March 23, 2010 | General

Tribal Composting, Recycling And Biofuels

BioCycle March 2010, Vol. 51, No. 3, p. 41
Tribal representatives from around the country will be describing a wide variety of programs at next month’s BioCycle West Coast Conference.
Nora Goldstein
BioCycle West Coast Conference 2010 Related Session:
Tribal & Rural Communities
Tuesday, April 13 & Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DURING LAST YEAR’S BioCycle International Conference in San Diego, I was approached by Laura Moreno and Charles Swanson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 solid waste staff with a suggestion. They described an information gap, especially with composting and organics recycling, for tribal and rural communities. Moreno and Swanson proposed that BioCycle collaborate with EPA Region 9 to develop a track of sessions at the 2010 West Coast Conference targeted at tribal and rural communities. The result is Track 3 during the conference sessions on April 13-14 (see pages 8-10 of this issue), as well as the preconference workshop, Composting Crash Course, on April 12.
“The Tribal and Rural Communities track originally was developed for communities interested in implementing smaller-scale organics recycling projects but did not have resources readily available to them,” says Moreno. “As preparations for the track progressed, we’ve received extraordinary interest from communities representing a broad spectrum of sizes, expertise and existing infrastructure. These not only include tribal communities with casinos and rural communities with limited curbside collection, but even larger cities in states with little organics recycling infrastructure.”
This article highlights projects that will be presented by various tribal community representatives at the BioCycle West Coast Conference. “The bottom line is that as communities strive to implement waste diversion programs, including source reduction, composting, recycling and biofuels production, we must collectively work to provide opportunities for collaboration and to facilitate information transfer,” says Swanson.

Many tribes in the Pacific Southwest operate large facilities, including casinos, hotels, spas, restaurants and golf courses. “U.S. EPA is working directly with casino enterprises and tribal environmental professionals to decrease the environmental impact of casino operations,” says Tina Davis of Region 9’s Tribal Solid Waste Team. “EPA offers a ‘Greening Tribal Casinos’ workshop to learn about ways to ‘go green’ in all aspects of facility operation and management, from the casino floor to the hotel and spa.”
Ho-Chunk Nation: In 2005, the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls, Wisconsin started a food waste composting program. About 200 lbs/day of food waste is diverted in the nonwinter months. The impetus for starting the program was to address diabetes, using the compost in community gardens to provide better food choices to tribal families. “Diabetes is a huge health concern for the Ho-Chunk Nation,” says Kevin Gunderson, an environmental specialist for the tribe.
Food scraps are collected several times a week from the casino. They are mixed with wood chips and leaves. “We have a tractor with a bucket and turn the piles several times during the summer,” says Gunderson. The tribe stops food waste collection during the winter. “It is just too cold,” explains Gunderson. “We would like to have the composting operation enclosed, perhaps in a shed. We really need some cold weather composting options.”
Morongo Band: The Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Banning, California created a Green Enterprise Program in 2008 to encourage businesses to adopt green practices. The first business to enroll in the program is the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa. “We’ve certified that the casino meets the criteria of the Green Enterprise Program,” says Liz Bogdanski, Director of the Morongo Band’s Environmental Protection Department. “A Morongo Green Enterprise goes beyond federal environmental compliance and meets our standards in Solid Waste Reduction, Environmental Preferred Purchasing, Energy Conservation, Pollution Prevention and Water Conservation.”
Almost every material except the organics is recycled at this time. “With all of our recycling programs, including curbside residential collection, we are diverting 17 percent of our material to a MRF in Riverside,” adds Bogdanski. Water conservation initiatives include low flow toilets, native drought resistant plants and using ground cover and mulch around landscape plants to prevent evaporation.
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians: The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash in Santa Ynez, California separates fats, oil and grease (FOG) at the four casino resort restaurants, which are sold for $.50/gallon to a company that collects and converts it into biodiesel. Source separated food scraps from the restaurants are either used by a piggery or composted by Santa Ynez’s waste contractor. “We also use an underground oil/water separator that our contractor cleans and diverts FOG from,” adds Josh Simmons, Environmental Director.
Separate from the casino operation, foods scraps are composted on-site at the Tribal Administration Building. “In the future, we are developing a green waste and food waste collection and composting facility where we will produce mulch, fertilizer and soil amendment for use on the reservation,” says Simmons. “We also are building a native plant nursery and community garden where we can use those products.”

