March 24, 2009 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle March 2009, Vol. 50, No. 3, p. 15

Springfield, Illinois

Senate Bill 99 (SB99), proposed by Illinois State Senator Heather Steans, would simplify the permitting process for food waste composting. Currently, food waste composting facilities in Illinois are regulated like solid waste facilities, which means they are almost as expensive and complicated to permit as landfills, says Jen Walling, Chief of Staff for Senator Steans. “The bill proposes exempting food waste composting facilities from the category of pollution control facilities, which includes landfills, hazardous waste stations, etc.” says Walling. “Instead, food waste composting would be regulated like yard trimmings composting facilities, but would have certain restrictions.”
The amended bill, which was formerly proposed under a different senator, is expected to be voted on by the Senate this month, says Walling. “The same bill is running in the House of Representatives,” she notes. Several organizations have filed in support of the bill, such as the National Solid Waste Management Association, Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op. “We see this bill as a crucial step towards reducing a restaurant’s environmental footprint,” says Carrie Langford of Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op, which represents 200 businesses in the Chicago area. “Finally, restaurants, hotels and schools will be able to divert food scraps and organic material that are currently going to the landfill. If this bill gets passed, we will be able to divert more than 80 percent of our waste stream through recycling and composting.”

Kingston, Ontario

The City of Kingston is distributing green carts to 37,000 households this month, with weekly collection beginning April 6. Kingston is the first city to use Norseman Plastic’s Green Bin+, a 21-gallon curbside organics bin designed for fully or semiautomated collection. Source separated organics will go to Norterra Organics, a new composting facility opened last month by the Scott Environmental Group (SEG). The $6 million, 8-acre facility is using the GORE Cover Composting System, an aerated process with laminate membrane technology. It can process up to 20,000 metric tons of material/year. Local restaurants and universities are already receiving collection service. SEG has the curbside collection contract with Kingston, and is using two trucks – one equipped for automated service and the other for semiautomated. Households can put meat, poultry, fish and bones, egg and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, plus paper towels, pizza boxes, uncoated paper cups and plates, and waxed cardboard and paper into the bin. “Using the Green Bin to separate organic waste from regular garbage will help residents divert about a third more of their garbage from landfill, and help the city reach its goal of diverting 65 percent of its waste from landfill by 2012,” says John Giles, Kingston’s Manager of Solid Waste.

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) signed the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) agreement in September 2007, pledging that the university will become a carbon neutral institution by 2035. The adjusted carbon footprint of the university was calculated to be 49,440 tons CO2/year at the time the ACUPCC commitment was made. The majority of power currently used by UWO is supplied from coal-fired power plants, however projects are being undertaken to implement solar, geothermal and biomass technologies. One project in the design phase, which received grant funding from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy in January 2009, is a dry fermentation anaerobic digestion plant supplied by BIOFerm™ Energy Systems. It is being designed to process 6,000 tons/year of food waste from the university’s food service operations and yard/landscaping trimmings from the university and the City of Oshkosh. BIOFerm plants consist of individual fermentation chambers that can be modularly configured. The UWO plant will consist of four fermentation chambers, each 6-feet long by 2-feet wide by 5-feet high. Organic material is exchanged approximately every 28 days; one chamber will require material exchange per week.
Dry fermentation was selected by UWO for several reasons, explains Thomas Sonnleitner, Assistant Chancellor for Administrative Services. “First and foremost dry fermentation differs from traditional anaerobic systems in that it is more efficient in handling organic materials with a moisture content that is less than 75 percent. Organics do not need to be ground into a sludge nor do they require movement within the anaerobic system. Second, the process has been highly engineered to not add to the stress placed on wastewater treatment systems. No additional water is required to run the system and liquid used during the anaerobic digestion process is contained in a closed loop cycle. Finally, the digestate or the remaining organic material after a fermentation cycle is a precompost equivalent that can be directly land applied as a soil amendment or further processed into high quality compost.” Biogas produced by the digester will be used to generate energy. Tentative start-up date is late 2009.

Durham, North Carolina

North Carolina State University is holding its 9th Annual Vermiculture Conference, June 4 and 5, 2009 in Durham. Vermiculture researchers will present the latest information on the effects of worm castings and tea on plant growth and disease suppression. Seasoned worm growers – including Tom Herlihy of RT Solutions, which operates a dairy manure vermicomposting operation in New York, Mark Purser, owner of The Worm Farm in California and John Blythe, owner of Twin Spruce Farms in North Carolina – will share their personal experiences. The agenda is designed for worm growers, farmers, composters, nursery, orchard and greenhouse growers, soil blenders, livestock operators, extension agents, solid waste managers, landscapers, etc. For details, go to: worms09. Questions about the conference can be directed to Rhonda Sherman at

