December 19, 2007 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle December 2007, Vol. 48, No. 12, p. 16
Albuquerque, New Mexico: Natural Foods Grocer Recycles Food Residuals With Local Composter
On July 10, 2007, Whole Foods Market in Albuquerque, New Mexico began recycling its food waste and soiled cardboard with Soilutions, Inc. Soilutions, a green waste recycler and compost manufacturer in the south valley of Albuquerque, has been composting for over 10 years. It accepts material from residents, farmers, landscapers, as well as national and local governmental entities. An agreement was reached for Soilutions to accept preconsumer cullings from all Whole Foods departments. The City of Albuquerque Solid Waste Department will haul the compostables. Employees of Whole Foods Market are eager to make the changes in operations necessary for a successful transition from landfilling to composting. Previously all waste from the store went into a 28-cubic yard compactor. After a quick study, it was determined that almost 90 percent of the waste was recyclable; 70 percent of that was organic material suitable for composting. By designating the compactor as “organics only,” Whole Foods Market hopes to cut its monthly solid waste expense in half, while minimizing its carbon footprint. To “close the loop,” the market will sell Soilution’s bagged compost in the Albuquerque store.
New York, New York: Used Cooking Oil Collected In New York City For Biodiesel
The Doe Fund offers programs in New York City that help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals gain employment and housing through a system of innovative business ventures. The Doe Fund is perhaps most famous for the Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) program, in which its “men in blue” clean the city’s streets and sidewalks, learn to prepare food and conduct apartment repairs. Along the 160 miles of streets and sidewalks that RWA cleans are restaurants looking for clean and responsible ways to dispose of used cooking oil, which led to the creation of RWA-Resource Recovery, an oil collection service.
RWA-Resource Recovery, which started a year ago this December, currently services 350 collection locations. The program sends out eight employees to collect used cooking oil, which is then sold to various biodiesel refineries. Collection routes extend through all of the city’s boroughs, but are primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn, says Lee Alman, Director of Public Affairs at The Doe Fund. Collection trucks are outfitted with vacuum pumps that pull used oil directly out of the restaurants’ containers, and into a 1,000-gallon tank on the truck (a new truck has a 2,000-gallon capacity). Funded in part by HSBC bank, RWA-Resource Recovery is able to offer free collection, making a profit by selling the oil to the biodiesel refinery (ranging from 50 to 75 cents/gallon). They have not had problems with contaminants, and have in fact been complimented on the quality of the oil collected.
Three graduates of The Doe Fund’s RWA transitional work program were hired as staff for the Resource Recovery program. “They’re doing great,” says Alman. “At the core of Ready, Willing & Able is paid work, which has helped more than 3,000 individuals leave behind lives of homelessness, addiction and incarceration to become productive members of society.”
Southbridge, Massachusetts: Renewable Energy Grant For Anaerobic Digester Evaluation
New England Organics’ Southbridge facility, a division of Casella Waste Systems, has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s (MTC) Renewable Energy Trust (the Trust). It’s part of a renewable energy initiative to expand production. New England Organics (NEO) provides removal, transportation, recycling, processing and marketing of organic resources such as short paper fiber, wood wastes, biosolids and compost. NEO will use the grant to conduct a study to assess a proposed 1,000 kW anaerobic digestion facility in Southbridge.
“Creating energy from food waste, wastewater biosolids and grease trap wastes will give new life to resources that are often otherwise considered ‘dead-end,'” says Jay Kilbourn, project manager for NEO. “It represents economic opportunities ranging from local business development to national energy independence.”
MTC is the state’s development agency for renewable energy and the innovation economy, which is responsible for one-quarter of all jobs in the state. MTC is also the administrator of the Trust, which pioneers and promotes clean energy technologies. The Trust works toward this goal by providing financial assistance to individuals and businesses for solar panels and wind turbines at their homes and facilities, working with communities to incorporate green design into schools, and helping emerging clean energy businesses flourish in the Commonwealth. For more information on MTC and the Trust, go to
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: State Grants Provide $366,000 For Businesses To Develop Compost Markets
Governor Edward G. Rendell recently announced $366,000 in grants to foster the development of Pennsylvania composting enterprises. The objective is to reduce the amount of organic matter sent to landfills, which a press release from the governor’s office stated to be one-third of the current waste stream. The six recipients of funds from the Compost Infrastructure Development Grant Program include community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, college campus projects and one that services a restaurant.
