April 17, 2008 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle April 2008, Vol. 49, No. 4, p. 14

Detroit, Michigan
Within the next three months, Detroit must decide what to do about a local garbage incinerator, America’s largest, which processes more than 700,000 tons/year of waste. “By some estimates, Detroit’s decision to turn its garbage into smoke and ash will have cost $1.2 billion by the time the incinerator is finally paid off next year,” says Curt Guyette, a Metro Times news editor.
The plant, which began operating in 1989, cost $438 million to build. Two years later, anadditional $171.5 million investment was required to upgrade pollution control equipment. Shortly after, the facility was sold, with the city obligated to pay off the costs of construction and the equipment upgrades. With the facility paid off next year, the city will have the option to purchase back the incinerator, or find an alternative to burning, in which case the facility would most likely be shut down.
“According to an analysis done by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Detroit currently spends $172 a ton to burn its trash and then send the ash that remains to a dump,” says Guyette. Less than half the waste processed at the facility comes from Detroit residents; private haulers pay rates as low as $12/ton. “So, in essence, Detroit residents pay a subsidy to burn other people’s garbage and breathe the smoke it produces,” he adds. Detroit’s recycling rate is currently only three percent of its waste stream.
Ocean County, New Jersey
In January 2008, New Jersey’s Ocean County accepted its first deliveries of single-stream paper at its recycling centers from commercial haulers. Single-stream paper recycling is defined as commingling junk mail, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, computer and office paper along with empty brown paper bags in one container. In February, the county began accepting single-stream paper from its municipalities. To prepare municipalities and residents for the transition, a public information campaign was organized with the theme “All In One Bin” that included public service announcements, display ads and press events. Says one official: “Recycling will be more convenient, which will increase tonnages and recycling revenues.” Residents were advised to contact their recycling coordinators about start dates for their towns. Retrofitting of the existing site to a paper facility is scheduled to be complete by April.
Lorain County, Ohio
Twenty-five years ago, Ohio faced solid waste problems that included declining landfill capacity, increasing waste generation and an influx of out-of-state waste. A legislative coalition was formed to create a comprehensive solid waste management program for Ohio to combat these problems, resulting in a planning process to ensure sound management, increased ways to recycle solid waste and a requirement for all counties in the state to establish Solid Waste Management Districts (SWMDs). The overriding purpose was to reduce reliance on landfills, ensure environmentally sound facilities and encourage practical solutions to reduce generation and disposal of waste in Ohio.
The State Plan – updated in 2001 – had three notable changes to the goals: Increasing industrial waste reduction and recycling from 50 to 66 percent; Adding a goal to incorporate economic incentives into source reduction and recycling programs; and Adding a requirement that solid waste management districts develop a strategy for electronic equipment.
The Lorain County 2007 Plan Update incorporates these changes, with industrial and electronic wastes already being addressed. The big change was implementing an incentive based recycling program. Instead of paying a fixed bill for unlimited collection, the plan requires households to pay proportional to actual use. Measured either by the bag or can, the new system would provide households with a market-based incentive to increase recycling.
According to Skumatz Economic Research Associates, the new volume based collection system reduces trash tonnage by 17 percent. It also increases recycling by 50 percent in many communities, and encourages other waste prevention behaviors. “In short, it may be the cheapest, most efficient way to manage waste,” say Lorain County Commissioners.
Moundville, Alabama
The spills at the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant outside Moundville, Alabama are similar to others that have come from biodiesel plants in the Midwest. The discharges, which can be hazardous to birds and fish, come from an old chemical factory that had been converted into the state’s first biodiesel plant – a refinery that was intended to turn soybean oil into earth-friendly fuel. But the sample analysis showed that the ribbon of oil and grease released from the plant was 450 times higher than permit levels typically allow, and had drifted at least two miles downstream.
“They’re really considered nontoxic,” says Bruce Hollebone, a researcher with Environment Canada, in The New York Times. “You can eat the stuff, but as with most organic materials, oil and glycerin deplete the oxygen content of water very quickly, and that will suffocate fish and other organisms.” Expanded production of biodiesel has flooded the market with excess glycerin, making it less cost-effective to clean and sell. In January, a Missouri businessman was indicted in a glycerin discharge that killed at least 25,000 fish.
Dubuque, Iowa
The city of Dubuque, Iowa is continuing its curbside food scraps recycling program, which works in conjunction with its existing yard waste and recycling programs. The program began as a two-year pilot in 2006, with 30 tons collected the first year, and 35 tons the second year. Besides generating compost, the goal of the program is to increase diversion to a recycling rate above 25 percent; according to the 2005 Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Waste analysis, 20 percent of the refuse materials set out from the average Dubuque household could be processed into compost.
