April 22, 2010 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle April 2010, Vol. 51, No. 4, p. 12

Charlotte, North Carolina
Friendship Trays – the largest meals-on-wheels organization in Mecklenburg County – prepares and delivers more than 600 meals a day to elderly, disabled and convalescing community residents. The food is prepared by chefs and students at a neighboring nonprofit, the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, which provides free 12-to-14-week training and employment assistance to adults with chronic employment difficulties in exchange for their work. The school is connected with yet another nonprofit, the Society of St. Andrew, which recovers foods that would otherwise go to waste. Additionally, fresh food for the Friendship Trays program is grown in a garden that’s sponsored by Slow Food Charlotte.
Kitchen scraps are composted onsite as well. Volunteers and staff at Friendship Trays set up a worm composting bin during a “Worm College” workshop this past January. Fifteen pounds of red wigglers and newspaper were added to a commercially made Wigwam vermicomposting bin to get things started. About 8 lbs/day of food scraps are being added, abut half of what’s generated in the kitchen. Food waste is collected and stored in red five-gallon buckets, which are kept in a freezer until they are added to the bin. Total cost for the bin and worms was about $1,000, which was covered by Slow Food Charlotte. In addition to the vermicomposting effort, four additional pallet-frame compost piles also facilitate on-site composting.
Compost collected from the system will be used in Friendship Tray’s garden. The culinary students are involved along every step of the way – from seed to plate to compost – and many now have compost bins of their own at home. Garden manager Henry Owen helped pull the project together and hopes to expand the garden and composting initiative to additional community sites. “The program is part of a grander vision to create a network of urban gardens around Charlotte that will accomplish two goals: teach gardening and sustainability practices to area residents and grow and provide food to underserved populations that may not have access to fresh foods,” Owen says. For more information, contact Henry Owen of Friendship Trays at
Rapid City, South Dakota
About 5,100 tons of compost made from residential yard trimmings were sold by Rapid City in 2009, raising over $60,000 to offset costs of landfill operations. That was an increase of almost 1,000 tons over 2008. Overall, the compost program diverted more than 17,000 tons of grass clippings, tree branches, manure and scrap wood, saving landfill space valued at $1.7 million, said Jerry Wright, solid waste manager in Rapid City. The city also gave away about 2,700 tons of its MSW/biosolids compost in 2009. That program diverted 8,400 tons of compostable material.
Moretown, Vermont
Lisa and Scott Ransom, founders of Grow Compost, purchased a 40-acre property in Moretown in 1997. Five acres are used for a family farm, and much of the remaining land is forested. “We had been gardening and farming for about 12 years and were looking for a good use for the rest of the property,” says Lisa Ransom. Their land abuts the Moretown landfill, only one of two operating landfills in Vermont. “Officials thought that the landfill was reaching capacity, but they found new ways of digging deeper, so now it’s slated to stay open for another 20 years,” she adds. “Our location was ideally suited for composting, located close to the landfill and with sandy, silty soil.”
The Ransoms invited state environmental officials, neighbors and community members to the site they had in mind to assess the viability of the project. They received permits under the state’s revised Act 250 regulation in June 2009, and named their operation Grow Compost of Vermont. Act 250, a land use law, has been the topic of a heated debate in Vermont during the past few years, as to whether on-farm compost operations are farms or compost manufacturing companies. “We were the first compost facility to receive permits under the revised regulation,” says Ransom. “Although it’s expensive and time consuming, the regulation forced us to involve the community, which was important for setting up a community-based business.”
The first loads of organics arrived in October 2009. Feedstocks include postconsumer food waste from resorts and restaurants, coffee chaff and burlap sacks from local coffee producers, manure from horse and dairy farms, as well as wood chips from tree service professionals. The Central Vermont Solid Waste District hauls most of the organics for Grow Compost, but the Ransoms also pick up manures, off-spec vegetables from the food bank, and other sources on a case-by-case basis. Food waste loads are dumped on a bed of wood chips in concrete bunkers, and then covered with hay. A front-end loader is used to mix the feedstocks and create windrows, which are then turned with an excavator. Plans include selling both bulk and bagged compost. “Our site was designed for 10,000 cubic yards of finished product annually,” she adds.
York, Pennsylvania
In January, the PA Green Energy Works! Program awarded $5 million in grants for eight biogas projects across Pennsylvania, including $500,000 to the York City Sewer Authority to replace an older internal cogeneration system with more efficient microturbines. The new equipment will enable better conversion of methane produced from the wastewater treatment plant’s anaerobic digester to generate electricity for plant operations. The award was part of a one-time competitive grant program made possible by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Under the Act, Pennsylvania will receive nearly $100 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to stimulate green technologies and green jobs across the state.
