May 24, 2006 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle May 2006, Vol. 47, No. 5, p. 14

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Commercial and office recycling programs aren’t happening the way they should be,” says David Biddle, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council (GPCRC), which conducted a study in southeastern Pennsylvania on commercial solid waste. It estimates that 58 percent of trash generated in the region (3.9 million tons) comes from businesses and institutions. Approximately 76 percent of the bottles and cans, 75 percent of the paper, and 90 percent of the organics that could have been recycled or composted were either landfilled or incinerated. Notes Biddle: “Area businesses are throwing away, on average, nearly $70 million a year in savings they could realize through recycling.” GPCRC is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting commercial and institutional recycling. E-mail
Merced County, California
Operations at the Merced County Solid Waste Enterprise were created in 1972 through a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) between the County of Merced and the cities of Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos and Merced (Member Agencies). The purpose of the JPA was to establish two regional landfills to address solid waste management requirements throughout Merced County. In the early 1990s the role of the Solid Waste Enterprise was expanded to include diversion and recycling activities mandated by the California Integrated Waste Management Act. Jerry Lawrie, the County’s Integrated Waste Program Manager, provides this data:
The regional system currently serves a population of 244,000 and consists of two landfills. Disposal sites are financed through tipping fees charged to franchised and municipal collectors, and other facility users. Operations at both facilities consist of solid waste disposal, composting of yard waste and various processing/recycling activities for metal, appli- ances, tires, wood and inert materials.
Resource recovery operations at both landfills began in the late 1980s when tipping fees were lowered for clean loads of wood waste and brush which were processed into approximately 2,000 tons of hog fuel annually. In 2005, these facilities: Composted 26,200 tons of green waste; Processed 12,200 tons of wood waste into hog fuel, wood chips and mulch; Crushed 8,200 tons of concrete and asphalt into road base for construction of haul roads within the landfills; Removed hazardous materials and sold 1,330 tons of appliances as scrap metal; Transported 303 tons of waste tires to a tire recycling facility; and Transferred 5,060 tons of commingled recyclables to a processing facility.
Minneapolis, Minnesota
From the Minnesota Sustainable Communities Network comes this report that wetlands – home to most of North America’s ducks and other waterfowl – could be lost to global warming in 50 years based on a study in BioScience. Carter Johnson, an ecology professor at South Dakota State University who specializes in climate change effects, found that the number of ducks could plummet by 50 percent as early as 2050 if global warming dries up their prairie pothole nesting grounds in the Dakotas, western Minnesota and Iowa, northeastern Montana and three Canadian provinces.
Richland, Washington
According to engineers with Burns & McDonnell based in Kansas City, an innovative biogas utilization system is saving a Penford Food processing plant in Richland, Washington thousands of dollars in utility costs. Biogas from the plant’s wastewater pretreatment facility is used to power a dual-fuel boiler that produces steam for wastewater heating. The Penford system has an additional control feature of allowing gas to be burned in the boiler at widely variable rates, eliminating the need for expensive biogas storage and compression systems. The system leads to an approximately three-year payback from reduced capital and O&M costs. “Eliminating the need for biogas storage and compression, combined with the automatic dual fuel capability opens the door for many small and mid-sized ‘green energy projects’ that did not previously exhibit favorable economics,” observes Chris Snider – lead engineer with Burns & McDonnell – who is preparing a project case study for a coming issue of BioCycle.
Ames, Iowa
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) commissioned Iowa State University to evaluate the practical feasibility, performance, environmental impacts and biosecurity of using composting for emergency disposal of cattle (or large quantities of smaller species) if a livestock or poultry disease outbreak (or agro-terrorism) occurs in Iowa. During the three-year study, explains Tom Glanville of Iowa State’s Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Department, approximately 54 tons of cattle carcasses were composted in 27 full-scale test units, each containing two tons of cattle carcasses. Several coinvestigators played key roles including Dr. Tom Richard of Pennsylvania State University, Drs. Jay Harmon and H.K. Ahn of Iowa State, and Dr. Don Reynolds of Iowa State’s Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine Department.
Since composting operations can be adversely affected by season weather conditions, the study included six seasonal field trials – each lasting approximately 12 months – that were begun during challenging conditions: spring – cool/wet; summer – hot/dry; and winter – cold/dry. Three emergency carcass cover feedstocks – corn silage, ground cornstalks and straw/manure – were also extensively tested in the lab and mathematically modeled to predict performance potential.
Field monitoring included continuous logging of internal operating temperatures to assess composting performance and ability to meet pathogen reduction criteria; internal oxygen concentrations to evaluate oxygen transport to carcass decay zone, and composting gases out of the pile; estimated time needed for completion of soft-tissue decomposition; soil testing – before and after composting – to assess pollution impacts on soil and shallow groundwater; and collection of odor samples from outer surface of composting test units.
An article based on the Iowa Mortality Composting Project will appear in a coming issue of BioCycle.
Ocean County, New Jersey
Earlier this year, Ocean County’s Solid Waste staff entered into an agreement with Sky View Enterprises of Reading, Pennsylvania to market 8,000 tons each of its compost and woodchips for one year. The Pennsylvania company will pay the county $4/ton for both materials.
