November 18, 2004 | General

The Road To Composting Food Residuals Gets Smoother

BioCycle November 2004, Vol. 45, No. 11, p. 4

COME to San Francisco next March – March 7,8,9, 2005 to be exact – for the composting thrill of a lifetime. You’ll see firsthand how the former obstacles to composting food residuals are crumbling – and how cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle as well as large supermarket chains – are rapidly moving ahead with economical, significant programs. The evidence will be available for you to see and hear at BioCycle West Coast Conference 2005.
This issue, starting on page 27, will give you an idea of how supermarket chains like Whole Foods, Vons and Ralph’s are working with commercial composters to sort, transport and process organics into high-quality, soil-improving products. Color-coded systems are used to train employees to put materials into the proper containers, and more use is being made of degradable bags. And in Massachusetts, according to Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, “the industry could realize more than $4 million in savings per year if all 400 supermarkets in the state – stores composting food residuals like Roche Bros., Whole Foods, Hannaford Bros., Shaw’s, Big Y, and Stop & Shop – recycled all their organics.”
Early last month, the Metro Council in Portland, Oregon unanimously passed a tip fee rate of $47.50 and authorized Metro to enter into a contract with a Washington-based composter for transportation, processing and composting. The goal is to start with the city’s largest commercial generators – processing close to 25,000 tons/year. The complete project will be described at the BioCycle West Coast Conference.
Also on the agenda will be Seattle City Council’s food residuals collection contracts with Waste Management and Rabanco for residential organics. As explained by Gabriella Uhlar-Heffner of Seattle Public Utilities, the existing residential curbside yard debris collection program will include a switch to carts for curbside setouts, biweekly collection year round, and possible allowance of certain types of food residuals in the carts. By mid-2005, “compostable food scraps” will be collected from any city business and transported to the Cedar Grove composting facility in Maple Valley, Washington. The full impact of programs underway in San Francisco and San Jose will also be on the Conference agenda, from city policies to collection, composting and marketing methods.
A worldwide view of diverting “kerbside kitchen food residuals” and composting them in facilities in Europe will be presented at the West Coast Conference by Kit Strange of the UK Resource Recovery Forum. Besides his analysis of programs in London, he will also discuss how Europe’s Landfill Directive opens the way to greater organics diversion of the waste stream.
And, closer to home in the Bay Area, Conference attendees will learn how schools are also smoothing the way for food residuals recovery. A contract between the California Integrated Waste Management Board and the Davis (CA) Joint Unified School District piloted food residuals composting systems. The goal (simple yet complex) was to develop site-specific systems to reduce the lunch waste stream while engaging students in the ongoing practice of composting and recycling.
For a full range of topics to be covered at the March 7-9, 2005 Conference, see the preliminary program on pages 16 and 17 of this issue.- J.G.

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