October 25, 2010 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle October 2010, Vol. 51, No. 10, p. 12

Columbia, South Carolina
Zoo Poo Offers Exotic Compost
“Get a load of this…” beckons the Riverbanks Zoo’s website just before a cartoon elephant tiptoes across the screen while depositing road apples – make that cantaloupes – of fertility onto a grassy savannah that then magically sprouts an array of popular garden flowers. It’s all part of a clever ad campaign to let residents know they can come to the zoo for compost – and not just any compost, the website boasts: “100% all-natural, composted zoo poo, effortlessly produced by some of Riverbanks Zoo & Garden’s most famous animals: elephants, giraffes and even zebras! It’s heavy doodie.” About 1,500 pounds of manure are collected daily, 75 percent of it trailing behind the aforementioned elephants. Windrows are constructed on a cement slab; leachate collected in a 6-foot deep pit is pumped back onto the compost to add moisture and boost microbial activity. “The ideal cooking temperature of our compost is 120° to 160°F,” zoo curator and compost manager John Davis explains in a video on the zoo’s website. Once the temperature drops below 115°F – typically after about two months – the compost is transported to another area for 30 days of curing. Finished “comPOOst” is available by the pint ($5.25), 2-gallon container ($13) or truckload ($43). Proceeds from bulk sales go to conservation projects around the globe.
Sacramento, California
Oil And Gas Interests Attempt To Kill AB 32
A ballot measure bankrolled by out-of-state oil companies that would effectively wipe out California’s clean energy programs is receiving heavy statewide opposition, from the governor’s office to the business community. Proposition 23 – which would Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006 – is on the November 2, 2010 ballot, “masquerading,” opponents say, as a jobs bill. Major financial backers of Prop 23 include brothers Charles and David Koch, Kansas oil barons also largely responsible for financing the Tea Party movement. Another large portion of the $8.2 million raised in support of the measure has come from two oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesora, which have vast holdings in California. While these supporters say AB 32 equates to higher energy costs and lost jobs – a fact that might resonate with voters in a state facing 12.4 percent unemployment, suggests a recent lead editorial in The New York Times – that argument fails to acknowledge the huge investments in clean energy technologies, and related increase in green jobs, since the law passed four years ago. “Overturning AB 32 would be another setback in the effort to fight climate change,” states the Times editorial. “The United States Senate has already scuttled President Obama’s goal of putting a price on carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency, while important, can only do so much. This leaves state and regional efforts as crucially important drivers – and if California pulls back, other states like New York that are trying to reduce emissions may do so as well.”
Brooklyn, New York
Professor Produces Backyard Compost Videos
Annie Hauck-Lawson, Brooklyn College professor, master composter and author is also the host of an excellent series of backyard composting videos viewable on YouTube (just type in “Annie Hauck-Lawson composting”). Topics include composting as an alternative to garbage dumping, compost bins to buy and build, compost bin maintenance, building a critter-proof insulated compost bin, and a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and New York City Compost Project. “I’m an educator who has taught and practiced composting with Brooklyn College Foods and Nutrition majors for the past two decades,” says Hauck-Lawson. “I made these videos with a producer from NBC – both of us on a volunteer basis – to broaden knowledge of the practicality, benefits and skills of composting beyond those already aware of the sense of composting – more to the wider American public.”
She has been composting for over half a century as part of a four generation Brooklyn family chain, she adds. “A few years ago, I seized the opportunity to study the science and more ways of composting and to connect with other New York City composters and the communities and ways that they compost through the Master Composter certificate program cosponsored by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the Department of Sanitation of the City of New York. These days, I’m expanding my composting horizons with my little farm work and Brooklyn Mompost compost.” (
Lowell, Massachusetts
Wastewater Treatment Plant Codigestion Workshop
A half-day workshop on November 9, 2010 on codigestion at wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) is part of the annual conference of the Northeast Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA), being held this year in Lowell. The workshop, cosponsored by the New England Water Environment Association, the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association and BioCycle, starts with an overview by Bill Toffey of Effluential Synergies on the benefits of adding substrates to WWTP digesters, and what infrastructure needs to be in place to collect, receive and pretreat the organic waste streams. Metin Duran of Villanova University will discuss evaluating possible substrates for codigestion, looking at biogas production potential, feedstock characteristics and digestibility, and parameters to evaluate in terms of adding them in with biosolids. Other workshop presenters include John Novak of Virginia Tech – Digester Operations; Eian Lynch and Jonathan Keaney, Brown & Caldwell – Biogas Utilization; Massachusetts Farm Codigester Project – Sam Snellings, AGreen Energy, LLC; and Robert Ostapczuk, Malcolm Pirnie – Anaerobic Digestion and CHP at the Gloversville-Johnston WWTP. For details about the workshop, as well as the NEBRA Conference, visit
New York, New York
Composting Toilets To Grace Manhattan Greenway
Riverside Park, bordering the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and known for its clay tennis courts and scenic views, may soon have another claim to fame: composting toilets. The Riverside Clay Tennis Association (RCTA) has proposed carbon-neutral facilities similar to ones already installed at the Bronx Zoo and Queens Botanical Garden. Replacing two portable toilets, it would mark the first such facility in a New York City public park. Preliminary design includes solar panels and plans to use the resulting compost to fertilize the park grounds. The installation would also save water – composting toilets typically require about 3 ounces of water per “visit” compared to 3.5 gallons for conventional commodes. A high water table and proximity to the river ruled out a septic system, and the city’s sewer line is too far away. “It’s very exciting,” RCTA director Mark McIntyre told the New York Times. “If this is a model for the future and there are more public bathrooms that use this technology, it would be terrific if this was the first one.” The RTCA, which raised the initial $40,000 for a feasibility study, is now working to come up with an additional $600,000 for the design phase.
