August 17, 2010 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle August 2010, Vol. 51, No. 8, p. 13

Corvalis, Oregon
Republic Services has completed an upgrade of its facility in Corvallis, Oregon, allowing for the composting of food waste. The Pacific Region Compost (PRC) facility received the first permit of its kind in Oregon and is able to compost all food waste, including meats, bones and dairy along with green feedstocks from commercial customers. Food waste is collected throughout the Willamette Valley for processing at the PRC. “We’ve been recycling wood waste and yard debris on this site for 19 years,” says Jeff Andrews, Republic’s senior vice president. “Harvesting food waste as a reusable resource is the next frontier in recycling.” The company installed an aerated static pile system engineered for its site, which includes biofiltration. Nearly 2-acres have been paved to compost the material and ensure groundwater remains contamination-free. Find out more at prc.aspx.
Plano, Texas
“We’ve had record compost sales this year,” says Sherrian Jones, Division Manager of Compost Operations & Marketing for the City of Plano. “We have in excess of 100,000 cubic yards of material being processed and turned into compost products.” The city’s facility, Texas Pure Products, receives yard trimmings from five member cities, which it mixes with organics from Walmart stores, Whole Foods markets and other generators in the area. It accepts compostable plates, tableware and bags. The food waste is incorporated directly into the windrows. “We start building a row with only ground yard trimmings, then have a load of organics dropped onto the windrow,” explains Jones. “That is covered with more ground material, and then we run our windrow turner down the row to blend the feedstocks, which also pulverizes the organics.”
Texas Pure Products moved to its new location about a year ago. The site has 14 acres of improved surface, which is a composite mix of rock and Portland cement. Plano acquired a Backhus windrow turner as part of the expansion. Recently, it purchased a Hamer semiautomated bagging line. “Only about 1 percent of our sales are in bagged product, but we are trying to grow that end of the market,” says Jones. Most of the compost is sold for commercial applications, as well as to the Texas Department of Transportation for road construction and vegetation establishment.

East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State officials say the university’s newly unveiled Anaerobic Digester Research and Education Center (ADREC) facility will advance the science and technology of anaerobic digestion (AD) through cutting-edge research and remain hopeful that it will play a key role in expanding Michigan’s biologically based economy.
“Anaerobic digestion has proven to be a feasible technology to convert waste to resource while minimizing negative impact on the environment,” said Ajit Srivastava, chairperson of the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at MSU. “However, due to the high cost it can only be afforded by large dairy operations. Therefore, the goal of the ADREC is to develop off-the-shelf anaerobic digestion technology so it becomes cost effective for small to medium-size farms. Since there are more than 2,200 dairy farms in Michigan that fall in this range [200 to 499 milking cows], the potential of AD technology in converting animal manure to energy, all-the-while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is huge.”
Construction of the ADREC began in September 2009 and was completed this past spring. The 6,000-square-foot facility includes laboratories, conference rooms and offices for researchers, and a high bay featuring several anaerobic reactors -ranging in size from 2 liters to 200 liters – and a temperature-controlled room.
MSU officials expect the research center to dovetail nicely with a recent USEPA/USDA interagency agreement promoting renewable energy and aimed at cutting livestock operations’ greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement expands the work of the AgStar program, another joint effort that helps livestock producers reduce emissions. The most recent collaboration provides $3.9 million over the next five years, expanding technical assistance and guidance and improving outreach to livestock producers to assist with prefeasibility studies.