“We’re in the design phase,” says York City Sewer Authority Chief Operator Chad Arnold. The current system, installed in the 1980s, utilizes natural gas to start a 460 kW Caterpillar engine that eventually switches over to biogas. “It’s becoming harder to get parts and needed to be updated with newer technology,” Arnold says, adding that generating more power for on-site use will benefit the community overall. “I think it’s helpful, especially during the summer months, that we can actually get off the power grid during hot weather days and allow residents and other customers to take the power we don’t need and use it themselves,” explains Arnold. Once the design phase is complete the project will go out for bid.
Wilmington, Delaware
The Wilmington Organic Recycling Center (WORC), built, owned and operated by Peninsula Compost Group, opened for business last November. The $20 million composting facility is designed to process 160,000 tons/year of source separated organics, including food waste, soiled paper and corrugated, yard trimmings and wood. “We are receiving about 200 tons/day at this point,” says Nelson Widell of Peninsula. “We’ve been gradually ramping up the quantities we receive.” The plant uses the GORE Cover System for composting. Incoming loads are tipped and processed inside a building; material then is transported outside for the covered and uncovered phases of composting.
The composting facility is across the Christina River from Delaware Solid Waste Authority’s Cherry Island Landfill. Not long after operations began, seagulls from the nearby landfill caught on to a possible dining opportunity. “We looked into a range of options to deter and chase away the seagulls, and finally decided that our best bet would be a trained border collie,” explains Widell. “Within minutes of D.B. Cooper walking around the site, the seagulls all disappeared. And they haven’t been back since!” A profile of WORC will appear in a summer issue of BioCycle.
Charlotte, North Carolina
A 2009 study involving University of North Carolina (UNC) students at the school’s Charlotte campus found a positive relationship between a social media campaign designed to encourage recycling and students’ propensity to do so. “During the spring 2009 semester, select students in three dormitories received four consecutive weekly emails from [RE-duce, RE-use, RE-cycle], which provided a link to a social networking site like or,” explains Kelley Dennings, education and outreach project manager for the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA). “These sites reminded the students to recycle and asked them to remind their friends to recycle.” The study, conducted jointly by DPPEA, UNC and Mecklenburg County’s solid waste division, surveyed students about their recycling behavior before and after the social media interaction. In addition, the amount of recyclables coming from the three dorms was measured to assess the effect of the campaign.
In the initial survey, “not thinking about it” was the main reason students gave for not recycling. In the follow-up survey, inconvenience was cited as the main factor. “Our results from this project show that reminding students to recycle can help improve recycling rates,” says Kathy Boutin-Pasterz, UNC-Charlotte’s recycling coordinator. “It is as important as providing convenient recycling bins.” In two dorms, the amount of material recycled increased by 25 and 60 percent respectively. In the third dorm, the amount actually declined.
Santa Monica, California
The city of Santa Monica conducted a one-year pilot project to test anaerobic digestion of preconsumer food waste. Over 10 tons/day of material was diverted. The city partnered with the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant in the city of Los Angeles to codigest a preprocessed food waste slurry with biosolids. As part of the pilot, a grind and pump system was designed to process the food waste into a slurry at the city’s transfer station. The system was able to process 2 tons/hour of food waste. Key results and lessons learned from the pilot include: Food waste must be pumped and hauled within 24 hours of collection to prevent material from fermenting and becoming acidic; No additional water was needed for proper flow through pumps and hoses if food waste was pumped within 24 hours of collection; To get buy-in from food waste generators, factors such as use of plastic liners and odors must be addressed.
Soperton, Georgia
A U.S. Department of Agriculture loan for a planned biorefinery to be built in Soperton was recently finalized, marking the first time ever the federal agency has guaranteed a loan for a commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant. According to a U.S. EPA announcement, the project is expected to provide biorefinery jobs, construction employment and support the region’s timber industry.
The $80 million loan, being made by AgSouth Farm Credit to Colorado-based Range Fuels Inc., is being guaranteed through the USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 and administered by USDA Rural Development. When fully operational, the plant – which will utilize wood chips for feedstock – is expected to produce an estimated 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. The BAP promotes development of new and emerging technologies for production of advanced biofuels, defined as fuels derived from renewable biomass other than corn-kernel starch. It provides loan guarantees to develop, construct and retrofit viable commercial-scale projects. For more information, visit

Sign up