The city provides 12-gallon wheeled Norseman containers with snap-locking lids, plus a 2-gallon kitchen collector. The few commercial participants (including a coffee shop, restaurant and two schools) are provided with either 48- or 64-gallon carts. No plastics, even biodegradable bags, are currently permitted.
Organic material is collected weekly and commingled with yard waste in a solid waste packer truck, and delivered to the licensed Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency (DMASWA) facility. An estimated two tons/week are processed into compost, which is the current maximum of food scraps allowed under IDNR rules. There is discussion on expanding the amount of food waste permitted, which would allow larger processors and private companies to be included. The compost is sold for landscaping, gardening and highway applications. “The food scrap recycling program will help us extend our landfill life and reduce pollution,” notes the county website.
The city of 57,000 people is measuring its carbon footprint, attempting to reduce its environmental impact and become the greenest city in Iowa, says Paul Schultz, Solid Waste Management Supervisor for the city of Dubuque.
Bellevue, Ohio
Norfolk Southern is erecting a 50 kilowatt wind turbine at its Bellevue Yard to power a wastewater treatment plant. “We are assessing opportunities to use alternative renewable energy sources where practical,” says Vice President Chuck Wehrmeister. Supplied by Entegrity Wind Systems of Boulder, Colorado, the wind turbine consists of three 24-foot rotor blades mounted on an 80-foot tower. The plant collects and treats water used at the maintenance facilities, as well as rainwater runoff.
Benton County, Oregon
Goodyear Tire & Rubber makes millions of tires every year, along with millions of pounds of waste. “We landfilled our last load on December 30th and we are all too happy to see that last load go,” Jeff Sussman, Goodyear’s environmental project manager told Scrap Tire News. Now the Akron-based firm has launched a program to ban all waste going to landfills – calling it the “zero waste to landfill” program. “A facility as complex as a tire plant produces a wide variety of waste streams.” Sussman and his team will use a three-fold effort to eliminate waste, reuse materials and locate acceptable recyclers. Instead of landfilling, Goodyear sells its scrap rubber to other manufacturers to produce consumer items like mud flaps, floor mats and bed liners for trucks. The company now plans to find a way to make tires without using solvents.
McHenry, Illinois
Midwest Organics Recycling (MOR), a composting operation located 40 miles north of Chicago, was established to compost manure as part of a solution to sustain one of the last dairy farms in a quickly developing county. MOR mixes dairy manure from Golden Oaks Farm with green waste such as leaves, grass and wood chips. The mixture is composted and sold as Organimix®. The facility accepts landscape waste at its site, charging $15/cubic yard for drop off; finished product is sold for $20/cubic yard. MOR uses a Backhus turner. Compost piles are turned daily for the first three to five days, and then about twice a week until material is cured.
Golden Oaks Farm recently implemented a sand bed recycling project. Sand is used as a bedding instead of sawdust. The farm purchased a Manure Sand Saver from Parkson Corp., which processes 20 gallons per minute of sand-laden dairy manure (manure from about 54 cows/hour). It requires minimal wash water, which can be fresh or low-solids recycled water (screened to 1/8-inch). For more information about MOR, visit
Jefferson City, Missouri
Missouri has more than 25,000 miles of streams that provide drinking water for people, livestock and wildlife. The state’s Department of Natural Resources offers free monitoring workshops. The first one is about biological monitoring, which involves collecting aquatic invertebrates and calculating a water-quality index based on invertebrates found.
Benton County, Oregon
As part of a 2004 EPA Environmental Justice Grant awarded to the Benton County Health Department, three Philomath High School seniors conducted compost research as part of their senior projects. Working with the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Soil Smith Services, a local commercial composting company, the students studied the transformation of raw dairy manure (which had formerly contaminated Oak Creek) into finished compost. The students collected compost samples for three months from a windrow created and managed by Soil Smith Services, composed of dairy manure, chicken manure and leaves from curbside collection. Teresa Matteson, with the Benton SWCD, helped the students devise a randomized method of sampling, where the compost pile was divided into 16 sections, and every two weeks the students sampled from 4 randomly selected areas. Topics the seniors studied include: the toxicity of compost leachate; concentrations of ammonium, nitrate and nitrogen in leachate; the presence of fecal coliforms; and the varying populations of invertebrates.
Raleigh, North Carolina
The latest research on vermicomposting will be presented at the 8th Annual Worm Farming Conference, held by North Carolina State University (NCSU) May 19-20, 2008. Topics include the effects of worm castings and tea on plant growth and disease suppression, types of vermicomposting technologies, how to market worms and castings, and more. Industry experts, joined by experienced worm growers, will share their knowledge. For more information, visit

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