The County produces about 18,000 tons each of these materials annually and has been looking for a firm to purchase the surplus and market the materials. Compost going to the Pennsylvania soil blender will be produced at the County’s Northern Recycling Center in Lakewood. Chips will come from varied sites including Brick, Dover, Lacey and Manchester Townships and Recycling Centers. The municipalities will receive half of the $4/ton since they share responsibilities.
As of last September, the County renewed its Leaf and Vegetative Waste Interlocal Service Agreements with serval municipalities that assist with composting. “The County provides the equipment and manpower to compost the material. The municipality controls the site and inspects the material,” explains Freeholder John Bartlett, Jr.
Raleigh, North Carolina
A two-day vermicomposting workship will be held June 1 and 2, 2006 at North Carolina State in Raleigh, featuring Ohio State University researchers. Attendees will learn about techniques used in places like Australia, Canada, the Philippines and the United States. Topics to be covered are: Technologies and uses for vermicompost; marketing plans; Raising worms, and testing solid and feedstocks. On June 1, there will also be a tour of NCSU’s Compost Training Facility which features a 40-foot by 30-foot vermicomposting structure and a flow-through reactor. To find out more about registration for workshop, go to Brian Rosa and Rhonda Sherman are marking arrangements.
Albany, New York
After two years of trying to obtain records on smog-causing compounds in household products like paints and varnishes, New York State has sued the U.S. EPA, citing the agency for violating the Freedom on Information Act. State officials explain that they need the records to prepare a plan to comply with requirements of the Clean Air Act.
According to a newspaper report, New York and California – as well as some East Coast states – have stricter regulations on volatile organic compounds because of summertime smog problems. By refusing to make the records available, EPA seems to be favoring paint manufacturers whom have been using the courts to prevent state attempts to regulate their products. The paint companies have also been helped by Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, who appealed to the EPA on behalf of Sherwin-Williams, based in Cleveland.
When filing the lawsuit, New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer said, “the state is entitled by law to this critical information so it can effectively implement its clean air programs to preserve public health. …The EPA has no grounds on which to deny such a request.” Observed William Becker, director of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators: “What EPA is doing is allowing the industry to buy their way out of federal regulations.”
Morris, Minnesota
For 2006, the Energy Information Administration forecasts that commercial natural gas prices in the Midwest will range from $11.56 to $13.31 per thousand cubic feet. At those prices, manufacturing gas from renewable biomass is cheaper than burning natural gas, says Cecil Massie, renewable energy systems expert at Sebesta Blomberg of Roseville, Minnesota.
Last year, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) and Sebasta Blomberg helped the city of Morris project costs of a municipal gas utility that would produce methane from corn stover gasification for use by the local ethanol plant and other industries.
Biomass gasification is best suited for relatively small power systems since biomass is bulky and widely dispersed. “It’s not economical to haul biomass more than about 20 miles,” explains Massie. Small gasification plants could be customized to use whatever biomass was available, and power could be consumed on-site. Where you really gain an advantage is when you have a manufacturer that produces its own biomass waste stream – especially if it costs money to dispose of the waste, points out a University of North Dakota professor. Biomass gasification has great potential “for every one of Minnesota’s ag processing plants,” sums up Massie. Such materials include vegetable processing residues, mill waste, soybean hulls and distiller’s grains. “In the next few years, biomass gasification technology will come into its own, and you’ll see lots of demonstration plants in place,” predicts Darren Schmidt, of the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that at least 500 million dry tons of biomass are now available annually in this country. American agriculture generates nearly half that amount, with the wood and forest industries adding another third. Major biomass resources include: Crop residues – 24 percent; Municipal solid waste – 21 percent; Animal manure – 18 percent; Mill waste – 16 percent; Forest, urban and industrial wood waste – 14 percent. The federal government has set a goal of developing a biomass collection industry capable of delivering one billion metric tons of biomass fuel a year by 2050. Near-term target is 150 million metric tons a year by 2010, at a price of $30 per ton or less.
Westgate, Iowa
Top Deck Holsteins Farm installed a 700 cow manure digester in 2001 to generate electricity, to reduce manure storage odor, to save on the dairy center’s heating costs, and save on bedding costs. The project had three partners – Alliant Energy, Iowa DNR and Top Deck Holsteins Farm. Last summer, Alliant Energy finished replacing the 150 hp engine and 30 kW microturbine with four new 30 kW Capstone microturbines.
In February, a manure separator was added as part of an NRCS-Conservation Innovation Grant – saving Top Deck over $2,500/month on bedding costs, according to Dan Meyer, Iowa State University field specialist who is in charge of the grant work. For more details, e-mail
Columbia, Missouri
Officials here are planning to use bioreactor technology at the landfill to break down waste faster, extend the landfill’s lifespan, and create gas for a potential LFG power project. A 2004 ballot initiative, approved by 78 percent of Columbia voters, required two percent of the city’s energy output to be from renewable sources by 2008. The project is expected to cost a total of $3 million, and the city is seeking a designer for the bioreactor facility. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-2007 with the facility operational by 2008.

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