March 27, 2006 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle March 2006, Vol. 47, No. 3, p. 14

San Francisco, California
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on February 14 to pass a resolution that supports statewide legislation and local initiatives requiring manufacturers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling their products at the end of their useful life. Says Bill Sheehan, director of the Product Policy Institute based in Athens, Georgia: “This is the strongest statement yet from a local government in the U.S. The resolution signals a fundamental shift in thinking among local governments, which have borne responsibility for collecting and disposing refuse since a century ago. As the resolution puts it: ‘By covering the costs of collection and disposal, local governments are subsidizing production of waste because manufacturers know that whatever they produce, the local government will foot the bill for recycling or disposal.'”
Product Policy Institute has been assisting San Francisco and other California communities develop policies that conserve resources and reduce local taxes. The resolution is posted under “Local Government EPR” at www.product Bill Sheehan can be contacted via e-mail at:
Boston, Massachusetts
At its annual Organics Recycling Summit on March 1, the Massachu-setts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced the latest initiative in its partnership with the state’s supermarket industry: Supermarket Recycling Program Certification (SRPC). The program rewards full-service grocery stores with regulatory relief from waste bans if they voluntarily develop sustainable programs for reusing organics and other wastes instead of throwing them away. Massachusetts currently bans nine items from the waste stream, including paper, cardboard and glass. A ban on commercial organics was proposed in the MassDEP’s 2000 Solid Waste Master Plan, but won’t become effective until specific criteria, such as more processing infrastructure and diversion programs, are met.
Supermarkets participating in the SRPC will need to provide for comprehensive recycling of cardboard, plastic wrap, shrink-wrap, and organic material. MassDEP will then exempt waste loads generated by these stores from routine comprehensive waste ban inspections for paper; cardboard; glass, metal and plastic containers; and leaves and yard waste. Each supermarket that applies for SRPC certification will need to meet and maintain specific recycling and composting criteria to retain that status. Businesses that do not set up programs to divert banned items from their waste run the risk of having their loads rejected at disposal or transfer facilities, paying additional handling fees, or facing enforcement penalties.
The certification program was developed by MassDEP and the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA), an industry group which represents supermarkets and other food stores. In August 2005, MassDEP and MFA entered into a partnership to advance recycling at full-service grocery stores across the state by expanding their existing Supermarket Organics Recycling Network (SORN). The new voluntary certification program takes this collaboration to the next level. “Diverting organics and other wastes from disposal to reuse is good not only for the environment, but also for business,” MassDEP Commissioner Robert W. Golledge Jr. said. “We expect this incentive-based, voluntary approach to change the supermarket industry’s waste management culture for the better.” Organics – including spoiled and out-of-date food, cardboard, plants, soil, and renderings – account for more than three-quarters of the waste generated by a typical supermarket. Recycling and composting that material instead of throwing it away can save a store between $20,000 and $40,000/year, on average, in avoided disposal costs.
Most supermarkets have been recycling cardboard for some time, but SORN has helped 62 stores increase their diversion of organics to composting facilities and animal feeding operations. These supermarkets – including Big Y, Roche Bros., Shaw’s/Star, Stop & Shop, and Whole Foods – have diverted more than 10,000 tons of food scraps and other organic materials from landfills and combustion facilities in the last year. “A number of our members already have diversion programs in place and are realizing significant savings as a result,” said MFA President Chris Flynn. “Working closely with MassDEP, we will be providing new technical assistance materials and services to help other supermarkets get started.” For additional information about SRPC, visit the MassDEP Supermarket Recycling page at
Albany, New York
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) has signed revised fertilizer regulations that improve the way composts are regulated, reports the Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI) in Ithaca, New York. CWMI, the Farm Bureau and compost producers in New York State worked with NYSDAM to develop the revised rules. Previously, the rules required anyone making nutrient claims to specify the minimum guaranteed nutrient content on a dry weight basis. “Because composts are a variable natural product rather than a formulated dry product, there were problems for compost producers,” says Ellen Harrison, director of CWMI. “There was also inconsistency with CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) regulations that require a farm moving nutrients off the farm (such as by selling compost) to specify the average nutrient content.” Other issues with the previous rules also were addressed, such as testing methods and the list of parameters about which a compost producer can provide information.
