August 22, 2007 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle August 2007, Vol. 48, No. 8, p. 19

Ontario, Canada
The Ontario Biogas Systems Financial Assistance Program is a $9 million investment that will help farmers and rural businesses develop systems that produce clean energy from farm wastes. “Developing renewable energy in the agri-food and rural sectors is an important part of the government’s climate change initiative,” says Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The program has two phases – Phase 1 funding will cover up to 70 percent of the eligible costs for a feasibility study to a maximum of $35,000; Phase 2 funding will cover up to 40 percent of eligible implementation costs. Maximum total feasibility and construction cost funding is $400,000 for each biogas system. The province is also streamlining the process that farmers follow to build biodigesters.
“This is good news for the environment, for farmers and for all Ontarians,” explains Laurel Broten, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment. “Biodigesters encourage renewable energy production and reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.” A biogas system that uses manure from 250 cows could result in 400 fewer tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 550 additional megawatt-hours of power production every year.
Carver County, Minnesota
Food waste and nonrecyclable paper represent about 30 percent of the residential waste stream in Carver County. Helped by a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the county started a demonstration project whereby source separated organics are collected with yard trimmings and taken to a yard trimmings composting site for processing.
Working with Waste Management and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, approximately 520 households in Chanhassen, Chaska, Waconia and Watertown are placing their bagged source separated organics in their yard waste cart where it is collected weekly and taken to the Arboretum’s compost site. The bags used in the program are completely biodegradable and compost along with collected materials.
After inspection of loads to verify nonacceptable items are removed, material is shredded and placed in static piles to actively compost. Moisture is added as necessary and temperature readings are taken daily to ensure the composting process is working properly.
The overall objective is to demonstrate that residential organics can be effectively managed at a yard trimmings composting site in an environmentally safe manner. Anticipated results will provide the MPCA with data they need to make the necessary regulatory changes allowing other communities around the state to implement similar projects. This approach offers several potential benefits including: Reducing collection costs for residential organics collection programs.
For more information, e-mail Marcus Zbinden, Carver County Environmental Services at
Columbus, Ohio
Although paper and yard trimmings recovery has grown quickly in the last three decades, food residuals recycling is less than three percent in Ohio. That’s a major reason – as will be reported in next month’s BioCycle – why big changes will be taking place in the immediate future of organics recovery. The report describes how the Paygro division of Garick Corporation is now processing about 75,000 cubic yards of biowaste each year at its Ohio feedlot. And why Barnes Nursery, Gorman Heritage Farm, Price Farms Organics and others are taking big steps to increase food waste composting in the state. “In the past three years, Ohio has received interest from schools, universities, small restaurants, festival planners and others that generate food scraps,” reports Joe Goicochea of Ohio EPA. The agency launched a website – – that is dedicated to food scraps management. There is guidance (links) on the site for food donation, regulations for food scrap composting and success stories and case studies. Look for the article on the Ohio initiatives, including facility profiles, in the September issue of BioCycle.
San Luis Obispo County, California
The San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) won a Trash Cutter Award in 2000 from the California Integrated Waste Management Board for the “Best Rural Waste Reduction Program.” IWMA is an interagency task force that concentrates on regional resource management issues. Both the City of San Luis Obispo and county have taken a sustainable approach towards increased source reduction and recycling, and have one of the highest diversion rates in California to prove it. But as programs were initially developed and matured, a small thorn remained on an otherwise budding rose.
Area residents who self-haul recyclable materials used to have the option of landfilling their load or bringing it to the recycling area, without any difference in cost. Though most have chosen to recycle, a small number of people just couldn’t be bothered, and many of them resented being asked to do so, often expressing their sentiments in less than soft-hearted terms at the gate. So in the spring of 2003, IWMA chose to provide a little motivation for nonrecyclers. If their material was recyclable, and they delivered it to the resource recovery area, they would only be required to pay the standard $12 tipping fee for small loads (under 500 lbs.) But if they chose the landfill instead, a $20 “Facility Use Fee” (affectionately known by some supporters of recycling as the “FU fee”) would be tacked on as well.
“It’s an economic incentive to eliminate waste and encourage recycling,” says Bill Worrell, Manager of IWMA. “It’s not a lot of people,” he continues, but in 2003 the County’s recycling rate was at 50 percent, down a point from the 51 percent they had the year before, and about 15,000 people bring in self-haul loads a month. Before the fee, 15-20 residents with recyclable discards chose to dump them, rather than recycle. Today, only about four people a month bypass the San Luis Obispo Resource Recovery Park and pay $20 to dump in the Cold Canyon Landfill. “Essentially everyone’s using the resource recovery park now,” says Worrell. And the city’s diversion rate is at 60 percent.
San Diego County, California
After nearly five years of planning and 18 workshops, San Diego County passed a C&D ordinance which requires builders to divert 90 percent of inerts and 50 percent of other discards from construction projects. The county estimates C&D residuals account for 25 percent of landfilled materials in the region, or 150,000 tons disposed from unincorporated areas and more than one million tons countywide on an annual basis.
The ordinance applies to construction, demolition or renovation projects 40,000 sq. ft. or greater in the unincorporated county. Applicants must submit a “Construction and Demolition Debris Management Plan” and a fully refundable “Performance Guarantee” of $0.20 per square foot prior to receiving a building permit for their project. Exemptions for infeasibility of compliance with the ordinance, such as a building site located an excessive distance from a C&D recycling facility, may be granted to certain applicants. If infeasibility is determined, the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Section of the Department of Public Works will determine the percentage of C&D debris the applicant will be required to recycle.
