February 17, 2009 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle February 2009, Vol. 50, No. 2, p. 15

Chicago, Illinois
At a meeting of the Chicago Climate Exchange’s (CCX) Offsets Committee last November, a protocol for composting was approved for use on a pilot basis. The carbon offsets are for “waste management practices that avoid methane emission to the atmosphere from decaying organic wastes (e.g. composting).” Notes the CCX website: “The project proponent must submit to the Offsets Committee a completed verification for final approval of the project and protocol. Once the final approval is received and any technical adjustments are made, the Offsets Committee will approve the protocol for use by all CCX members.” A mixed solid waste composting facility in Nantucket, Massachusetts, owned and operated by Waste Options, Inc., has utilized the new protocol to calculate its carbon offsets. From 2003 through 2007, the facility generated over 26,000 Mg CO2e of net emissions reductions. Scott Subler of Environmental Credit Corporation has been working with Waste Options to put together their CCX registration package that will make those carbon offsets available in the marketplace. A copy of the draft protocol is available by contacting CCX via www.chicagoclimatex.com. A detailed article on the CCX composting protocol will be in the March issue of BioCycle.
Albany, New York
To expand the supply of clean energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has issued Program Opportunity Notice (PON) 1146 to offer $11 million in incentives for electricity generation using biogas produced from manure, food wastes, municipal wastewater treatment residuals and other biomass feedstocks. Incentives will be offered based on electrical generation capacity and the kWh actually generated each year for three years. Up to $1 million is available per ADG system, with funding on a first-come, first-served basis. Application Packages will be accepted until May 30, 2009 at 5:00 PM (Eastern Daylight Time), or until all funding has been fully committed, whichever comes first. The program is part of the Customer-Sited Tier of the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Details regarding PON 1146, including eligibility and application requirements, are posted on NYSERDA’s funding opportunities webpage: www.nyserda.org/funding/1146summary.pdf.
Richmond, Virginia
A panel created in 2007 by the Virginia General Assembly was asked to answer a series of questions relating to biosolids, health and the environment. Its members, appointed by the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, included physicians, public health educators, university researchers, sanitation professionals, environmental and public health officials and private citizens. The panel concluded its work in December and filed its report to the General Assembly in January 2009 (“Biosolids Expert Panel Report”). It concluded that the application of biosolids to farmland and forests in the Commonwealth represents little risk to human health or the environment, noting that biosolids should “be viewed as a resource rather than a waste that uses landfill space, while minimizing health and environmental risk.” After 18 months of study, it “uncovered no evidence or literature verifying a causal link between biosolids and illness.”
The report’s conclusion is similar to other expert panels that have been convened (e.g., the National Research Council, 2002) when it notes that although additional research is needed, as long as there is appropriate management and monitoring, there is not evidence of serious health risks from biosolids recycling. Chris Peot, biosolids manager for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, served on the Panel and says its volunteer members took their assignment seriously and considered all viewpoints in reaching their conclusions. “Like other members,” notes Peot, “I certainly don’t agree with every detail of this report, but I think it represents a comprehensive review of the issues regarding biosolids and provides the guidance that the General Assembly was seeking. To reach consensus, we had to ask ourselves: “What is the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and what verifiable facts do we have about land application in Virginia, as currently regulated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency?” He adds that as a result of this study, “I believe the citizens of Virginia can have confidence that the Virginia biosolids program is protective of public health and the environment.”
The report can be downloaded at www.virginiabiosolids.com/news.
Edmonton, Alberta
The City of Edmonton’s composting facility, located in Alberta, Canada, recently changed the way it constructs and turns its windrows. The facility process up to 198,000 tons/year of residential waste, plus 16,500 tons of biosolids. It previously had contractors turn windrows using a straddle-type turner, with windrows measuring about 25 feet wide by 10 feet high. Although this method worked well, the facility wanted to have more control over its turning schedule, and wanted to maximize space, using the area between windrows.
In October 2008, the City purchased Vermeer’s new CT10101TX, an elevating-face turner. “By owning our own machine, we now have better control of the turning frequency and are working towards turning the piles based on various factors, such as moisture and temperature,” says Jim Lapp, supervisor of compost operations for the City of Edmonton. “The continuous windrow stacking method eliminated the wasted space between the windrows. Now we are able to cure a higher volume of compost in the same space, which ultimately leads to better utilization of our overall facility.” Not only will continuous windrows save space, but Lapp also thinks the method will shorten curing time, with better moisture retention in the summer, and less heat loss in the winter.
