March 23, 2010 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle March 2010, Vol. 51, No. 3, p. 14

West Oakland, California
Three West Oakland residents disturbed by the lack of access to healthy food in their community took matters into their own hands when they founded People’s Grocery in 2002. With a stated mission that “everyone should have access to healthy food, regardless of income,” the People’s Grocery vision has grown to encompass an integrated web of creative food distribution methods, cooking classes, urban gardens, youth training sessions and composting projects. Two community gardens in neighboring north Oakland and a third growing space in West Oakland behind the famed California Hotel (once a premier rhythm and blues entertainment venue) yield beans, squash, tomatoes and cool-season greens. In a modified version of community-supported agriculture, local residents preorder 12-to-14-pound “grub boxes” filled with organic fruits and vegetables grown by farm manager Jason Uribe and interns and volunteers. And soon to come: a cargo bike initiative where People’s Grocery volunteers will pedal vegetable-laden bikes to deliver produce to neighbors who are least able to access fresh foods.
Compost plays a central role in the People’s Grocery gardens. There are bathtub worm bins (covered by plywood), and several commercial Biostack bins. Castings are used to make tea for greenhouse plants. Another composting initiative incorporates mushroom compost from a nearby upstart company with brewers mash from a West Oakland brewery, horse bedding from Oakland Hills and okara, a soymilk by-product provided by a local producer. Materials are added to five-foot high composting piles that are turned just once or twice. Compost is mixed with soil in the raised beds. Plans are underway for a new garden site – currently a one-third acre of asphalt. People’s Grocery expects to divide the space into irrigated raised beds right on top of the asphalt and to utilize woodchips for pathways.
Norton, Vermont
In the mid 1990s, Daniel Cote bought a property in northern Vermont bordered by a small lake. “The lawn was in a very bad state, and a well-informed neighbor warned me about the by-law prohibiting use of chemical fertilizers,” recalls Cote. “He suggested I use compost. After some research on the matter, I proceeded to aerate and reseed the soil, then spread a full trailer of compost on the lawn with a shovel. The outcome was spectacular! My lawn was green and very dense after three weeks.” Cote’s neighbors asked him to apply the same treatment on their lawn. Recognizing there was “a real need for this kind of service” and no such providers in the area or even the state, he launched Ecolawn the following year. “I top dressed about 20 lawns during that summer using only a shovel,” he continues. “I soon realized how strenuous this was and how difficult it would be to maintain in the long-term. I tried to find the proper equipment that would perform effectively and efficiently, but it simply did not exist. There were, of course, industrial machines but none specifically for landscapers who work in smaller residential areas.”
Cote, with mechanical design help from some friends, designed a prototype of what became the Ecolawn Applicator, a self-propelled compost spreader. “I was able to top dress 10 000 sq. ft. by myself in less than an hour,” he exclaims. During the time he was designing and building the machine, Cote attended many seminars and workshops and took specialized courses on ecological land care. “Fifteen years ago, my peers in the lawn-care business considered me marginal,” he says. “Today, I help companies provide eco-lawn services in the same way I helped my very first customers. And as a reminder to landscapers looking for business opportunities, let me just add this: In North America, there are more than 160 million acres of lawn. Changing times mean that there are restrictions on the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation, especially in urban areas.”
Grove City, Ohio
The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) recently began running one of its recycling collection trucks on compressed natural gas (CNG) made from upgraded landfill gas. SWACO constructed The Green Energy Center several years ago to produce CNG (see “Landfill Gas To Fleet Fuel In Ohio,” October 2008). Phase One of the project has the potential to produce 250,000 gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG. The SWACO fleet fueled by the CNG includes Honda Civics, light to medium duty Chevy and Ford pick-up trucks, a riding lawn mower and now the packer truck for recycling, which has a dedicated Cummins ISL-G 320hp/2200RPM CNG engine. “The truck went into service in late January,” says John Remy of SWACO. “The tank holds 60 gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG. We figure right now the mileage is close to the other trucks running diesel which is about 3-miles to the gallon of fuel.”
