November 19, 2009 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle November 2009, Vol. 50, No. 11, p. 12

Ithaca, New York
Cayuga Compost and Tompkins County Dog Owners Group launched a program on Earth Day this year to collect and compost pet waste at the Ithaca Dog Park. About 5,000 bags are used to collect 1,000 pounds of dog waste every month at the park. Plastic bags were previously provided by Wegmans supermarket, and disposed of in dumpsters going to the landfill. Under the new arrangement, compostable bags manufactured by BioBag are used, collected by Cayuga Compost and composted with leaves and food waste. The bags are specifically made for pet waste, and cost the park 7 cents each. Cayuga Compost charges $1,000/year for weekly collection, composting and tests. The program costs are $7,000/year, funded entirely through donations from members of the county’s dog owner group.
Oak Park, Illinois
The Oliver Wendell Holmes School in Oak Park celebrated the final phase of its year-long Zero Waste program. With grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and several foundations, the Holmes elementary school implemented a number of projects to move toward zero waste. These included establishing a reusable lunchroom featuring reusable trays and silverware, installing an Earth Tub composter and planting an organic garden, with the produce served at a year-end school-wide Harvest Celebration Meal. The Holmes PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and Seven Generations Ahead, a local nonprofit sustainability group, assisted with the Zero Waste initiatives. An estimated 10,000 lbs/year of food scraps are expected to be composted, with the finished material used in the school garden and for landscaping. With an overall anticipated 546 percent increase in recycling, a goal of 90 percent food residuals diversion, and the elimination of paper towel usage, Holmes anticipates achieving a 79 percent diversion rate by Spring 2010. The projected increase in recycling is attributed to expanding collection school-wide, and adding more materials. “Before the Holmes school was only recycling cardboard and paper,” explains Gary Cuneen of Seven Generations Ahead. “Part of the zero waste strategy was to use student bin buddies to capture recycling from every part of the school.”
King County, Washington
The King County Wastewater Treatment Division (KCWTD) held a lunch at one of its facilities that featured crops grown in gardens at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Vegetable and flower gardens were established using soil mixed with biosolids compost. The gardens were watered with Class A sand-filtered water, which is also produced at the WWTP. The luncheon was for internal staff, potential clients and members of the local gardening community, and included presentations on safety and growth response for the plants grown using the wastewater products. It ended with a pick-your-own event at the gardens, where guests took home potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Grow-your-own baskets were also given to the King County Executive and other County officials.
Realizing that “eating is believing,” KCWTD organized the luncheon as a way to introduce use of reclaimed water and biosolids to potential clients. The menu included a white bean salad with tomatoes and fennel, Yukon gold potato pizza, and an antipasto plate with eggplant, tomatoes and arugula. The tomatoes, potatoes, arugula and eggplant were all grown in the biosolids amended soils. Tables were decorated with flowers also grown at the treatment plant. As the guests enjoyed deserts, scientists conducting research on the reclaimed water and biosolids for edible crops and ornamentals presented their results. Guests had the opportunity to ask questions, and inquired about the fate of EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Compounds) in the soils, as well as how to best use compost in gardens. The luncheon dispelled client concerns that food would taste different if grown using reclaimed water or biosolids compost. The pick your own event allowed guests to see the growth response for plants grown using the wastewater products.
Damariscotta, Maine
At the annual Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta, held each October, having big pumpkins is not about winning. It’s about having fun, such as scooping out pumpkins, attaching an outboard motor and buzzing around the harbor. Other festivities include pumpkin’ chunkin’, squashbuckling, underwater carving and dropping pumpkins from a crane onto a junked car. The regatta has two classes of boats – motorized and paddle-powered. A number of the sizable pumpkins at this year’s event were fertilized with biosolids compost made at New England Organic’s (NEO) Hawk Ridge composting plant in Unity, Maine. In addition to amending the soil in the pumpkin patch, the compost is used to cover the vines. “As the vine begins to run, each one will attempt to set out additional roots,’ explains Chris Bales of NEO. ‘Those will typically wither and die. But covering those roots with compost enhances the plant’s performance.”
The Fest was started by Buzz Pink-ham, owner of Pinkham’s Plantation Nursery and Landscaping, and other pumpkin lovers. The nursery sells NEO’s biosolids compost blends. “We also make him a custom blend, which he uses for his pumpkin patch and sells, called ‘Mocha Mix,’ which includes coffee grounds,” adds Bales. The biggest pumpkin entered in this year’s Pumpkinfest was 1,210 lbs, which broke the state of Maine record. “It was grown by Elroy Morgan, one of our customers,” he says. “In a video clip of Elroy with the pumpkin,” he says, “I came to Hawk Ridge to pick up a load of compost and look what I got!” Enjoy photos and clips from this year’s fest ‘o fun at
Marlton, New Jersey
Virtua Health, a multi hospital healthcare system headquartered in Marlton, rolled out organics collection programs at five of its facilities in June. Coordinated by Sodexo, the food service provider, and Organic Diversion, LLC, a new hauling company in Marlton, the program is estimated to divert two tons/week of material. Organics Diversion trained hospital food service staff to separate organic materials, and provided collection bins and compostable bags. “Compostable bags are particularly important in hospital settings for keeping the collection areas sanitary,” says Rocco D’Antonio of Organic Diversion.