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC): Located in Prior Lake, Minnesota, SMSC built a yard trimmings composting site in 2008 that also is used by residents of the neighboring town. The site accepts leaves, brush, grass clippings and other yard trimmings in exchange for use of the City of Prior Lake’s tree range to grow native trees and shrubs for planting on the reservation. “We had the space and resources to develop the compost site and we needed a place to put our yard waste,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks at the time the composting site was opened. SMSC planned to incorporate small quantities of food waste from some of the community’s restaurants as well.
Pala Band of Mission Indians: When it was ordered to close its open dump in 1997, the Pala Band in Pala, California decided to open a transfer station that has evolved into a recycling and composting center as well. The Tribal Transfer Station, which opened in May 2008, accepts beverage containers, cardboard and paper, scrap metal, wood, batteries and E-waste and green waste from residents, businesses and the casino. “We have about 1,000 residents and a 500-room casino,” says Lenore Lamb, Director of Environmental Services. “We recently started offering curbside recycling for residents, and also collaborate with other tribes to service their recycling programs. That gives us more volume for marketing the recyclables.”
The Pala Band purchased a Komptech shredder to process the green waste, brush and wood. The windrow composting operation is adjacent to the transfer station. “We would like to start a pilot project for food waste composting,” adds Lamb. The transfer station and mulch/composting facility are part of the BioCycle West Coast Conference tour on April 15.
Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California: Located in Gardnerville, Nevada, the Washoe Tribe has a wide range of diversion programs. On the organics side, tumble/barrel composters are available to tribal members on request. “We also have a wood chipping program and own a large wood chipper,” says David Schlessinger of the Washoe Environment Department (WED). “Branches cut from tribal properties are chipped and the material is spread as mulch and/or used decoratively. Our forestry program also utilizes the chipper.”
WED has a well-established recycling program, with materials taken to the county’s recycling yard. “Our department also set up a used cooking oil/grease recycling program with a local company, Bently Biofuels,” adds Schlessinger. “We have two 30 gallon drums at the two tribal senior centers. Staff puts grease and used oil into the drums, and Bently picks them up when full and pays $.50/gallon. The grease is used to make biodiesel that is sold at a Bently Gas Station here in the Carson Valley.”
Fond Du Lac Band: The Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Cloquet, Minnesota has been involved in source reduction, recycling and composting for a number of years. Food waste is separated at its casino and diverted to composting off-site. Another initiative is vermicomposting in the school. “We have students pack up the worm castings in take-out food containers and bottle the worm juice, both of which they sell,” says Shannon Judd, program coordinator. “We also are trying to start a residential program with vermicomposting bins.”
Bishop Paiute Tribe: A demonstration program to collect food scraps from tribal commercial and institutional kitchens is getting underway at the Bishop Paiute Tribe in Bishop, California. Food waste is collected in small plastic tubs and transported via a bicycle with a trailer to the Elders Center for composting. “We’ve been composting kitchen waste from the Elders Center for several years via vermiculture bins,” says Brian Adkins, Environmental Director. “One objective of the new program is to demonstrate its cost-effectiveness so that tribal entities generating waste will take on these programs. Another is to expand exercise opportunities for youth and to show how bicycles can be used to accomplish every day work tasks.”


Passamaquoddy Tribe: An innovative biofuels pilot project that will enable participating residents to grow enough algae in backyard reactors to make several hundred gallons of diesel oil per growing season will be up and running around May 2010, says Steve Crawford, Director of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Environmental Department. “We are not converting waste to energy because the algae are being cultured specifically for this use,” he explains. “The concept is for homeowners to make their own heating oil, making them self-sufficient in heating energy production.” The algae are grown vertically, in one-foot diameter tubes. The tribe is located in Perry, Maine.

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