San Francisco, California
Start-Up Diaper Service Delivers New Nappies, Composts The Old
A new company founded by new parents offers a green solution to the problem of nasty nappies. EarthBaby, launched two years ago by three friends who didn’t like the idea of contributing to the 3.4 million tons of used diapers (and their contents) that end up in U.S. landfills annually, charges $30 a month to pick up soiled diapers and deliver new compostable ones. The used diapers go to a South Bay composting facility that processes biosolids. After composting in aerated static piles for 14 weeks and curing for another six, the finished compost is utilized on area sod farms, golf courses and plant nurseries. EarthBaby works with a Swedish company that makes compostable diapers from corn-based materials and absorbent pulp from sustainably harvested wood. The diapers are similar in cost to name-brand conventional diapers. According to EarthBaby’s website, the company has already diverted nearly 410,000 pounds of diapers from Bay Area landfills. “I became overwhelmed by the quantity of garbage we were throwing out,” EarthBaby co-owner Mark Siminoff told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I realized I was living the lifestyle of a landfill designer. I knew it should be my job to be the solution, not the problem.” The company, which saw black after only a year, started out with 17 clients and now serves nearly 1,000.
Columbia, Missouri
Study Looks At Composting Animal Mortalities
One challenge farmers face is how to properly dispose of deceased livestock. The state of Missouri requires that all dead animal carcasses be properly disposed of within 24 hours. Five acceptable options are rendering, composting, disposal in approved landfills, incineration and burial. University of Missouri (MU) researchers looked at four dead-animal composting systems for their feasibility, flexibility and financial viability. They studied two mechanical composting systems-the Dutch Composter and the BIOvator -and evaluated two static pile compost systems-unroofed and under roof. Of the four systems, researchers recommended a compost system for regional animal mortality using static piles under roof.
“A well-designed composting facility using sawdust, woodchips and other carbon sources could significantly increase efficiency and enable throughput for animal mortalities,” says Joe Parcell, MU agricultural economics professor. The mechanical composting systems are too costly for individual farms, Parcell says, adding that the static pile under roof method offers minimal environmental risk and handling of dead animals at a much lower cost. Such a system offers the most flexibility of scale, can operate in all weather conditions and be most easily implemented with minimal management, the study found. Missouri has 584 million pounds of mortalities annually from the beef, hog, horse and deer populations. Researchers targeted southwest Missouri, with its high density of cattle, proximity to environmentally sensitive areas and need for increased economic activity. Mortality-compost feasibility studies could be implemented in other areas of Missouri, Parcell says.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Campus Food Scraps Recycling
Wake Forest University is developing a comprehensive plan to divert campus food scraps and other organics in partnership with GaiaRecycle LLC, a global provider of organic waste recycling systems. During the pilot project, GaiaRecycle is jointly collaborating with Wake Forest University and ARAMARK, the university’s food service management partner, to evaluate the effectiveness of onsite organics processing and reuse of the output material for campus landscape application. The patented organics recycling system – ranging in capacity from 220 lbs/day to 2 tons/day -reduces food residual volume and weight via sterilizing, grinding and drying by up to 90 percent by volume and weight in between 8 and 11 hours, according to the company. “Sustainability is a key initiative for the campus and we’re looking forward to evaluating the results of this pilot project,” said Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability at Wake Forest University. The university’s primary dining facility provides meal services three times per day to the campus’s nearly 7,000 students, seven days per week.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Composting Farm Aid’s 25th Anniversary Organics
White Oak Farm based is Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, was one of 25 sponsors and the official composter for “Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America,” a quarter-century old benefit concert to raise money in support of America’s family farmers. The concert, headlined by founder Willie Nelson and board members Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, took place October 2, 2010, in Milwaukee. “Based on a quarter pound per person with 35,000 people in attendance, we came up with 8,750 pounds of compostables collected,” says Lisa Geason-Bauer, whose company Evolution Marketing represents both the farm and its Purple Cow Activated Compost. White Oak Farm began its compost operation in 1993 selling the product in bulk, but in 2008 started selling bagged compost to garden centers. “The goal is to get Purple Cow Organics into all independent landscaping and garden centers across the country, so creating brand awareness for more than 35,000 people at this event was a great opportunity.” As in past years, Farm Aid placed volunteers at compost stations helping concertgoers discern trash from compostable treasure. This year the volunteers were from the Milwaukee Victory Garden Initiative and sported “Purple Cow Compost Crew” T-shirts. Farm Aid encourages vendors to source food locally and also requires use of compostable serviceware.

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