April 21, 2006 | General

Organics Diversion — With Compost Markets In Mind

BioCycle April 2006, Vol. 47, No. 4, p. 53
California Integrated Waste Management Board collaborates with local agencies, universities and the composting community to increase demand for quality compost.
Ava DeLara

WITH over 30 percent of its waste stream consisting of compostable organic materials, California is leading an aggressive campaign to find alternatives to their ending up in landfills. That explains why the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) is pursuing various programs to reduce the amount of organic materials being landfilled in the state, while protecting public health and environmental safety. Organic material management facilities divert from the landfill and process roughly 8 million tons/year of organic material, while over 13 million tons/year, most suitable for composting, still go to landfills.
Composting has been a key focus of CIWMB for years, and the Board is always looking for opportunities to encourage the private sector and residential communities to become active in the effort to reduce, reuse and, recycle. Among the more recent initiatives, described in this article, are increasing compost use by CalTrans (the state transportation department), working with local enforcement agencies and composting facilities to minimize odor complaints, improving efficiency of water use in urban landscapes, and supporting development of emerging technologies that help divert valuable resources away from California’s landfills (see sidebar on “Emerging Technologies”).
State government agencies can have a significant impact on building markets for products made from recycled and composted materials. In the case of compost, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) represents one of the most lucrative governmental agency targets for widespread use.
In 2003/2004, CIWMB held meetings with Caltrans and the compost industry to determine the barriers to increased use of compost and mulch by Caltrans and how to overcome these barriers. As a result of these discussions, the CIWMB allocated $75,000 to fund the “Increasing Compost Use by Caltrans” contract in 2005. Participants in the contract include CIWMB, Caltrans, the University of California in Riverside Extension, the Association of Compost Producers (ACP), San Diego State University, Soil Control Laboratories, BFI, Inc., erosion control professionals, and many others.
Goals of the project include developing and promoting a Compost Use Index to help compost producers and users quickly identify products that will best satisfy their particular needs, reduce occasions of inappropriate use that can leave negative impressions and develop a “User Knowledge Base” index. Since compost users often need a specific type, or range, of compost products to satisfy specific soil requirements, this index matches various indexed product ranges with the frequency of use for specific defined applications. To make this truly useful and relevant, an updatable user knowledge base for various types of compost applications, by multiple users and diverse regions is required. This will be set up, funded and managed via a consortium of users. (The accompanying article in this section, “Compost Use for Erosion Control in California,” describes research projects done with CalTrans to test various compost feedstocks and product.)
As of November 2005, kickoff strategy meetings have been held and the first version of the Compost Use Index is nearing completion. Revision of the Caltrans compost specifications will immediately follow completion of the Compost Use Index. Additionally, the CIWMB will assist Caltrans in the development of a Compost Applications Best Practices Manual, and conduct workshops at Caltrans District offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
On May 25, 2005, the CIWMB and the Association of Compost Producers (ACP) implemented a demonstration project at the I-215/SR-134 interchange in Pasadena to showcase the beneficial use of compost and mulch products for landscape and erosion control. A “Certified Erosion Control” installer of Filtrexx International products sprayed composted mulch over patches of bare ground and into filter socks on a freeway hillside to prevent soil erosion, conserve water and reduce weed growth. The demonstration is part of an enhanced effort between Caltrans and the CIWMB to increase the use of recycled-content materials and products in the state’s transportation system.
The increased use of compostable material processing in California requires a higher level of involvement by the CIWMB to address odor problems and other concerns. The CIWMB is working with the University of California in Riverside (UC Riverside) to develop tools for local enforcement agencies (LEAs) and operators for minimizing odor complaints from existing organic material management facilities. In addition, the work is intended to provide tools to local planners for evaluating the technical aspects of proposed facilities and for incorporating the appropriate operational and site provisions that should occur during the local approval process. These tools are critical to maintain the Board’s authority over these facilities, ensure the viability of their future operations, promote operations with minimal environmental impacts, and provide LEAs and local planners with enforcement tools that mitigate environmental impacts of odors.
