September 20, 2006 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle September 2006, Vol. 47, No. 9, p. 18

Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Sixth Annual BioCycle Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling in Minneapolis, October 30 – Nov. 1, 2006 (see pages 15-17) will discuss processes that convert biomass into bioenergy and bioproducts. Many of these studies are underway at the University of Minnesota. As described by Todd Reubold of the University’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), the processes when commercialized will: Develop technologies for utilizing underused biomass; Provide a scientific assessment of energy production; Increase use of agricultural and forest residues; and provide opportunities for biomass producers. IREE has funded more than 100 renewable energy-related projects.
Specific programs have included enzymatic degradation for generating cellulosic ethanol as substitutes for coal and gasoline; Improving hybrid poplars for use as an alternate energy source; Devising new methods for evaluating microbial power sources; Creating biosynthetic polymers for use in synthetic metals.
Springfield, Illinois
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is soliciting applications from schools to fund reuse programs and achieve zero waste status. Grants may be used to purchase collection and composting containers, shredders, etc. With a November 1, 2006 deadline, a district must submit only one application for the total number of schools participating in the project with a maximum grant request of $10,000 per school.
To be eligible, for Level II financing, the participating school must implement five source reduction activities, collect white paper and recycled two additional items, and/or compost all school generated organics, and conduct audits. Additional funding will be decided by types and volume of items being reduced, recycled or composted. To receive an application, visit:; or or phone (217) 524-1838. Or write DCEO, Bureau of Energy and Recycling, 620 East Adams St., Springfield, Illinois 62701-1615.
Sacramento, California
In late August, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) officially announced that the state now meets a legislatively imposed mandate of 52 percent of its 76 million tons of MSW annual generation. It reverses the time when the 1989 Act was passed and residents and workplaces sent 90 percent of garbage to landfills. “Achieving this goal has required a long-term commitment, and I deeply appreciate what has been accomplished,” said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown. The 1989 Act required cities and counties to cut disposal rates in half.
San Diego has diverted 52 percent of its waste since 2004, where recycling services include residential curbside recycling, green waste pickup and businesses waste assessment. The Miramar Landfill Greenery makes compost, mulch and wood chips from 100,000 tons of green waste and food residuals. “With the Miramar Landfill rapidly reaching capacity, we need to work even harder,” adds Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Nearly 500 cities, counties and regional waste management agencies contribute to a multimillion dollar infrastructure that comprises 5,300 businesses employing more than 85,000 workers generating $4 billion in salaries. Each year, recycling and composting save enough energy to power 1.4 million homes, reducing air pollutants by 165,142 tons.
Madison, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Recycling Means Business, a new publication of the Department of Natural Resources, profiled the Bruce Company of Middleton showing how it takes yard trimmings from nine southcentral communities “turning them into new lawns that grow faster and require fewer chemical treatments than typical turf.”
Since 2003, the three composting sites operated by Bruce receive 15,000 to 20,000 cu yds each – paid for by the municipalities. It takes from four to eight months to produce compost, which is used in the firm’s landscaping business with some sold to local contractors. Bruce Company mixes the compost with grass seed, fertilizer and applies it to a lawn site with a blower truck. James Altwies, the company’s environmental coordinator, estimates that approximately 1,000 lawns have been created during the program’s first two years.
Besides yard waste, the company accepts wood scrap from construction projects at no cost, (about 1,000 cu yds of wood per week. With the three sites running close to capacity, Bruce plans to expand the program in the future.
Meanwhile, at the Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee, the brewery is working with Cargill to find beneficial reuses for by-products such as spent brewer’s grain and spent brewer’s yeast which the company would like to recycle along with aged beer to produce energy-generating biogas. And in nearby Neenah, the Minergy Corp. is turning sludge into an energy feedstock. At its 50,000 sq ft Fox Valley plant, the firm converts paper mill sludge from eight mills into glass aggregate. After drying the sludge, Minergy uses a process called vitrification – also producing steam to generate power.
Eugene, Oregon
Just off Interstate 5 in Eugene, Oregon, SeQuential Biofuels is offering a variety of biofuel-blended motor fuels for use in gasoline and diesel vehicles. Mixtures include 10 percent ethanol with 90 percent gasoline; 85 percent ethanol with 15 percent gasoline for E85 Flex Fuel vehicles; 20 percent biodiesel with 80 percent diesel. “We have watched the offering of mainstream organic products and recycled products expand significantly over the last five years,” says Ian Hill, SeQuential’s cofounder. “Today our customers are demanding domestically-produced, renewable motor fuel options as well.” Renewable energy and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site.
Dominant features are 244 solar panels that cover fueling islands, and the 4,800 plants installed on the roof of the store which help to control rainwater runoff on the site. Other ecofriendly elements include stormwater retention “bioswales” where plants will filter pollutants from rainwater. The fuel station also includes a convenience store that carries natural foods, many of which are produced by local companies. Regional farmers stock a seasonal fresh produce stand at the station. SeQuential also offers commercial biofuel blends at more than 25 pumps throughout the state. The company has formed a joint venture with Pacific Biodiesel of Hawaii to construct Oregon’s first commercial biodiesel production facility, producing one million gallons of certified biodiesel from used cooking oil collected from Pacific Northwest restaurants and food processors.
Central District, Vermont
The USDA is providing $100,000 for three rural Vermont solid waste districts to collaboratively collect commercial food residuals. The nonprofit Highfields Institute received a grant to collect and compost food residuals within the Central Vermont District, the Northeast Kingdom and the town of Greensboro. Residuals will be brought to the Highfields’ compost site. The area generates approximately 300 to 500 tons of commercial food residually per year; the program will target diversion of 150 to 300 tons.
