August 20, 2008 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle August 2008, Vol. 49, No. 8, p. 16

Albany, New York
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is holding a series of Regional Food Scraps Reduction and Management Forums throughout the state. The goals of the forums are to develop local partnerships, identify opportunities for food scraps reduction and donation, and identify challenges and solutions for diverting food scraps from disposal. Forums in the Capital District (Albany area) and Ithaca already were held. Dates for future forums are September 9 in New York City, September 10 on Long Island, September 25 in Wappingers Falls and October 7 in Buffalo. Participation is by invitation-only to keep the discussion informal and to facilitate development of relationships that can lead to food scraps diversion, says Gary Feinland of the DEC, who is overseeing the forums. “We are very keen on the forums being discussion-oriented and to direct us on what next steps we need to take.” Potential invitees include representatives from regional food banks, municipalities, grocery stores, composting facilities, farms, colleges and food service vendors. To learn more, contact Feinland at
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Starting in June 2008, the Whole Foods Market on Prospect Street in Cambridge placed food scraps bins in its parking lot. The store is part of the city’s commercial composting program, and now it collects an additional 100 to 300 pounds/week from its customers. Interested shoppers sign up and receive a reused 5-gallon pail from the store. “This is a great example of a business taking back waste from its customers,” says Ms. Randi Mail, Director of Recycling for the Cambridge Department of Public Works. “It’s the first of the businesses in our city’s program to include local residents, and really expands upon the accessibility of composting.” In addition to its commercial composting program, the city began a residential food scraps program in February 2008, which has about 500 families participating. Residents in the city’s program are given a 2.5-gallon pail, and take pre and postconsumer food scraps to a community recycling center. “The recycling drop off center is only open three days, whereas Whole Foods is open seven days a week, with longer hours,” says Mail. “Also, customers can bring food scraps on the way to buy more groceries, instead of making a separate trip.”
Mail says the city of Cambridge hopes to begin residential curbside food scraps collection, perhaps sending material to an anaerobic digester. The initiative at Whole Foods will help demonstrate the growing interest. “This program will encourage movement towards citywide collection, which we actually had several decades ago,” notes Mail.
Montpelier, Vermont
The Vermont Natural Resources Board recently instructed Vermont Compost Co.’s operation in Montpelier to halt operations, and issued an $18,000 fine. The Board believes Vermont Compost to be in violation of Act 250, declaring the operation to be a compost manufacturing facility instead of a farm. Karl Hammer, proprietor of Vermont Compost Co., maintains that his operation is a farm, because he raises chickens and mules, and has an agricultural contract with Fairmont Farms to process its cow manure. Because the bulk of the material composted is from off site, the Natural Resources Board sees the farming operation as separate from the composting.
News of Vermont Compost Co.’s trouble comes on the tail of challenges at the State’s other large composter, Intervale Compost Products, which faces even larger fines and regulatory issues. Letters to the editors have flooded regional newspapers, with an outcry about the implications of shutting down Vermont’s largest food waste composters. For instance, a letter to the Times Argus from the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) states that NECI has sent over 800 tons of food scraps to Vermont Compost Co. during the past few years, all of which will now go to the landfill, costing NECI more money and creating methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. That’s not all: “As a teaching institution, NECI is showing our students how these alternative, sustainable food systems work in a commercial kitchen and how they improve the business and operations,” says Will Cogan, Director of Facilities Operations for NECI. “They will be the ones taking this information out to the industry to make it work in the future.”
Another letter to the Times Argus reaffirms this important connection of food waste to education. It is written by Madeline Murray-Clasen, who is going into eighth grade. She has been sorting compostables since fourth grade, with food scraps sent to Vermont Compost Co., and says it is an important part of their routine. The school then purchases compost to grow lettuce for three schools in her district. “A very interesting point is that Governor Douglas gave the Montpelier Public School System an environmental award for the composting that we have been doing,” explains Murray-Clasen. “Now he agrees that Vermont Compost should be closed after we got the award and the hard work we have done. If Vermont Compost does close, all of the training and goals we have worked toward will be lost.”
Sacramento, California
Ruth MacDougall, who managed the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) Biomass Program for Renewable Energy for many years – and a frequent speaker at BioCycle Conferences – recently announced her retirement. Her many responsibilities have been reassigned to staff in SMUD’s Advanced Renewables and Distributed Generation Technologies Program. The list of responsibilities shows the depth and breadth of SMUD’s involvement in the production of renewable energy from organics recycling. Among the projects reassigned are: Dairy Digester Incentive Program; digester greenhouse monitoring; support of permitting for codigestion with dairy manure; power purchases of electricity from woody biomass; evaluation of MSW conversion technologies; demonstration of food waste collection strategies; and public outreach for biomass and greenhouse gas programs. For more information on these programs, visit
Rapid City, South Dakota
The 5th Annual Rotary In-Vessel Users Group meeting will be held October 9-10, 2008 in Rapid City. This annual event is attended by composting facility operators that utilize rotary drum vessels as part of their municipal solid waste processing equipment. “The goal of the meeting is to encourage communication between users and establish a way to share information,” says Phil Hayes of the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District in Pinetop, Arizona. Hayes has been a key organizer of these annual gatherings.