Atlanta, Georgia
From Georgia Organics Recycling comes this list of reasons why the State of Georgia should not repeal its ban on disposal of yard trimming in MSW landfills that capture methane (as proposed in House Bill 1059):
10. Georgia has a strong and growing infrastructure for recycling and composting. HB 1059 would result in lost jobs for the composting industry in Georgia.
9.Yard trimmings are estimated to be 25 percent by weight in Georgia landfills, based on 2007 tonnage. HB 1059 would send an additional 1.5 million tons of recyclable yard trimmings to Georgia MSW landfills.
8. HB 1059 circumvents the state’s Environmental Protection Departments landfill permitting process by creating new provisions in state law for landfilling recyclables.
7. Georgia has long been a dumping ground for out of state waste. HB 1059 would increase that dumping.
6. HB 1059 contradicts the federal and state preferred waste management hierarchy of source reduction, followed by recycling and composting as priorities.
5. HB 1059 diminishes the billions of dollars of investment by state and local government and private industry toward reducing disposal and increasing recycling.
4. Increased organics recycling is the next step in conservation of water resources; HB 1059 will deplete valuable resources for that goal.
3. HB 1059 reverses goals established by the 1990 Solid Waste Management Act to decrease disposal to MSW landfills.
2. HB 1059 will make resources critical to compost industry growth less attainable and at higher costs.
1. HB 1059 reverses positive and aggressive policy that will increase competition with other states for attracting business development in Georgia.
Sacramento, California
California Assembly member Wesley Chesbro, Chair of the Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee (and a former member of the state’s Integrated Waste Management Board) introduced AB 2139, the California Product Stewardship Act. It would require manufacturers of hazardous products to create products that are less toxic, more durable and easier to recycle when they enter the waste stream. The bill proposes an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Framework, which would establish one law to address a wide range of toxic products, including medical waste such as hypodermic needles, household pesticides, small propane tanks and other hazardous waste found around the home.
“Consumers deserve convenient, affordable options for disposing of products and leftover pesticides,” says Kevin Hendrick, director of the Del Norte County Solid Waste Management Authority and board member of the California Product Stewardship Council. “Green design and a green economy must start with the businesses that produce, and profit from, these products.”
Under an EPR Framework, producers have the flexibility to customize individual product stewardship plans and implement the most effective and cost-efficient approach for any particular product or product category. “The EPR Framework is a strategy to share responsibility among those who make, sell, use and dispose of products, while placing the primary responsibility on producers to reduce a product’s lifecycle impacts,” says Chesbro. “It harnesses the power of the free market to drive environmental improvement.”
Portland, Oregon
For the first time since it opened in 1990, operations at the Metro Central solid waste transfer station are changing hands. Metro, the regional government that serves 1.5 million people in the 25 cities and three counties of the Portland metropolitan area, and Recology Oregon Recovery Inc., a subsidiary of San Francisco-based Recology, signed an estimated $38 million, seven-year contract to manage Metro Central. The facility receives trash and recyclables from commercial waste haulers, businesses and residents. According to Metro, the decision to award the contract to Recology was “based primarily on its guarantee to double the rate of materials recycled, the company’s robust sustainability plan which includes reducing its carbon footprint, and improved opportunities for employees at the station all without significant increases in operation costs.”
Modifications will be made to improve services at the station to allow Recology to double the current rate of recycling from 17 percent to 34 percent by the end of the first year of operations, and to 40 percent by the end of the contract in 2017. Stepping up the recovery of cardboard, wood and metal will make up much of that increase. Recology also plans to accept new materials at Metro Central, including asphalt roofing and clean drywall. Sustainability measures include running the transfer station solely on wind power purchased through PGE’s Clean Wind program, implementing energy efficiency measures and reducing water usage. The company also acquired a local composting site, and is planning on developing additional processing infrastructure in the region.
Brattleboro, Vermont
The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) received an EPA Resource Conservation Challenge grant for construction and demolition pilots in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, to take place over the next two years. The pilots will strive for zero waste through source reduction, reuse and recycling. As part of the project, NERC will work with construction site managers to develop zero waste materials plans; provide on-site technical assistance; document materials diverted at each location; and develop training tips, implementation tools, fact sheets and case studies. For additional information, visit

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