The debris management plan was designed to project the types and volumes of materials generated so appropriate recycling facilities and services can be identified prior to beginning construction. In addition to submitting the preplanning documents and a refundable deposit, applicants must also send in quarterly debris management records. The reports must include an itemization of the debris from the project and documentation of how the material was handled. A final debris management plan is required within 180 days of the issuance of the certificate of occupancy to calculate the total diversion rate for the project. “We think this ordinance will be an effective tool for achieving greater landfill diversion in the region,” says San Diego County Recycling Specialist Stephanie Ewalt. “We can extend the life of the landfill by one day for each 3,800 tons of material diverted.”
Beltsville, Maryland
The Mid-Atlantic Composting Association is holding its 2007 conference, September 19-21, 2007, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service’s campus in Beltsville, Maryland. The theme of the 2007 Mid-Atlantic Composting and Compost Use Conference is generation and use of locally-produced, annually renewable, biobased performance-oriented compost products for storm water and erosion control for sustainable, low impact development. Day One of the conference covers the ABCs of compost marketing, facility financing, and why composting operations succeed or fail. Day Two zooms in on compost use for storm water management and erosion and sediment control. Topics include: Specifications for roadside use of compost; Bioretention and rain gardens; Functional landscapes – turf, soils, mulches; Slope stabilization – compost blankets and retrofit storm water blankets; and Rip-rap grouting, green gabions, streambank stabilization and living walls. On-site demonstrations take place in the afternoon. The day ends with a facilitated panel discussion where storm water management plan writers, field inspectors and others in the storm water profession react to proposed low impact development and storm water control methods that incorporate compost BMPs.
Participants can receive CEU credits for attending the conference. For registration fees and details, contact John Bouwkamp, University of Maryland, College Park,; (301) 405-4334; or visit
Portage, Wisconsin
After 32 years of working with the agriculture community, Bill Johnson is taking over the newly-created position of Manager-Biofuels development at Alliant Energy. Johnson will be responsible for developing a steady biomass supply, working with area farmers and foresters to supply the program. Research continues to determine what type of biomass is best suited for use in each baseload site. “I look forward to working together with agriculture groups from around the Midwest to turn biomass products into much needed energy,” says Johnson. For more details, visit
Ithaca, New York
The Cornell Waste Management Institute is sponsoring workshops demonstrating how to compost road killed animals across New York State this summer and fall. Targeted audiences of state and local highway workers, health and environmental staff will benefit from the methods described. Workshops are being held at Voorheesville, Riverhead, Clarence and Highland, New York. Funding is from the New York State Department of Transportation and Cornell Cooperative Extension. More details are available from: cwmi.css.cornell.edue/road killworkshops.htm.
St. Paul, Minnesota
A University of Minnesota study funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that concentrations in plant tissue increased as amount of antibiotics in manure increased. Plants were grown on soil modified with liquid hog manure containing Sulfamethazine, which has been used to treat bacterial diseases in human and veterinary medicine. Antibiotic concentrations were found in plant leaves, and drugs also diffused into potato tubers which suggest that root crops that come in direct contact with soil may be particularly vulnerable.
The lead scientist in the study notes that antibiotics consumed by plants may be of particular concern to the organic farming industry. According to the USDA, producers must manage animal materials in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops by residues of prohibited substances, which includes antibiotics.
New York, New York
At an ecofestival on the East River in Manhattan this summer, an aqua-blue sign spelled out: “Sign up for clean energy and drink free beer.” Those who signed up for electricity from Community Energy, which owns three wind farms in New York and Pennsylvania, received tickets for pints of free beer made by Brooklyn Lager. “It’s a fun, easy incentive to switch to clean energy,” Chris Neidl of Solar One told a New York Times reporter. “And it chips away at the holier-than-thou reputation of the environmental movement.” All power for the festival came from solar panels and a biodiesel generator. And the beer was served in compostable cups!
Jefferson City, Missouri
The perpetual loan program – operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources – provides subsidized, low-interest loans to communities and public water and sewer districts statewide. Loans are used to construct water and wastewater treatment facilities. Federal funds through U.S. EPA provide 80 percent of the loan pool with a 20 percent state match. To date, the program has financed $1.8 billion of construction. The latest grant of $57.4 million went to 12 Missouri communities.
In another action, Missouri joined with 31 states, one tribe and several provinces as a founding member of The Climate Registry to track and manage emissions of greenhouse gases. The climate registry will provide states and tribes with third-party verified, highly accurate emissions information. It will support both voluntary and mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting programs. Says DNR Director Doyle Childers: “It makes sense for states to work together to jointly develop a platform for greenhouse gas reporting. By pooling our efforts, we will save money and end up with a more useful program.”
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food on individual farms in developing countries as low-intensive methods on the same land, according to new findings at the University of Michigan. Researchers refute claims that organic agriculture cannot produce enough food to feed global populations. According to Michigan researchers, yields were almost equal in developed countries on organic and conventional farms. In developing countries, food production could double or triple using organic methods, explains Ivette Perfecto, professor of the University School of Natural Resources and Environment, and one of the study’s principal investigators. “My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can’t produce enough food through organic agriculture,” says Perfecto. In addition, the authors found that yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers – without putting more farmland into production.

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