The conference agenda includes presentations by several facility operators, including Tom Leonard with Sevier (TN) Solid Waste, whose plant was destroyed by a fire in 2006, Jerry Wright and Mike Oyler with the Rapid City cocomposting facility (which will be toured on October 10th), Susan McIntryre of Delaware County, New York, Paul Mancini and Eric Indan from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, and Phil Hayes. Other topics include digesters for small operations and food waste composting. To register, or for more information, contact Phil Hayes (928-242-5746) or Jeff Hodge (928-242-0710).
Brattleboro, Vermont
The Strolling of the Heifers Parade and Festival, in Brattleboro, Vermont, was founded in 2001 to increase public awareness about the importance of sustaining local agriculture, and to raise money for educationally oriented agricultural youth programs. The parade draws up to 50,000 viewers, who come to watch 100 flower-bedecked bovine beauties amble up the town’s historic main street, situated on the banks of the Connecticut River. The theme of this year’s agricultural festival (held from June 6 to 8) was LIVE GREEN, and included the parade, musical and theatrical performances, and a dairy fest and marketplace providing free entertainment and local food vendors.
In keeping with the festival theme, 10 recycling and composting stations were set up at the dairy fest and marketplace so participants could recycle containers, separate food and soiled paper, and dispose of trash. Forty volunteers assisted participants in making the proper sort into one of the three categories.
Construction of the recycling displays was partially funded by a $6,000 USDA grant to the Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD), and supplemented with volunteer help from a solid waste committee, Boy Scouts and Triple T Trucking, the event’s solid waste hauler. Cindy Sterling of WSWMD explains that the 10 displays are built from reclaimed building materials using folding, hinged, wood panels. “We wanted displays that can be used at community events throughout the district, so they had to be portable,” says Sterling. “We received requests from a number of other events this summer, such as the town of Vernon’s annual town picnic, and the hospital’s Lobster Festival.”
Sterling reports that the Strolling of the Heifers event accomplished a 60 percent recycling rate, with about 1,500 lbs. of organics and recyclables diverted from landfill disposal. “Although we called it a zero waste event, we obviously have more work to do to get to that point,” she says. “We had a debriefing meeting after the event and identified a need to do much more to educate the food vendors ahead of the event since they threw away alot of compostable material as they packed up at the end of the day on Saturday. But overall, the recycling stations provide a great education for the public.”
Triple T hauled the organics to its transfer station, where they were weighed and combined with other material collected from the district’s commercial organic waste program, Project COW (see “Public/Private Partnering Facilitates Organics Diversion,” June 2008). The organics were then hauled to Martin’s Farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts for composting.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Coffee shops and restaurants are looking to compost, starting with an easy to manage waste stream: coffee grounds. Mitchell Britt, a manager at Krankies Coffee, is trying to jump-start a citywide recycling effort in Winston-Salem, where organics will be collected from area restaurants and groceries for composting at farms. Brooks Contractor is the only food waste hauler in the state, and plans to start a collection route in the Greensboro area (including Winston-Salem). Brooks has about 60 customers, and now just needs several large cafeterias or restaurants for the route to be full-time. Innovative Recycling Services, a wood-recycling business in Winston-Salem, is in the process of being permitted to compost the food scraps.
Lexington, Kentucky
When Lexington, Kentucky’s recycling program began in the early 1980s, it was a labor-intensive process that required lots of time and energy. Residents had to sort recyclable material by type, and garbage trucks were equipped to keep recyclables segregated. Today, the process is radically different, with a single-stream setup where residents throw all recyclables into one bin. And, the program has expanded to nearly 1,500 nonresidential locations, such as schools and businesses. In 2007, almost 15,000 tons of paper were recycled, 185 tons of aluminum cans and 371 tons of steel cans.
Santa Barbara, California
The City of Santa Barbara, California started a food scraps collection pilot program in April 2007, servicing several businesses, including a hospital, community college, zoo, elementary school and restaurants. It recently expanded to include five new participants, with plans to encompass the entire city in the next two years, including all commercial, multifamily and residential users. The city of 90,000 will eventually collect food scraps with yard trimmings in a curbside green bin. “Our goal right now is on the commercial user,” says Eric Loehela, the city’s recycling coordinator, in Soil and Mulch Producer News. “We know that 65 percent of what we generate as a community comes from our businesses.”
During the pilot program, participants are given either 32-gallon or 64-gallon yellow carts and biodegradable bags. Material is collected daily and then dumped in a large roll-off bin, which Engel and Gray Composting hauls to its facility every eight or nine days. Engel and Gray Composting is a 40-acre facility located in Santa Maria, about 50 miles north of Santa Barbara, and has been composting since 1993.

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