Tait Farm Foods, Inc., a CSA located in Centre County, received $55,560 to compost an additional 200 tons/year of yard waste and food waste. Dickinson College, in Cumberland County, obtained $93,000 to expand compost operations on the campus farm to include feedstocks from dining halls, cafes and local businesses; finished compost will be used on the farm, which produces vegetables for cafeterias on campus. In Montgomery County, Two Particular Acres received $91,893 to compost 10,000 cy/year of food waste from local establishments. Keystone North Inc., in Tioga County, was given $87,289 to both design and construct vermicomposting operations at Mansfield University, to handle campus food waste; additional vermicomposting units will be sold as well. More detailed profiles of two grant recipients, Red Earth Farm and Quiet Creek Herb Farm, are below:
Red Earth Farm, a CSA in Schuylkill County that also grows vegetables for farmers markets, was awarded $20,533 to compost an additional 2,000 cy/year of food waste from nearby supermarkets. Although Red Earth has been composting for quite some time on a small scale, it linked with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a six-month pilot project to compost food waste from a nearby Redners supermarket. Organized in part by the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center in Harrisburg, Redners currently hires a waste hauler to deliver the material to the farm at no charge. It is taking a few hundred cubic yards of vegetable scraps, but would like to bring in bakery items, which would increase the total volume, and reduce the moisture of the material. The farm mixes vegetable scraps with organic oat straw, mushroom substrate and manure, although it doesn’t have an exact recipe yet, adapting to feedstocks readily available. The finished compost is used on Red Earth farm fields; the CSA has no plans to sell the product. Instead, this grant will allow the farm to mix its compost into a potting soil, for use in its nursery – Red Earth Farms produces over 100,000 transplants each year, and currently purchases potting soil.
Quiet Creek Herb Farm, a nonprofit in Jefferson County, received $17,662 to set up vermicomposting operations at the Farmers Inn Restaurant, located in rural northwestern Pennsylvania. It plans to compost a third of the restaurant’s waste stream by using 150 pounds of red wiggler worms, increasing awareness about the benefits of vermicomposting through demonstration. Farmers Inn Restaurant is open seasonally, from April through October. During that seven-month period, the restaurant generates an average of 18 cy of waste per week: 6 cy are recycled as cardboard, with the remaining 12 cy sent to the landfill. Of that 12 cy, half are organics, which Quiet Creek plans to compost, eliminating approximately 168 cy of biodegradable waste from entering the landfill during the seven month season. This will reduce the restaurant’s tipping fees and produce roughly 84 cy of humus-rich compost per year. The compost will be used on restaurant pastures and landscape gardens.
San Diego, California: Mandatory Recycling, C&D Ordinances Passed By City Council
Through a unanimous council vote on November 13, 2007, the City of San Diego became the largest jurisdiction in California to pass a mandatory recycling ordinance. The initiative will go into effect on January 1, 2008 for customers that already have city-serviced blue recycling bins, and February 11, 2008 for those utilizing private collection services and special events requiring a permit. The ordinance will be phased in over the next two years for commercial and multifamily facilities. The first phase – effective 90 days after the final passage of the ordinance on January 1, 2008 – includes multifamily complexes with 100 units or more, commercial facilities of 20,000 square feet or more and special events.
Smaller multifamily buildings and commercial square footages will be phased-in in 2009 and 2010. There are exemptions to the ordinance, e.g., if facilities lack adequate space, experience a lack of available markets or utilize alternative recycling efforts. As the primary focus of the ordinance is on education, the city Environmental Services Department will provide on-site technical assistance, downloadable templates for education materials and service provider lists.
Also passed in November was a Construction and Demolition (C&D) ordinance with a deposit-based approach, mandating that the majority of construction, demolition and remodeling projects in the city divert at least 50 percent of their discards, with a 75 percent phase-in starting in 2009. Applications and collection of diversion deposits for C&D will begin July1, 2008, and continue until the end of the calendar year. Participants must document that they have met a rate of 50 percent diversion before getting their deposit back. The diversion rate will increase to 75 percent for C&D generators beginning in 2009. Rather than implement the program immediately, the city has delayed start-up to allow for its Environmental Services Department to provide adequate education and outreach. A certified recycling facility available within 25 miles of downtown San Diego is required to trigger the ordinance and allow the second phase of 75 percent diversion to happen (that facility must be equipped to capture a minimum of 75 percent of C&D materials for recycling, but at least one of those facilities already exists, and will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BioCycle). Combined, the recycling and C&D ordinances are expected to increase the city’s diversion rate by 7 percent.
Gainesville, Florida: Ecoengineering For A Sustainable, Organics-Rich Society
Ann C. Wilkie of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, has written extensively about managing organics in the farm economy. In Resource, she writes: “Urban farming benefits from access to an abundant source of free fertilizer in the form of compost and anaerobic digestion residues from the green fraction of municipal solid waste.” She stresses how farming in the city environs cuts down on packaging by providing fresh nutritious food from local sources. “To reduce our ecological footprint,” she says, “our cities must develop innovative and carbon-neutral solutions for transport, renewable energy and waste recycling systems. We must utilize digesters to convert organic wastes into biogas and produce biofertilizer. Dual water supply systems can be developed to conserve scarce water resources – one for drinking water and another gray water system to supply recycled rainwater for toilets and garden irrigation. The time is ripe to rethink energy and consumption strategies and embrace ecological sustainability. By supporting local agriculture, we can taste the food less traveled.”
A major challenge of the future will be to promote and increase productivity of small-scale agricultural enterprises. Industrial farming has compromised the health and security of our food supply. Farming and biological engineers must engage with planners to build stronger, sustainable and more self-reliant local and regional food systems, balancing the need for efficiency with goals of economic opportunity, public health, ecological sustainability, social and cultural diversity. “We must ensure that the emerging renewable energy economy benefits family farms and rural communities,’ she concludes.

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