May 27, 2009 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle May 2009, Vol. 50, No. 5, p. 12

Germansville, Pennsylvania

Red Cat Farm in Germansville recently held an on-site workshop showing how it grows vegetables in passive solar greenhouses, one of which uses compost to heat seedling beds. Cinderblock bunkers in the smaller greenhouse hold active compost, which produces heat for sprouting seedlings in the winter months. The bunkers are filled with 2.5 to 3 feet of horse manure and bedding, mixed with wood shavings or sawdust. “I’ve found that this mixture offers a more gentle, long-lasting heat, as opposed to using straw, which creates a rapid heat,” says Tina Bailey of Red Cat Farm. “It can be difficult to control the heat, but after the compost peaks, it maintains about 70°F throughout the Pennsylvania winter. As the plants grow, the compost loses mass and goes down.” Photovoltaic solar panels charge batteries for the greenhouses’ water pump and fans, with excess power sent back to the house. The event was organized by Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).
Denver, Colorado

A pilot project running through June 2009 is testing curbside collection of source separated organics in Denver. Each of the 3,300 participating homes received a 65-gallon green bin and a kitchen pail. Food waste (including meat), soiled paper and yard trimmings are collected weekly during the growing season, and alternate weeks during the winter. BPI certified compostable bags are permitted. A1 Organics composts the collected materials at its Rattler Ridge facility in Keenesburg, about 40 miles northeast of Denver.

Davis, California

The 3rd Annual International Symposium, Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue and Related Byproducts: Connecting Research, Regulations and Response, is being held July 21-23, 2009 at the University of California, Davis. Topics being covered include: Carcass disposal in response to routine mortalities, accidental deaths, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks; Research and public policy on carcass disposal; Federal and state agency response and training experience; Carcass treatment (management) options; New and emerging technologies for euthanasia, carcass treatment/disposal and decontamination; Final product use and disposition; and Animal studies covering (but not limited to) farm animals, wildlife, and marine mammals.
In addition to presentations, poster sessions and roundtable discussions, there will be demonstrations of full-scale operation of the following: transportable gasifier (high-efficiency, low-emissions incinerator); microwave sterilizer; carcass composting (feedstock comparison and probe of active compost pile); foam euthanasia; captive bolt technology (demonstration on hay bales); and vehicle disinfection. Registration details are available at: http://extension.umaine. edu/ByproductsSymposium09. The Symposium is being coordinated by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Cornell Waste Management Institute.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh Pirates began diverting organic materials to composting at the beginning of the major league baseball season this April. Approximately three tons of organic materials are expected to be diverted annually to AgRecycle, a local compost facility. This initiative is part of the Pirates’ “Let’s Go Bucs. Let’s Go Green” program launched last year, which integrates greening initiatives, sustainable business practices and educational outreach. A more detailed article about the Pirates’ composting initiative is forthcoming in BioCycle.

San Bernardino, California

Stater Bros. supermarket chain has partnered with Community Recycling and Resource Recovery, Inc. to compost food waste from all of its 166 store locations throughout southern California. Produce trim, waxed cardboard and paper will be shrink-wrapped to wooden pallets and returned to the Stater Bros. distribution center on its delivery trucks, then placed in a 21-ton compactor. Community Recycling will pick up the material daily and transport it to its composting facility. The supermarket chain estimates that the new program will eliminate 20,000 tons/year from the landfill.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

A 10-mile, low-pressure pipeline from the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill began supplying methane to POET Biorefining in Chancellor, South Dakota at the end of February. The 105 million gallon per year ethanol facility will utilize the landfill gas in a woodwastefueled boiler to generate process steam. Combined, the two alternative energy sources will initially offset up to 90 percent of the plant’s process steam, currently met using natural gas; over time, the two fuel sources have the potential to replace 90 percent of the plant’s total energy needs. According to USEPA, the annual environmental benefits from using this gas for power is equal to removing emissions from more than 27,000 passenger vehicles. POET and the City of Sioux Falls are members of the USEPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program.

Wilmington, Delaware

Construction of the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center (WORC) began on May 5. Peninsula Compost Company, LLC (PCC) will manage the 28-acre composting facility, which will have an annual capacity of 160,000 tons. WORC chose the Gore™ Cover System to process yard trimmings and pre and postconsumer food waste.
WSFS Financial Corporation, parent company of WSFS Bank, is the primary debt lender for WORC. “WSFS is proud to help finance this initiative that is not only good for the environment, but good for the development of the south Wilmington community as well,” says Rodger Levenson, Executive Vice President, Director of Commercial Banking at WSFS. The facility expects to bring 15 new green jobs to the area; a Community Benefits Agreement was put together by PCC and a coalition of 14 independent organizations. The agreement includes a commitment to use Delaware contractors and to follow specific operational guidelines requested by the Southbridge community. Construction is scheduled for completion by December.