By combining hauling routes in the three districts, the Inter-Waste District Food Waste Recycling Program hopes to achieve sufficient economies of scale to sustain an economically-viable food residuals collection program. GIS mapping will be used to inventory the food waste generators in each of the districts and identify the distances and travel times between generators, in order to develop the most energy-efficient collection route.
As an incentive to food residual generators, the program will subsidize the collection and tipping fees for the first three months of participation and provide training to the generators’ employees. The Alliance for Climate Action will assist with development of a greenhouse gas emissions tracking and modeling program to provide participating generators with quantitative feedback on how collecting and composting food residuals reduces emissions. The project will run from October 1, 2006 through September 31, 2007.
Berkeley, California
Reported in the Summer 2006 issue of Terrain (published by the Ecology Center), in mid-June California signed an agreement with Sweden to advance use of renewable fuels, with a particular emphasis on biogas. Sweden’s energy goals are called “ambitious”, as the country plans to end its dependency on fossil fuels by 2020. California hopes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. State legislators saw mutual opportunity: California can benefit from Sweden’s biogas expertise while Sweden can benefit from the sale of products and research to California markets. “Thousands of cars and buses in Sweden are currently powered by biogas, while California has millions of tons of biomass that could be converted if we only had the know-how,” Terrain observes.
Toms River, New Jersey
Startech Environmental Corporation of Wilton, Connecticut and Future Fuels, Inc. (FFI) have formed an agreement to produce ethanol fuel from tires, reports Scrap Tire News. Future Fuels is implementing its proprietary technology to convert low-end carbonaceous waste such as used tires, wood wastes, raw sewage, discarded corn stalks, residential and industrial waste into ethanol. Scheduled to go on-line in late 2007, Startech has received a letter of intent from FFI for purchase of a 100 tpd Plasma Converter System. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority said that the resolution for preliminary approval of $84 million tax-exempt bond financing for FFI has been fully executed and adopted by New Jersey. The bond will be used for design, construction and start-up of the Toms River, New Jersey facility.
Albany, New York
Based on an analysis of the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) about 8 billion beer and soda containers were recycled last year through New York’s bottle bill and recycling programs (80 percent). In contrast, only about 68 million water bottles and other nondeposit containers were recycled (22 percent). Supporters of the state bottle bill are calling on the Legislature to update the law to include bottled water, iced tea and other noncarbonated beverages. “Another summer has come and gone, and billions more bottles and cans have ended up on our beaches or garbage cans,” says Laura Haight of the NY Public Interest Research Group. According to CRI, most noncarbonated beverages sold in New York are packaged in plastic bottles. The State Assembly has passed the Bigger Better Bottle Bill for two years in a row, but the State Senate leadership has refused to bring the bill up for a vote. For details, visit:
Tallahassee, Florida
As reported in Environmental Protection, water utility personnel in Tallahassee explored various technologies last year to meet Class A standards for their biosolids including composting, heat drying, thermophilic aerobic digestion, etc. Staff selected an indirect heat drying technology which applies indirect heat to biosolids to reduce moisture content. The heat drying eliminates pathogens, reduces volume, and produces a greater than 90-percent dry product that meets 503 regulations. The process also creates Class A biosolids useful as an organic fertilizer. The utility chose a biosolids dryer from USFilter Davco Products called Dragon Dryer. It’s designed to dry about 90 percent of daily sludge production – reducing the plant’s outgoing sludge volume ratio by 75 percent. “We have a solution that doesn’t depend on land application sites, or weather, and we are literally able to sell our Class A biosolids,” says general manager Jim Oskowis.
Paso Robles, California
In the latest issue of Central Coast Vineyard Team’s (CCVT) Update, Executive Director Kris O’Connor describes how the Certification Standards for sustainably grown grapes are being finalized. “We are testing standards with some of our growers, getting external peer review, and identifying potential markets,” she writes. “It has been very satisfying to watch this take on new energy and momentum arid move quickly towards a real program that will benefit our growers and wineries.” The group is also planning its first Earth Day Food & Wine Festival scheduled for April 2007. CCVT is submitting proposals to its Regional Water Quality Control Board to research the effectiveness of best management practices, assess water quality, implement demonstration sites, and provide technical assistance to growers. CCVT can be visited at: or phoned at: (805) 369-2288. In its mission statement, CCVT announces that it identifies and promotes the most environmentally safe, viticulturally and economically sustainable farming methods. The team is a model for wine grape growers and develops the public trust of stewardship for natural resources.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Mayor Rocky Anderson’s front yard is landscaped with ornamental grasses and purple sage shrubs and covered by red bark. But it is illegal. The legal front yards are covered with green grass that requires frequent watering. “Our zoning ordinance is ridiculous,” Anderson told a reporter for The New York Times, “It needs to be changed to reflect that we’re in a desert, and native plants reflect our identity.”
The mayor is working on an amendment that would require vegetation on only one-third of a front lawn (possibly drought-resistant vegetation, and the rest covered with mulch or gravel.) In some Southwest cities, low-water landscapes called veriscapes, are the norm. Adds the mayor: “Having the native plants is reflective of the identity of our place. We’re in a desert and maintaining our identity can be extremely beautiful.” Plus, the plants are so much more affordable – after planting, his water bill dropped 65 percent.

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