Reading, Pennsylvania
The KidsPeace program in Reading, Pennsylvania adopted vermicomposting in January to reduce its food waste. Founded in 1882, KidsPeace is a charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children and teens. In Reading, the program ordered 45 pounds of worms for $850, most of which will come from private donations. By feeding the worms paper and food waste, the campus has reduced trash pickup from six times per week to just one, expected to save $6,000/year.
Children at KidsPeace are responsible for separating food and nonfood items at the cafeteria, sending compostables into a pulper provided by the Somat Company. Somat is also supplying corn-based trays, plates, cups and cutlery free of charge for the first six months, which are replacing plastic and foam food service ware. The pulped material is then fed to the worms, with resulting compost to be used on the campus vegetable gardens in the spring.
Ventura, California
Agromin, a composting company based in Ventura, recycled 302,139 tons of green waste in 2008, a 20 percent increase from 2007, when throughput was 240,583 tons. The company has five composting sites where it processes materials from 19 cities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, including yard trimmings, brush and wood. Finished product is sold in bulk and bags to farmers, landscapers and homeowners. “Participation by residents and businesses is critical – both on the recycling and reuse sides,” says Bill Camarillo, Agromin’s CEO. “Green materials recycling keeps waste out of landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, as a community, we’re making better use of our resources.”
East Lansing, Michigan
A pretreatment process, AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion), developed by Dr. Bruce Dale at Michigan State University (MSU), promises to reduce the cost of converting corn stover into biofuels. Separating cellulose and hemicellulose into fermentable sugars is an essential step in producing biofuels. AFEX employs ammonia under moderate heat and pressure to break down cellulose and hemicellulose 75 percent more efficiently than conventional enzymes alone. “Doctoral student Ming Lau and I have shown that it’s possible to use AFEX to pretreat corn stover and then hydrolyze and ferment it to commercially relevant levels of ethanol without adding nutrients to the stover,” says Dale, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. “It’s been assumed that agricultural residues such as corn stover didn’t have enough nutrients to support fermentation. We have shown this isn’t so.”
Crops wastes treated with acid hydrolysis, a common pretreatment method, must be washed and detoxified, a process that removes nutrients from the material. “Washing, detoxifying and adding nutrients back into the pretreated cellulose are three separate steps,” Dale explains. “Each step is expensive and adds to the cost of the biofuel. Breaking down cellulose into fermentable sugars cost effectively has been a major issue slowing cellulosic ethanol production.”
Cellulosic materials treated with AFEX do not need to be washed or detoxified, allowing ethanol to be made without added nutrients or other steps. “Using AFEX as the pretreatment process can dramatically reduce the cost of making biofuels from cellulose,” Dale says. Possible next steps include a pilot plant. Dale’s research is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sterling, Colorado
Humalfa LLC, based in Shattuck, Oklahoma, is running manure composting operations on cattle feedlots in Northeastern Colorado. “We compost at one farm with 100,000 head, two others that have over 60,000 head, and then at a few smaller farms owned by one company, which have 10,000 to 15,000 head,” says Dennis Williams, who works at the Colorado location. “We produce about 150,000 tons of compost per year, marketed as organic fertilizer. The operations are typically set up on the feedlot of a farm, composted in windrows that are turned once a week, with finished product ready in 8 to 10 weeks.” Two 18-foot SCARAB turners are used, which are moved to the different farms on a trailer.
After 8 to 10 weeks, Humalfa sells the finished compost, hauling it to farms where it is stockpiled. The farmer then hires one of two local contractors for spreading the compost. “My partner with Humalfa in Colorado is one of the contractors, and he owns three Terra-Gator spreaders,” says Williams. “These spreaders have wide wheels, which are ideal for not compacting sensitive soils.” Another contractor is Kenny Rhodes of Midwest Ag, who owns two MMI Compost Spreaders. Rhodes spreads between 1 and 5 tons of compost per acre, depending on the farmer’s needs.
Williams plans on expanding into compost for horticultural use, which the operation in Shattuck has done. “Humalfa’s Oklahoma operation bags compost, which is shipped to several states,” he says. “In Colorado, we currently sell our compost within a 60-mile radius, but hope to purchase a bagger and begin shipping it further.”

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