The revised rule covers composts made from animal manure, vegetative matter and bedding. They are exempt from the definition of commercial fertilizer for purposes of the fee and license requirements of Agriculture and Markets Law sections 146 and 146-c and the guaranteed analysis requirements of sections 144 and 145(4). Notes the revised rule: “Any such compost, for which plant nutrient claims are made, which is distributed in this State in containers shall have placed on or affixed to the containers a clearly legible label setting forth total nitrogen (N), total phosphorous (P) and total potassium (K). Other compost characteristics may also be set forth.” The new regulations establish a registration system. Results of tests to determine the average nutrient concentrations are to be submitted to NYSDAM at least every other year. Consideration of further amending the regulations to allow the addition of other compost feedstocks commonly used on farms was urged by compost producers. The revised rules can be seen at: Composting.html.
Eaton, Colorado
A1 Organics – with five sites in Colorado and one in Cheyenne, Wyoming – has compiled analyses of its end product composts that include: BioComp – feedstocks include brewer’s waste, wood residuals, biosolids and (at times) treatment plant residuals; EcoGro – limb and food waste, leaves, grass and beer (low in salts); ProGro – fine-textured material from “Evergreen” compost; Premium 3 – horticultural and contractor grades from dairy manure and bedding, cured and screened; Evergreen – from poultry litter and bedding, with high NPK and trace mineral levels; and Zoop – from manure of animals of the Denver Zoo.
Product listings for 2006 include data on applications, amendments, mulch use, etc. such as: Specifically designed for high-end applications, as golf course top dressing and specialty soil mixes; good source of nitrogen, potassium, sulfur and other nutrients; can be used with all types of plants and soil (sandy to clay). For more information, visit:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In the October 2005 issue of BioCycle (p. 22), David Biddle described how Patrick FitzGerald and Ron Gonen launched RecycleBank, LLC in early 2004. The company charges municipalities or private haulers $24/month per household; participating households get a similar value in coupons that are redeemable at companies like Starbucks, Home Depot, Coca Cola, etc. A firm called Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids, Michigan has supplied carts with radio frequency identification tags (RFID). The LTS Scale Corporation of Twinsburg, Ohio configured scales and a tipping mechanism for the containers, which fit on the back of trucks so the bins can be weighed and easily emptied. Wrote Biddle: “All of these relationships give FitzGerald and Gonen a competitive edge … about the service they have to offer.”
In late February, an update in The New York Times provided these details: Several municipalities in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions are interested in starting RecycleBank programs. Wilmington, Delaware will begin with 4,000 households on April 1. Casella Waste Systems in Rutland, Vermont will introduce the program to 100,000 households next year.
Honolulu, Hawaii
With help from the Rocky Mountain Institute staff, and in the absence of federal leadership, Hawaii elected officials are ready to be “laboratories for change and policy innovation on energy.” Governor Linda Lingle’s “Energy for Tomorrow” bill has the potential to transform Hawaii into a state that will lead the nation with a low-cost, sustainable, locally-produced and secure energy system. As described by Kyle Datta, RMI Senior Director who worked on the bill, it has five major components: Savings through efficiency, Independence through renewable energy, fuels through farming, security through technology, and “empowering Hawaii’s customers.”
The bill calls for creation of a Public Benefits Charge to fund renewable energy through an independent third party, set a renewable portfolio standard of 20 percent, set up a renewable hydrogen program, and emphasize biofuels procurement. For more information, contact Kyle Datta at: or visit RMI at
Grove City, Ohio
Trash taken from the Franklin County landfill operated by SWACO (Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) will soon be transformed into home-grown energy. Ground has been broken for the $18 million Green Energy Center by SWACO and FirmGreen of Newport Beach, California. As planned, the process will convert landfill gas into methane and CO2. Eventually, the project is designed to generate 7 million gallons of methanol annually. The first phase of the project will provide electricity for SWACO buildings. “This is just the beginning of a very promising economic development story,” explains Mike Long, SWACO executive director. “This process will take what we don’t want, our trash, and turn it into what we do want and need – energy and jobs.” The second phase of the project will involve cleaning and conversion of landfill gas into compressed natural gas to fuel SWACO vehicles. Phase three will convert landfill gas into methanol and CO2 for use on the open market. FirmGreen intends to build a methanol processing facility next to the landfill.
