October 25, 2005 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle October 2005, Vol. 46, No. 10, p. 18

St. Paul, Minnesota
Emphasizing odor control and manure management for 100 to 300 cow operations, a report generated by The Minnesota Project details six options for anaerobic manure digestion on Minnesota farms. “Because 96 percent of Minnesota’s dairy farms have 200 or fewer cows, this report is very important. It shows how the majority of dairy farmers could provide and use another form of renewable energy,” says Doug Peterson, president of Minnesota Farmers Union.
Of the six model systems included in the report, five are designed for individual farms, while one is a community digester model. Rather than aiming for excess energy generation as some large-scale digesters do, these six system models focus on the benefits of simpler systems that cost less and are easier to build and operate.
The report was made possible through a grant from AgStar Financial, Fund for Rural America. It was completed by Dr. Philip Goodrich, University of Minnesota, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, who has more than 30 years of experience conducting research and development of digesters at the University. Amanda Bilek of The Minnesota Project will describe the findings in a coming issue of BioCycle. She can be contacted at:
Harrells, North Carolina
High volumes of food processing residuals require fast throughput as well as flexibility, says M. Noel Lyons, president of McGill Leprechaun. Operating two composting sites in North Carolina, Lyons explains that his company started by using forced aeration on outdoor pads but results were too unpredictable. “Today, all our processing takes place indoors; we meet PFRP within five to six days, and we know from computer monitoring if something isn’t going as it should.” McGill has processed hatchery waste, wastewater sludge from food processors, scraps, culls, oil and grease. The company transports seven days per week, if needed, and its collection container options include watertight trailers, roll-off boxes and tankers. Once feedstocks arrive, the goal is to get them blended and into a processing bay within 24 hours of off-loading. Plant personnel adjust blending ratios and amendments to meet requirements of the mix.
San Francisco, California
The San Francisco Unified School District and Environment Department are adding an average of a dozen schools each year to its “Food to Flowers!” program which introduces composting into the lunchroom. This year the District is also using paper milk cartons (instead of plastic milk pouches) which will be composted. Currently about 20 percent of the public schools, as well as 16 private schools, participate. SF Environment is currently working with schools to reach 50 percent waste diversion, with the goal to have all schools adopt the program. All organics are collected in a separate cart and hauled to Jepson Prairie Compost Facility where it is composted and used as fertilizer by Bay Area farms, wineries, school gardens, etc. SF Environment also offers teachers lesson plans and fact sheets to incorporate into the classroom. Meanwhile, composting saves the District money on garbage fees. An estimated 500 tons of organic residuals are diverted each school year from the Altamont landfill, helping to reduce the 6 million pounds of garbage generated by San Francisco each day.
New Haven, Connecticut
As part of her work at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Associate Agricultural Scientist Abigail Maynard conducted research to determine the effect of different rates of leaf compost application on yields of carrots and beets. One specific objective was to find out whether application rates lower than 50 tons/acre would have an immediate effect on yields. For three consecutive years, leaf compost was applied to plots at rates of 50 T/A, 25 T/A and 10 T/A. Results of the plot trials will be reported in a coming issue of BioCycle along with evaluations of the effects of greater organic matter contents and higher pH values.
Qualla Boundary, North Carolina
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operate two successful large-scale composting operations – one for food residuals, the other for biosolids, reports the EPA Tribal Waste Journal (2005 issue). Approximately 72 tons per month of food residuals and 96 dry tons per month of biosolids are composted. Food residuals compost made from materials collected at seven local restaurants, including three within Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, is sold as premium product for $35/ton, while the biosolids compost is marketed at $15/ton.
Restaurant employees manually separate kitchen feedstocks and remove contaminants, then transport containers to the transfer station, weigh them, then mix residuals with woodchips and sawdust from a Duratech tub grinder. Shredded waste paper comes from tribal offices nearby.
A front-end loader mixes materials, which are then placed in windrows about 100 feet long, four feet high and six feet wide. Piles are turned once on the first day, then three to four times/day for the remainder of the windrow process. Piles remain at temperatures above 135°F for about 18 days. Four weeks later, compost is transferred from windrows to a covered storage area for curing and screening. Operational expenses are about $180,000/year, and the program breaks even from sales of the final product.
Most compost is sold to residents, tribal roads divisions and others that pick up product at the transfer station. Harrah’s plans to purchase compost as well as the state’s Department of Transportation which will use compost berms to replace silt fences. Local organic farmers rave abut the high nutritional value of the compost, while the owner of Cherokee Daylily Gardens says: “In all our years of growing daylilies, we have never experienced this rate of reproduction.” Recently, the tribe’s extension office provided community members with coupons for compost to promote gardening. People came to pick up the compost and were also given gardening kits. As the program moves forward, Richie Bottchenbaugh – one of the compost site managers – recalls: “The Cherokee people have a rich history of farming, and the composting coupons encourage them to get back to gardening.”
Woodward, Oklahoma
Kathy Moore, a composting advocate in Oklahoma, recently formed the Oklahoma Composting Council (OKCC), a statewide organization with two primary missions: Promote the diversion of organic wastes from landfilling; and Promote the use of compost in horticultural and agricultural applications. Moore is receiving assistance with the new organization from Craig Coker, a cofounder of the Carolinas Composting Council. “The work plan for the organization is still in development, but we are planning several training courses for next year,” says Coker. “One is for those interested in backyard composting and vermicomposting, and the other is for people interested in large- scale composting. In addition, we hope to seek grant funding for compost usage studies in agriculture, looking at yield increases in traditional crops of importance in Oklahoma as well as future crops, e.g., ethanol-source crops.” Adds Moore: “We want to build a network of acceptance and support for composting among many different groups in the state, including agricultural interests, sustainability organizations and businesses. I will be highlighting how use of compost on my farm improves soil quality and crop yields while eliminating all costs for fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. The increasing interest in niche agriculture and organic production will only help us.” For information on how to join OKCC, contact Moore at:
Madison, Wisconsin
The day before the BioCycle Fifth Annual Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling Conference opened in Madison, a detailed article was printed in the Wisconsin State Journal in mid-September with these details about the city of Madison’s recycling collection program:
The shift from a manual to an automated program means major changes for how households handle empty bottles and cans, plus used newspapers and cardboard boxes. System uses new trucks with robotics arms to lift and empty city-issued carts filled with recyclables. Each household gets a special, wheeled cart to be left at curbside with all recyclables mixed – paper, glass, cardboard, plastic and metal cans. Those who put extra recyclables out too often will be asked to swap for a larger cart, which is free, or buy an extra one. Cost: $30 for a 35-gallon cart, $33 for a 65-gallon, and $38 for a 95-gallon. … The change should increase the number of daily stops from 450 to between 600 and 800, which will help crews keep up with city’s growth. It’s also supposed to reduce on-the-job injuries and is expected to expand recycling and put fewer trucks on streets. Cost per household for recycling is projected to drop from $28.92 to $27.98, and garbage pick up from $46.35 to $43.38.

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