All food waste generated at the facilities is collected, including meat, as well as paper goods such as napkins, coffee filters and cardboard. Organics are hauled to composting facilities, as well as Converted Organics, an aerobic digester plant. Other waste reduction initiatives at Virtua’s facilities include eliminating use of individual creamer cups, and recycling items such as computers, X-ray film and medical waste. “Environmental stewardship is important to Virtua,” says Richard P. Miller, President and CEO. “Our organics recycling program is just the latest step Virtua has taken to lessen our environmental footprint.”
Dane County, Wisconsin
In Spring 2007, two feasibility studies were conducted in Dane County to address the impact of dairy manure runoff on the county’s many lakes. “We got involved in this process as a means to reduce phosphorus runoff and strengthen our agricultural industry,” says John Welch, the county’s Recycling Manager/Project Manager. The feasibility study had three major goals – how to maintain the viability and sustainability of the county’s 400 dairy farms (a $700 million industry), protect water quality and maintain economic feasibility. “The first study assessed various technologies and their general feasibility,” he adds. “The second study was a much closer look at anaerobic digestion at a specific location.” The studies concluded that anaerobic digestion with advanced solids separation was feasible. Two clusters of farms in the county were evaluated with the goal of selecting one cluster to site the digester. The Waunakee cluster has three farms in close proximity with 4,000 animal units (AU); manure could be pumped to the digester. The Middleton cluster includes seven farms with 3,813 AU that were further apart, so manure would have to be hauled. Ultimately the Waunakee cluster was selected.
Facility planning began in the fall of 2008; an RFP for technology vendors was issued in the summer of 2009. “The RFP asked for vendors to provide the manure digestion system, including all equipment and controls associated with the digesters, the gas clean up, electric generation, and advanced phosphorus removal,” says Welch. “We received six proposals.” Clear Horizons of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in partnership with SCC Americas, a global developer of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, was selected to finance, build and operate the Waunakee community digester. Capital costs are projected to be about $11 million. Clear Horizons will be able to use a $3.3 million state grant. The digester will be built on one of the three farms in the Waunakee cluster. Construction is expected to begin next spring, with operations underway by the fall of 2010. The feasibility study reports are available at management (click on manure management).
Ashely, Pennsylvania
Earth Conservancy (EC), based in Ashely, recently received U.S. EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Environmental Achievement Award for its work reclaiming abandoned mine sites in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. EC was formed in 1992 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the reclamation and reutilization of former coal mining lands. Using $14 million in grants and $2 million in loans, EC purchased 16,300 acres of land from the former Blue Coal Corporation, which declared bankruptcy in the 1970s. To date, EC has reclaimed 1,216 acres, with another 1,142 acres in process, removing thousands of tons of mining waste and using compost to restore organic matter. One project, Franklin Bank, is a 14-acre mine site that was vacant for two decades, now revitalized and available for sale (see photos).
EC started a yard trimmings and wood waste composting operation in 1995, processing feedstocks with a Bandit Beast grinder purchased with funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Compost and mulch are used for land reclamation, volunteer tree planting projects, wetlands as a growing medium for plants, and is donated to local municipalities. For more details on EC’s projects and mission, visit
Dayton, Ohio
The University of Dayton set a goal to compost and recycle up to 90 percent of the waste produced at its dining facilities this academic year. It removed the trash cans from several dining facilities, instead routing dishes and disposables to tray conveyors, where staff separate trash, recyclables, compostable products, food waste and china. Cooks are also being instructed to separate meat and vegetable scraps. Organics are sent to the Paygro composting facility in South Charleston, Ohio, which is owned and operated by Garick Corp. In the first month of the program, almost 27 tons were diverted landfill disposal.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Harvard Yard Soils Restoration Project, a one-acre organic landscaping pilot, has influenced the rest of the Ivy League campus, reports the New York Times. Harvard Yard is a heavily trafficked area, with 6,000 to 8,000 people walking across it every day. This has caused compacted soil and poor tree health. By eliminating use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and instead using compost and compost tea produced at the campus’s Arnold Arboretum, Harvard Yard is now thriving. A campus display showed the organically treated grass with eight-inch roots. The savings in fertilizer costs alone are $10,000/year, plus an additional $35,000/year in saved disposal costs now that 500 tons of yard trimmings are composted on campus. Irrigation of the lawn has been reduced by 30 percent due to the water retention of the compost-amended soils, saving two million gallons/year of water.
Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, implemented the organic program at Elmwood, the president’s house, after seeing the results on Harvard Yard. The 40-year-old orchards at Elmwood were recently treated with compost tea, and are recovering from ailments of leaf spot and apple scab. The president is also composting her own yard and kitchen waste. The positive results of the project have so far led to adoption of organic landscaping practices on 25 acres of the campus. “Our goal is to be fully organic on the 80 acres that we maintain within the next two years,” says Wayne Carbone, Harvard’s manager of landscape services, in the NY Times article.

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