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, was recently acknowledged as one of the country’s most green universities by both the USEPA and The Princeton Review. The school’s list of outstanding achievements on the path to sustainability include a $2 million project to build one of the country’s first dry fermentation anaerobic biodigesters. University officials have been busy gathering the necessary permits and wrapping up construction bids and were expecting to break ground before students returned for the fall semester. The German company BIOFerm Energy Systems will supply the technology, with funding for the project including a $232,587 Wisconsin Focus on Energy Grant and $5 million in federal grants. UW Oshkosh Foundation purchased the land where the project will reside. Once it is up and running, the biodigester is expected to produce 400 to 500 kilowatts annually from around 6,000 tons of organic biowaste, which will include dining-hall food scraps, food and yard waste from the surrounding community and expired grocery store products. The project will power an estimated 5 percent of the university’s needs, with an output equaling the energy requirement of about 700 residential homes. Other “green” projects the university has been lauded for include: being one of a small number of universities to sign an international Earth Charter that includes “respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace”; becoming the first Wisconsin university to join the EPA’s Green Partnership by agreeing to purchase at least 3 percent of its energy from alternative sources; becoming the first Fair Trade University in the U.S.; and establishing an aggressive climate action plan – based on a sophisticated carbon footprint study – to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
The Hennepin County (Minnesota) Board of Commissioners recently approved nine agreements awarding $213,700 in Municipal Waste Abatement Incentive Fund grants to assist projects that offer innovative ways to reduce and recycle waste. The most recent awards include $40,000 to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to phase in organics collection at a majority of the food establishments based at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The program should be on line sometime this fall. The collected food waste will go to a composting site in Brooklyn Park for initial processing, then transferred to an organics processing facility in Rosemount.
In 1999, commissioners established the Waste Abatement fund to provide financial incentives to municipalities to allow them to explore new opportunities to reduce, reuse or recycle waste. In 2002, because of interest by schools and park districts, the board extended eligibility to all public entities and increased the annual funding to $200,000. In 2009, eligibility was extended again to include nonpublic K-12 schools and funding grew to $300,000 annually. The monies come from the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund.
Austin, Texas
A policy paper published by the Texas Department of Transportation concludes that sourcing food locally could go a long way toward solving highway infrastructure problems. According to the report, a dwindling Highway Trust Fund and other economic woes contribute to a transportation funding gap that could grow as large as $1 trillion by 2015. Food travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to fork, the reports states, and much of that traveling takes place over the road via tractor-trailer. These heavy haulers not only don’t pay their fair share of highway maintenance costs – between 60 percent to 90 percent, according to the report – but just one of the monster trucks imposes the same amount of roadway damage as 9,600 passenger vehicles. Calculated “food miles” consider these externalities and other “hidden costs” of excessive transportation such as congestion, carbon emissions, road safety and ailing local agricultural economies. Food miles really rack up where processed foods are concerned, the report explains, because all the separate components must be manufactured, transported, assembled and transported again. The solution? Eat more whole (unprocessed) foods grown closer to home. In a country with a bulging collective waistline and growing concerns about food point-of-origin and safety, this strategy pays other dividends as well. Get the full report at
Ames, Iowa
The governor’s office presented Iowa State University (ISU) with two awards for protecting the state’s natural resources during a June 28 awards ceremony. The university received the governor’s Environmental Excellence Award as well as one for special recognition in water quality. Its composting, trayless dining, farm-to-cafeteria and recycling programs were cited. The ISU compost facility is designed to handle up to 15,000 tons of material annually, including feedstocks from the dairy operation, other university animal facilities, biomass research, greenhouse debris, campus yard waste and discarded food from ISU Dining. In August 2009, one of ISU’s main dining facilities went trayless in order to cut down on food waste and save energy. Over the same school year, ISU students instituted an aggressive recycling campaign in residence halls and apartment communities with the goal of providing easy access to collection. ISU Dining also initiated a program to recycle all cardboard, glass, ink, toner, pallets, cans and bottles. Additionally, the school was recognized for its innovative farm-to-campus program promoting the purchase of local food.
