February 25, 2008 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle February 2008, Vol. 49, No. 2, p. 17

Gainesville, Florida
The University of Florida (UF) has been successfully operating its waste-water treatment plant at the reclamation facility for 14 years, supplying recycled water all over the campus. Sludge is kept in a holding tank before being sent to the Gainesville Regional Utilities, reports the Feb. 2008 issue of Onsite Water Treatment. Since the water is basically all recycled, there’s little waste on campus. Also, Florida has been in a prolonged drought, so recycled water is especially helpful at night because when watering during daytime, the sun will evaporate substantial portions. Another use for recycled wastewater is creating steam for the UF campus and the hospital complex. Reclaimed water is turned into demineralized water by use of multimedia filters, chlorination and addition of acid to lower pH.
Many sectors at the campus use the recycled water. When the water-reuse tank level drops to 10 feet, the irrigation lines feeding out to the campus are shut down to meet the needs of a Florida Power cogeneration plant located on campus. “At times of low flow, we have to shut off our water to the irrigation uses as well as to the cogen plant because we don’t have the water to give them,” says James Williams, senior plant operator.
Stirling Council, Scotland
In February 2007, Stirling Council Waste Services in Scotland was the first unitary authority in the United Kingdom to achieve PAS100 Certification for compost produced from both green waste and cardboard. PAS100 specifies requirements for the composting process, selection of input materials, minimum quality of composted material, storage labeling and traceability of composted products. It also specifies use of a quality management system (QMS) for the production of compost, and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) planning.
To meet changing European legislation, Stirling Council began curbside collection of garden waste and cardboard for composting, with the aim of achieving accreditation under PAS100. The Council had experience from early stages of the project, where noncertified compost was used to help restore the Council’s former landfill site.
Waste material is delivered via fortnightly collections and is inspected and processed upon receipt in order to remove contaminants such as plastic and metals. It is then shredded and formed into windrows for approximately eight weeks of intensive composting. Composted material is then screened to 10 mm for bagging and redistribution to citizens of the Stirling Council Area free of charge, closing the recycling loop and encouraging householders to better separate wastes.
Outcomes of the initiative include recycling roughly 14,000 metric tons of Biodegradable Municipal Waste per year (in line with EU targets). The Council is currently recycling in excess of 43 percent of its MSW. Also, the implementation of a fortnightly collection system was successful. After PAS100 certification, a branding initiative resulted in the birth of “Castle Compost.” Future market development is currently being explored to ensure the sustainability of the overall program in environmental, social and economic terms. For more information, visit:
Los Angeles, California
The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation is pushing for zero waste with its newly announced Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan, or SWIRP. Driven by stakeholders, its goals include eliminating the use of urban landfills, developing long-term alternatives for waste disposal, increasing recycling and resource recovery and conversion of the sanitation fleet to run on liquid natural gas. The plan is broken into three phases, and will ultimately result in a 20-year master plan for the city’s solid waste programs. Phase One will determine the guiding principles and vision through workshops and outreach. Phase Two will evaluate those principles and develop a Facilities Plan, Environmental Impact Report and a Financial Plan. Phase Three will implement the SWIRP, through a series of actions.
Lansing, Michigan
The Woodcreek Math, Science and Engineering Magnet school in Lansing, Michigan has been using worms to compost food waste for several years, but the winters have proved too harsh for the helpful wrigglers. In the winter of 2005, some shocked fifth graders discovered their worms frozen to death. As reported in the Lansing State Journal: “It caused a trauma because all the students thought of the worms as their pets,” said Diane Graham, an engineering and science specialist at the school.
The idea for a solar-heated worm bin originally came from Woodcreek students during a science lesson on renewable energy. The design came from four seniors at Michigan State University, and Urban Options, a nonprofit. Urban Options, which provides energy and environmental informational services, was awarded $6,000 through a Community Energy Project grant from the state to develop the solar-heated worm bin. The MSU students placed solar panels on the roof of Woodcreek school to collect energy to heat air, which is then sent through insulated ductwork using a photovoltaic powered fan, which enters the worm bin. The worms have already composted nearly 400 lbs of lunch waste this year, for use in the school gardens and for sale as a fundraiser.
Urban Options has provided composting information and services since its founding in 1978. “For the past 11 years, we have been subcontracted by the Solid Waste Reduction Services Division of Lansing to provide compost education (specifically worm composting) to elementary school children in the Lansing School District,” explains Jim Meyerle, Education Manager at Urban Options. The organization also hosts an edible forest garden site (that demonstrates efficient use of energy and resources) and community events and workshops (including step-by-step worm bin setups).
Urban Options and the City of Lansing’s Waste Reduction Services were awarded the 2007 Outstanding Composting Award from the Michigan Recycling Coalition. For more information, visit:, or call (517) 337-0422, ext 2.