Vashon Island, Washington

During the years of landfill operation on Vashon Island, soil was removed (borrowed) from an area adjacent to the landfill and used as daily cover, resulting in a bowl-shaped pit about 5 acres in size. Repeated attempts to revegetate the site have been unsuccessful, mainly because removal of the top and subsoil has left a “dead zone” that cannot support healthy vegetation. A restoration plan using compost made from King County (Washington) organic residuals was proposed and initial planning is underway. Phase I of the restoration project will create soil improvement demonstration plots using compost mixes. Improvements to ecosystem function and acceleration of soil carbon accumulation will be studied. Research will compare different compost mixes and tree species to determine the most appropriate restoration of the entire site. Phase II involves improving the full site. Using results from the demonstration plots and input from the Island Center Forest (ICF) adjacent to the former landfill site, the plan is to recontour the site, amend the soils with compost and plant trees and native vegetation to blend into the existing ICF site.
A research team from the University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, will conduct field trials at the Vashon borrow pit. The primary focus of the study will be to evaluate carbon storage potential and the potential for N2O emissions when organic amendments are used. A secondary objective will be to evaluate vegetation establishment. For the first season, a sterile grass mixture will be seeded into the test plots. Following the first growing season, a variety of tree seedlings, including Douglas-fir, will be planted. Other species will be determined in cooperation with Friends of ICF. Growth rate, tree height and mortality will be the variables used to assess treatment success. Samples will be collected during plot establishment and tested for total carbon, total nitrogen and N2O emissions. Grass yield, percent cover, changes in soil physical properties, soil bulk density and water infiltration rate will be measured from each half of each plot periodically after plant establishment. Plots will be established in August; compost mixes will be applied at that time, with grass seed planted in October. Trees will be planted in January 2010.

Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson College purchased a Green Drum from BW Organics to compost food waste from its dining halls and yard trimmings from campus. Material will remain in the rotating drum for about six days, then cured an additional three to six months. Finished material will be used on campus gardens and yards. The drum cost $40,000, but is expected to save the college money on fertilizer costs, and through reduced garbage pick-ups. The composting project was started by a group of students in a food and culture class taught by Anthropology professor Fuji Lozada.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco reports that it is closing in on its goal of 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010. New statistics show that the city kept 72 percent of all recyclable material from going to the landfill, up from 70 percent the year before. The most significant gain was in the area of recycling material from building sites, due in part to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2006 Mandatory Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance. “By requiring builders to recycle debris from construction projects, we were able to divert tens of thousands of new tons of material away from the landfill,” says Newsom. “Clearly, mandatory recycling measures pay off.” The figures compiled by the City’s Department of the Environment (SF Environment) show that San Francisco generated 2,100,943 tons of waste material in 2007. Of this, only 617,833 tons went to landfill, the lowest disposal rate since 1977.
The increased recovery of construction and demolition debris is a positive trend. However, SF Environment data shows that over two-thirds of the landfill-bound material was recyclable, with nearly 40 percent consisting of mixed compostables (mostly food scraps and soiled paper), 15 percent recyclable paper, and 15 percent other mixed recyclables. “If we captured everything going to landfill that could have been recycled or composted, we’d have a 90 percent recycling rate,” observed SF Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld. “The Board of Supervisors will soon be considering an ordinance that will require residents and businesses to sign up and use the recycling and composting programs, which we need to make our goals.” More information about San Francisco’s recycling programs is available at

New Brunswick, New Jersey

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 presented an Environmental Quality Award to the Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group (SWRRG) at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station for “launching a food waste recycling industry in New Jersey that currently has commitments from major cities to develop and implement food waste recycling programs.” Priscilla Hayes, director of SWRRG, accepted the award, presented during a ceremony at EPA Region 2 headquarters in New York City. Through the only New Jersey-wide food residuals recycling initiative, SWRRG has brought together waste generators, recyclers, and government to find optimal ways of diverting food waste away from methane production in landfills and into production of energy and soil amendments. Its work includes conducting waste audits, holding forums and training sessions and initiating food recycling programs in school districts at several academic levels.

Sacramento, California

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) has been investigating conversion technologies to process municipal solid waste since about 2001. Early on, an extensive conversion technologies database was established, followed by research contracts to evaluate many of the technologies in CIWMB’s database. Most recently, CIWMB issued a survey to update its conversion technologies project and vendor information. The survey was sent to 83 companies; information was received from 23, primarily smaller firms and start-ups. “The goal of the survey was to better understand which marketed conversion technologies and developers are operating commercially viable facilities,” notes the Board’s report on the survey, which can be accessed at (click on “Conversion Technologies Status Update Survey”). “CIWMB is particularly interested in facilities that have the ability to process MSW; produce electricity, biofuels, or other products; and reduce material flow to the landfill.”
Of the 23 companies responding, 5 claim to have commercialized MSW conversion technology facilities (none in the U.S.); 15 said they have MSW-capable facilities in the large pilot, commercial demonstration, or commercialized phases. Over half of responding companies are developing thermal technologies, half of which are focusing on gasification. Companies responding that had anaerobic digestion technologies include Arrow Ecology, CCI US Corporation (BTA technology), EcoCorp, Genahol LLC and Sharp Energy.

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