January 21, 2005 | General

New Beginnings On A Stronger Foundation

BioCycle January 2005, Vol. 46, No. 1, p. 4

THE NEW year begins with a strong momentum to build on past accomplishments while avoiding the obstacles that surge around us all. The theme – “Where Principles and Profits Join Forces” – for the 2005 BioCycle West Coast Conference in San Francisco, March 7-9, fully reflects both goals and challenges. The opening plenary session (see pages 15-17 in this issue for complete agenda) focuses on “Models To Maximize Diversion.” It features analyses of how California is working to achieve its mandatory recycling goals, how a municipal utility district turns problem wastes into renewable power, what diverse stakeholders are doing to protect public health, and the European strategy to achieve 70 percent diversion by targeting biodegradable municipal solid waste.
Like the articles planned for 2005 issues of BioCycle, the West Coast conference will show how a growing composting and organics recycling industry blends public policies and private initiatives to reach into neglected areas of food residuals, agricultural wastes and mixed MSW. Both venues – the BioCycle conference in California and the November meeting in North Carolina, and each issue of the magazine – give us great opportunities to highlight the infrastructure created by these initiatives, and the significant volumes of residuals that are being transformed into compost, energy, cleaner water and air, and healthy, productive soils. They also give us the chance to reflect on how far we’ve come to fulfill commitments while building new energy to overcome future hurdles.
We’ll be especially interested to learn more about new projects being developed by one of the Conference cosponsors – the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). These projects include an emphasis on biomass utilization that leads to major improvements in air, soil and water quality. Another agency, the Sacramento Waste Authority, is actively seeking to site a composting facility for up to 200,000 tons/year of yard trimmings. Another option is to process this feedstock via anaerobic digestion, notes Ruth MacDougall of SMUD in a report scheduled for February BioCycle. The biogas produced can be used by a SMUD power plant or cogeneration facility, replacing the equivalent of 5 MW of natural gas with renewable fuel.
Creative partnering is a major theme at the West Coast Conference, and also will be emphasized as waste diversion projects expand throughout the coming year. For example, MacDougall describes how SMUD “seized the opportunity to form partnerships with local dairy farmers by helping implement anaerobic digestion systems.” Sacramento County has 43 dairies with over 14,000 milk cows, which generate enough manure to supply energy to 1,200 homes. SMUD is providing an incentive (13 percent of project costs) to help leverage significant levels of funding from other sources, making possible a five-year payback for farmers.
Additional signs of the new beginnings on a stronger foundation come from the opening article in this issue by Dan Matsch on how Eco-Cycle in Boulder, Colorado – one of the oldest recyclers in the nation – is aggressively moving into composting. “To fulfill our mission of maximizing diversion from the landfill,” says Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle, “we have to go after the rest of the waste stream. With about half of the remaining waste stream consisting of potentially compostable materials, we need to start composting.” And with the help of commercial developers of “Modern Composting Technologies” (see pages 48-53), there is great equipment available for managers of composting and mulch production facilities for improving operations.
We hope to see many of you at the 2005 BioCycle West Coast Conference in San Francisco, as well as receive your emails and letters describing developments with your projects in the months ahead. Please send emails to us at: – J.G.

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