of recyclable paper and cardboard in garbage cans and dumpsters.”
Single family households in Toronto, Ontario, Canada continue to be added to the city’s new 3-stream collection program. The organics collection component is referred to as the Green Bin program. Ultimately, 500,000 single-family households will be serviced by 3-stream collection. The Etobicoke and Scarborough communities of the city – 180,000 households – were the first to receive 3-stream collection service (in September 2002 and June 2003, respectively); about 41,000 tons/year of source separated organics have been diverted. Last month, another 220,000 households in the downtown core of Toronto were added, with an anticipated quantity of 4,200 tons/month or 48,000 tons/year to be captured for recycling. In addition, businesses eligible for the Yellow Bag source separated organics collection program accounted for 16,500 tons of organics. The last community in Toronto to receive service will be North York, with 110,000 households and an estimated 25,000 tons of source separated organics available for diversion. North York is scheduled to come on line in the fall of 2005.
In 2005, the city plans to pilot different approaches for collecting source separated organic material from residents in multifamily dwellings. In 2006, the city plans to implement the first stage of the multifamily organics collection program, which will eventually include its approximately 462,000 households.
All food scraps, soiled paper and packaging, paper products, diapers and sanitary products, and animal waste are acceptable materials. Each household is given two containers upon the launch of the program – a 12-gallon Green Bin curbside container and a 2-gallon kitchen container; both are manufactured and supplied by Norseman Plastics. Residents are allowed to use plastic bags to line either the indoor kitchen container or the green bin. Source separated organics are collected weekly; recyclables and trash are collected biweekly, on alternating weeks. “Household collection is not automated currently, but there are pilot projects continuing with respect to automated cart-style collection,” says Brian Van Opstal, Senior Engineer in the Solid Waste Management Services office of the city of Toronto. At the moment, container and fiber material is collected as a single stream in Etobicoke and Scarborough. The rest of the city should be online with single stream fiber collection in early 2005.
Source separated organics are processed at several facilities, with more sites to be added as collection expands. Currently, about 28,000 tons/year are taken to the city’s anaerobic digestion plant, which uses the BTA technology and is located at its Dufferin Transfer Station. The city also signed a contract with Halton Recycling (for up to five years), which was scheduled to begin in the fall of 2004, for up to 77,000 tons/year. Halton Recycling purchased an organics processing facility in Newmarket, Ontario from Canada Composting, Inc. The site uses a wet pulping technology to preprocess materials, followed by composting, using a vertical silo supplied by VCU Technology, Ltd. of New Zealand. “The tip fee is not public information, but it is comparable to tip fees at our transfer station,” says Van Opstal.
To process commingled recyclables, Toronto awarded a contract to Metro Waste Paper in Scarborough for single stream processing of up to 110,000 tons/year. A second contract has been awarded to design, build and operate a single stream processing facility at the Dufferin Transfer Station for 88,000 to 110,000 tons/year. This facility, expected to be operating by the end of 2004, is owned by the city and operated by Canada Fibres Ltd.
Currently, all of Toronto’s municipal solid waste is being hauled to Michigan for disposal. “Implementing the 3-stream program will raise resident awareness about disposal options as well as make the recycling process more convenient by allowing the commingling of container and fiber material,” he adds. “Also, the Green Bin program will significantly reduce the tonnage sent to Michigan. It is estimated that when all single family homes and multiresidential buildings (approximately one-million units in total) are online with the Green Bin and multifamily residential organics programs, we will be diverting approximately 176,000 tons of organics annually. This translates to a reduction in traffic to Michigan by 21 trucks a day, and will move us closer to our goal of 60 percent waste diversion by 2006.”

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