Waterloo, Wisconsin

Crave Brothers Farm in Waterloo partnered with Clear Horizons, Inc. in Milwaukee to build a complete mix, above ground digester to process the dairy farm’s manure – about 26,000 gallons/day. Clear Horizons designs, builds and maintains anaerobic digestion systems. Solids are separated using a Vincent KP-10 screw press. The farm buys back a portion for bedding, and Clear Horizons composts the rest in an open-sided building adjacent to the digester. “We don’t use any bulking agent, so the key is to keep the pile height between four and five feet,” says Dan Nemke of Clear Horizons. Recently, the company installed an aeration system supplied by BacTee Systems, Inc. Aeration to the 12-foot by 50-foot compost bay (nominally 300 cfm of air) is supplied through three parallel runs of perforated stainless steel aeration strips spaced four feet apart. The aeration strips are embedded in a concrete floor but can be removed and reset to allow full access to all aeration surfaces for ease of maintenance and cleaning, explains Don Mathsen of Bactee, who adds that the aeration floor system is designed to minimize static heat loss through the floor, thereby minimizing energy requirements. The system began operating last December. “Aeration has cut down the composting time by half,” adds Nemke. The composted digestate is used in a variety of potting mixes, marketed under the Energro name.

Athens, Ohio

Ohio University’s in-vessel composting unit began operation in mid-February. The unit, designed and built by Wright Environmental Management Inc., is capable of processing up to 28 tons at a time, and is expected to divert as much as 25 percent of campus solid waste from the landfill.
A 10-kilowatt solar array on the unit is expected to offset at least 60 percent of the electricity needs to power the composting site, the equivalent of offsetting the burning of about 8,000 pounds/year of coal, or 7.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. “This project brings together the best that Ohio has to build the jobs Ohio needs – proof that we can save our environment and rebuild our economy at the same time to create a net benefit for all involved,” says Sean Logan, Director of Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which partnered with the university on grants totaling more than $335,000 for the project.

State College, Pennsylvania

State Representative David Kessler recently introduced Pennsylvania’s PATH to Organic farming transition program, securing $500,000 in the 2008 to 2009 budget. In developing the program, Kessler worked closely with state Department of Agriculture, and groups like the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Rodale Institute. “PATH to Organic will make farming more profitable and help the environment,” says Kessler.
The program has two main purposes: to provide incentive for farmers to make the three-year transition to certified organic production; and to evaluate organic production practices as tools in improving soil health, protecting water quality and sequestering carbon on a pilot basis. Selected farmers will receive a payment per acre, per year, for a period of up to four years, with a maximum of $30,000 total. Participating farmers will also have periodic assessment of their soil carbon levels, which may assist in the sale of carbon credits, such as on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).

Santa Barbara, California

A four-month pilot composting project at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) began at the end of January. Both pre and postconsumer food waste will be collected from the De La Guerra dining hall and placed in an automated compactor. The compactor will be picked up twice per week by MarBorg Industries, and taken to its downtown Santa Barbara facility for composting.
UCSB has tried on-site composting in the past, most notably several years ago when Housing & Residential Services crews collected about 30,000 pounds/month of preconsumer waste from all four campus dining halls. “This is the first stab at trying to get the larger, postconsumer material,” says Mark Rousseau, Energy and Environment Manager for Housing & Residential Services at UCSB. “I think it will work, and then we can look at expanding it to the rest of the campus.”

Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district’s 2009 Environmental Action Plan includes goals for increasing renewable energy use and improving energy efficiency, reducing waste and increasing recycling and composting, and increasing green spaces and gardens. “At least 40 out of about 650 schools in our district have outdoor composting of garden waste or food scraps,” says Suzanne Carlson, Environmental Program Manager for CPS. “That doesn’t include classroom vermicomposting, which is popular and hard to keep track of.” In developing a plan for implementing composting in more schools, Carlson says CPS has talked with a high school construction teacher about students building compost bins in class.
As part of the city’s “Growing Schools Gardens” plan, CPS has a long-term goal of having a garden or learning landscape at every public school. “We currently have gardens at about half of our schools, but not all are active,” says Carlson. “Our plan involves training and professional development for teachers to integrate gardens and outdoor landscapes into what they do in the classroom. Also, we work with partner organizations to turn asphalt areas at schools into gardens.”
To bring local food into cafeterias, 481 schools participate in the Fresh Frozen program. “Most locally grown produce is available during the summer, when school is out of session, so the Fresh Frozen program freezes local food during the summer months, and uses it throughout the school year,” says Carlson.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) offers residents curbside collection of food waste and yard trimmings on a voluntary basis. Until recently, the only option for organics was a 96-gallon green cart. Between 87,000 and 90,000 households had signed up for green cart service, leaving about 40,000 households not participating. Starting March 30, 2009, residents can choose from three cart sizes: a 13-gallon bin at $3.60/month; a 32-gallon cart at $5.40/month or the existing 96-gallon cart at $6.90/month. To encourage the remaining 40,000 households to participate, SPU has distributed the 13-gallon cart procured from Norseman Plastics. Residents opting for the smallest bin can either compost at home, self-haul yard trimmings to the transfer station, or pay $2.95 per bundle. Food scraps and food-soiled paper can only be put in the city-provided green cart. Residents currently using a larger cart can trade that in for a smaller one, says Liz Kain of SPU. And starting March 30, households can include all food scraps with weekly collection; originally, only vegetative waste was allowed due to biweekly collection.

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