Salem, Oregon
Oregon’s recycling rate for rigid plastic containers rose to 27.8 percent in 2006, from 25.3 percent in 2005. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) expects the level of recycling for rigid plastic containers will remain above 25 percent for 2008. Higher prices paid for recycled plastics is one reason stated for this increased recycling rate, as it has led to more collection, especially of items such as plastics buckets, flower pots and trays. Another reason is expansion of curbside programs to use larger collection containers (and permitting a wider range of items placed in them). For instance, the Oregon DEQ expects the city of Portland to introduce larger collection carts on wheels this year, and allow oversized items such as buckets and flower pots. Also, the Oregon Bottle Bill was amended in 2007 to add water bottles, effective January 1, 2009. This places a five-cent deposit on nonrefillable water bottles, and is predicted to substantially increase water bottle recycling. The deposit is already in place for other beverage containers in Oregon, including carbonated soft drinks and beer.
Georgetown, South Carolina
Georgetown County uses forced-aerated windrows to compost treated sewage sludge and yard trimmings, with a ratio of 3:1. Although the county does not currently offer curbside pickup, yard waste is collected at 14 recycling centers, and then it’s ground at the landfill. The facility produces approximately 12,000 tons of compost per year, which is sold for $25/ton or at a bulk rate of $10/ton. However, the county is planning to change this, as it recently put out a notice looking for a company to market and then sell GeorgetownGreen compost. “We believe we are generating a quality product that can be used for things like erosion control and other large projects,” explains Dave Rodgers, Senior Buyer for Georgetown County’s compost operations. “Under a contractual agreement, we are prepared to share with our contractor the proceeds of those sales.” More information can be found at:
San Francisco, California
Early in November, 2007, the Cosco Busan container ship, headed for South Korea, collided with a stanchion under the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The ship spilled 58,000 gallons of toxic bunker fuel, but the figure was misreported for 12 hours as being closer to 150 gallons, causing a dramatically delayed response. Only an estimated 19,000 gallons were recovered, with the lost oil causing significant damage to coastal wildlife and water quality. Among the cleanup efforts were hundreds of surfers, who took collection into their own hands after becoming frustrated by the delayed response. One grassroots method used were mats made of human hair, a product called OttiMat™ developed after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill by hair stylist Phil McCroy. McCroy currently markets the product in the plant industry, as both a natural fertilizer and a weed deterrent (more info at Human hair is naturally adsorbant, meaning oil actually clings to the hair.
Matter of Trust (www.MatterOf, a nonprofit in San Francisco, was permitted to use the patented product for testing purposes. Lisa Gautier, founder of Matter of Trust, and Cynthia Knowles from San Francisco Department of the Environment, first offered the mats of hair to Unified Command, who was in charge of cleanup, but they were not interested. Gautier and Knowles then offered the mats to surfers, noting that human hair is extremely durable, allowing the mats to be rung out up to 100 times.
This grassroots cleanup effort with hair mats began with 80 surfers and quickly rose to 500 volunteers two days later. Paul Stamets, founder of, was in San Francisco that same weekend for the Green Festival, and donated mushrooms to Matter of Trust, because mushrooms thrive on human hair, and are able to naturally break down the hydrocarbons in oil. Gautier explains how the roots of the mushrooms spread quickly through the woven hair mats, called mycelium running. Mushrooms thrive on the oil mats because there are air pockets that allow air and space to grow. Several test piles of oily hair mats, oyster mushrooms and various bedding are being composted at the Presidio, with labs testing for levels of toxicity.
Matter of Trust, with its partners, hopes to gain access to some of the recovered 19,000 gallons, which will otherwise eventually be incinerated, releasing toxins into the air. “Instead of incinerating the bunker fuel, as the Unified Command plans to do, we could compost it using the hair mats and oyster mushrooms, providing a nutrient-rich compost for the city’s green spaces,” says Gautier.
In preparation, Matter of Trust has linked up with St. Vincent De Paul Society (of Lane County, Oregon), the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and City College for nationwide hair collection. They are collectively purchasing a needle punch machine (roughly $100,000) to make their own hair mats, with permission from Phil McCroy. Gautier notes that this will create jobs, and also reduce the roughly 320,000 pounds per day of human hair sent to landfills in the U.S.
Dorchester, Massachusetts
ReVision Urban Farm, part of Victory Programs, Inc. (VPI), serves families facing homelessness in Dorchester, Massachusetts (a community neighboring Boston). The farm is among six area nonprofits selected as a 2008 Social Innovator by the Cambridge-based Social Innovation Forum to receive more than $80,000 in cash and services. The Forum, launched by Root Cause in 2003, seeks to support organizations like ReVision Urban Farm that combine field expertise with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit needed to solve some of Boston’s most pressing social problems.
ReVision Urban Farm will participate in a 12-month program that provides the organization with consulting services, executive coaching and introductions to a network of venture philanthropists looking to support innovative nonprofits in greater Boston.
To date, the Social Innovation Forum has received 273 applications from Boston-area nonprofits and helped 21 as Social Innovators. Just nine months after the 2006 showcase event, the organization’s Social Innovators have already received a total of just under $1.5 million in total cash and in-kind resources.

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