Details of the project include an assessment of odor problems through a survey of scientific and industry literature; review of facility records and discussions with CIWMB, LEA, academic, and industry sources; development of odor identification kits to assist LEAs in identifying characteristic odors associated with certain conditions (e.g., anaerobic, acidic, etc.) or feedstock types; research mitigation alternatives through laboratory investigation of the role of various parameters in odor formation, including aeration frequency, pH, additives, compost biofilter, odor neutralizing agents, and others; development of LEA and operator resource guides that include mitigation strategies for different types of odor occurrences; workshops to train LEAs on the resource guide and other materials; and development of a local government guide to assist local planners and decision makers in determining whether specific site design and operation plans adequately address odor mitigation.
The goal of this component is to provide local government with the tools to address potential problems with siting, design, and operations early in the planning process. This could be useful to a Local Task Force in their development of goals, policies, and procedures, which guide the county in their preparation of the Non-disposal Facility Element (NDFE).
Assembly Bill 2717 (Laird, D-Santa Cruz) requires the California Urban Water Conservation Council to convene a stakeholder workgroup comprised of public/private agencies and associations to evaluate and recommend proposals to improve the efficiency of water use in new and existing urban irrigated landscapes in the state. CIWMB staff worked with and the Association of Compost Producers to develop a Soil Assessment and Soil Management recommendation that was approved by the Task Force and requires a physical and chemical analysis of soils in new developments to improve water use efficiency and plant health. This recommendation may help increase the use of compost and mulch in urban landscapes. For more information on the AB 2717 Landscape Task Force recommendations, visit:
A well-designed and maintained landscape can cost less to maintain in the long run by consuming fewer resources. has developed landscaping guidelines to protect the San Francisco Bay watershed. The Bay-Friendly Landscaping Guidelines is a whole systems approach to the design, construction and maintenance of the landscape in order to support the integrity of one of California’s most magnificent ecosystems, the San Francisco Bay watershed. In the Capitol, the CIWMB is working with the County of Sacramento Storm Water Management Program to revise the guidelines into a “Sacramento Friendly” version.
The guide’s basic landscape principles are to reduce waste and recycling materials; nurture healthy soils while reducing fertilizer use; conserve water, energy and topsoil; use integrated pest management to minimize chemical use; reduce storm water runoff; and create wildlife habitat. For more information on Bay Friendly Landscape Guidelines, visit their website,
Ava DeLara is an Associate Governmental Program Analyst with the California Integrated Waste Management Board. She can be contacted via e-mail at:
ALTHOUGH the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) provides grants and loans to help California cities, counties, businesses and organizations meet the state’s waste reduction, reuse, and recycling goals, it also uses these programs to promote the use of new and innovative technologies to divert valuable California resources away from landfills. In mid-April, CIWMB hosted an Emerging Technologies Forum at the Sacramento Convention Center. This forum presented and promoted discussion of noncombustion thermal, chemical, and biological alternatives to landfill disposal of residual materials that are not diverted through recycling and composting markets. In addition, the event was designed to increase awareness of the Board’s assistance programs and research efforts and provide a forum for the interactive discussion of solutions, progress, and innovations in emerging technologies.
Topics included an overview of emerging technologies; existing and planned emerging technology facilities; emerging technology research and development data and innovations; regulation and permitting; source materials for emerging technologies; and funding and investment opportunities for emerging technologies. More information regarding the Emerging Technologies Forum is available at:
Another emerging technology initiative is a contract with the University of California, Davis (UCD) to conduct an Anaerobic Digestion Evaluation. The contract with UCD continues CIWMB’s effort to assess and analyze conversion technologies. It will help determine the technical performance of UC Davis’ advanced anaerobic digestion technology, the Anaerobic Phased Solids Digester System (APS-Digester) using a mix of municipally derived materials, and/or Material Recovery Facility residuals destined for landfill. The evaluation will also provide for a review of existing literature to assess other commercially available and commercially viable municipal waste anaerobic digestion systems. Part of the project will include a field day or open house activities.

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