Moscow, Idaho
Joe Beavers grabbed the opportunity to do biodiesel research as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho. For his first experience, Beavers was assigned to the Albertson’s Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) to fuel project. Research specs called for direct burning of a 10 percent blend of WVO and No. 2 diesel in an Isuzu engine which powered a refrigeration unit on an Albertson’s trailer. His daily task was to maintain the engine and keep it supplied with blended fuel. With his engine experience, Beavers was recruited to maintain motor pool vehicles, which included the 2002 VW Biobug and Dodge Truck, both running on 100 percent biodiesel. Beavers feels that he will be leaving the University with two degrees – one in ag systems management and one in real life experience, and both equally as valuable.
San Francisco, California
Based on San Francisco solid waste data, animal feces comprise nearly four percent of residential waste – approximately 6,500 tons/year. Within the next few months, Norcal Waste – a trash hauling company that is involved with food residuals composting programs – will begin a pilot which will use biodegradable bags and carts to collect droppings at a popular municipal dog park. Collected materials will become feedstock in what is considered a first-of-a-kind organic feedstock for a methane digester. Meanwhile, an Associated Press article notes that the city – named after Saint Francis, patron saint of animals – has an estimated 240,000 dogs and cats, all potential generators to supply the digester.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has extended the deadline to June 5, 2006 for Resource Recovery Demonstration Grant applications from counties, municipalities and municipal authorities within the state. Priority in funding under this grant program will be given to development projects that demonstrate unique and innovative energy recovery projects, residential curbside collection programs for food residuals recycling, and demonstration projects involving more than one county or municipality that result in environmentally sound alternatives to landfilling. All projects must be designed to show the technical and economical feasibility of a new and improved technique, process or system applicable to a resource recovery project and be capable of being replicated in other areas of the state.
A minimum of 25 percent local matching funds is required for each project, to include at least a 5 percent equity share by the applicant. Counties, municipalities and municipal authorities may sponsor cooperative projects with private sector entities provided that the municipal applicant maintains the minimum 5 percent equity in the project for the term of the demonstration period. Questions about the grants may be directed to John Lundsted, Recycling Technical Assistance Coordinator, (717) 787-7382 or
Atlanta, Georgia
A research team from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Queen’s University in Canada developed “switchable solvents” by using a common gel that could change solvents from a nonionic liquid to an ionic liquid – and back again – with the alternate addition of nitrogen or carbon dioxide. The ability to rapidly change key properties of a solvent could allow multiple steps of a chemical reaction to be carried out without the need for removing and replacing solvents. This could potentially reduce pollution and speed chemical processing.
“When you have to add and remove solvents, it’s both expensive and polluting,” notes Charles Eckert of Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering. “With this new class of solvents, we would be able to do what are called ‘one-pot syntheses’ – carry out several steps in the same container with the same materials.” The switchable solvent system provides a means of reducing the environmental impact from producing pharmaceuticals and other products that are essential to society today, says Philip Jessop, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry at Queen’s University. This is an example of how chemical design principles are facilitating the application of green chemistry.
Solvents known as ionic liquids are salts that are liquid at room temperature or near-room temperature. “They tend to have a lot of organic character, and have been widely hailed as environmentally benign because they have no vapor pressure,” Eckert explains. “They have applications where they are beneficial, and they have some unusual properties that we hope to use.”
Cypress Bend, Arkansas
A diversified forest products company with timberlands in Arkansas and the Midwest totaling more than 1.5 million acres is exploring the launch of a biorefinery that would turn wood and agricultural residuals into fuels. The company – Potlatch Corp. based in Spokane, Washington – is considering establishment of a plant at a pulp and paperboard mill it owns in Arkansas on the Cypress Bend of the Mississippi River. By using a thermochemical method, a synthetic gas is produced and converted into a liquid called “syncrude” that would be sold to a petroleum refinery for conversion into such fuels as diesel, ethanol and other chemicals. Potlatch would utilize the waste heat generated during gasification in its pulping and paper-making processes or to generate electricity. Potlatch estimates that its Cypress Bend mill could reduce its natural gas usage by roughly 1.6 billion cubic feet per year (80 percent) and its purchased electricity by 80,000 megawatt hours annually (60 percent).
“The implications of this project could be just incredible in terms of job creation and net growth in the Delta,” observed an analyst with Winrock International. Jim Wimberly, a Fayetteville consultant working on the feasibility study, believes eastern Arkansas could support up to 50 large-scale bioenergy production and processing facilities. An economic and technical feasibility study of the proposed biorefinery is being prepared. “This project could provide a wonderful boost to the southeast Arkansas economy as well as give America another much needed renewable source of energy,” points out Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

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