San Bernardino, California
A contentious biosolids-processing plant expected to turn 400,000 tons of sewage sludge per year into compost for agricultural application has been approved for the second time by county officials. Nursery Products, which gained initial approval from the board of supervisors in 2007, hopes to begin construction on the 80-acre facility 8 miles west of the town of Hinkley by September, 2010, once it clears the final hurdle of a superior court judge, who must approve a supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A citizens group, filed the original suit to block the project, which led to the more thorough supplemental report addressing waters supply, water quality and greenhouse gas issues. In approving the project, county supervisors voted 3-2 to stand with the applicant in seeking a green light from the court., plans to continue the fight, with representatives stating in published reports that they hope the court will require another full EIR and the public comment that goes along with it.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Lee Meinicke and Meenal Raval are on a composting mission. Since 2001, Raval has kept her neighbors’ food and yard waste out of landfills by offering to compost it in her own backyard. To connect her own composting with backyard composters throughout the city and to provide information and guidance, Raval designed the Philly Compost Map. With an MBA in sustainable business and a personal commitment to a zero waste lifestyle, Meinicke was also thinking “big picture.” In 2009, the duo joined forces to create Philly Compost with the shared goal of helping the City of Brotherly Love reduce waste through residential and business composting. Philly Compost collects food scraps from kitchens, restaurants and markets in the city. While the company encourages home composting, it is also establishing a program for pick up of residential compostables.
The Schuylkill Center – a regional nonprofit nature center holding the mission of educating visitors toward the improvement and preservation of the natural environment – turned out to be an ideal partner when Philly Compost was looking for a new home. That home sits adjacent to the center’s 2-acre organic farm, offering visitors the chance to make a tangible connection between turning waste to resources and local food production. “The Schuylkill Center continues its commitment to be a model for all environmental issues,” said Dennis Burton, executive director of the center. “Collaborating with Philly Compost and siting them at our organic farm makes perfect sense.” With some help from a team of design-build students from nearby Philadelphia University, Philly Compost and Schuylkill Center staff will create a structure that incorporates reclaimed materials into the design. The post-frame structure will sport a shed roof that captures rainwater to be stored for on-site usage, and two Earth Tubs housed inside the building will keep the food scraps enclosed and allow for mixing and aeration. Construction of the new facility began in July.
St Paul, Minnesota
A bill signed into law in April added “source separated compostable materials, including but not limited to, yard waste and food waste,” to Minnesota’s waste management hierarchy. With the new law, only “waste reduction and reuse” and “recycling” are above source separated compostable materials in the solid waste hierarchy, which prescribes the preference in which solid waste should be managed in Minnesota. The bill was authored by Minneapolis Democratic Farm Labor Party State Sen. Scott Dibble and State Rep. Frank Hornstein, who were approached by Linden Hills Power & Light, a community group located in their Minneapolis district, about amending the hierarchy. Linden Hills began a source separated organics pilot project in September 2008. After seeing the benefits of the program, which garnered participation by 1,200 households, the group proposed the additional language to their elected officials. “We hope this bill will provide incentives for more businesses to model Linden Hills Power and Light’s efforts to promote composting among customers,” Sen. Dibble stated in a press release. “By specifically highlighting composting in the state’s waste management hierarchy, we hope to draw more attention to a very environmentally friendly practice that is easy for many residents to undertake.” The definition of source separated compostable materials also includes items such as paper towels and napkins.
Lebanon, Ohio
Marvin’s Organic Gardens, a composting facility and full-service nursery and garden center operating on 75 acres 25 miles north of Cincinnati, has landed a contract with Walmart to receive food and plant waste from 160 Ohio-based stores. The organic materials will be collected by Future Organics, Inc., which will provide bins and deliver the feedstock to the compost facility. Walmart benefits from the arrangement in that Marvin’s charges much lower tip fees than the regional landfills. Marvin’s Organic Gardens’ customers benefit, too. “The nutrient rich homemade compost we are able to produce from the food waste is the best way to promote healthy lawns and gardens and grow the best tasting fruits and vegetables possible,” garden center owner Wes Duran told the Cincinnati Gardener. “Marvin’s Organic Gardens is proud to help Walmart with their pledge to significantly reduce landfill waste.” When Duran transitioned out of restaurant ownership in 1999, he received a $250,000 state grant to purchase composting equipment, matching that dollar for dollar with his own funds.

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