Composting Roundup

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

Circle Compost’s collection and composting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Hyperlocal Composting Service

Startled by the amount of food waste rotting in U.S. landfills, Circle Compost owners, Dave and Michele Bloovman, wanted to take action. As board members of a local nonprofit, Grow Philly, which operates an urban farm in Philadelphia, they also discovered the challenges of sourcing organic soil amendments to build healthy soils at the farm. The solution? To start Circle Compost, a food scraps collection and composting service that supplies finished compost to feed urban soils. Circle Compost picked up its first bucket of food scraps from a local daycare on August 4, 2016. Since then the company has added over 75 customers to its 17.8-mile service area and assists with compost production at five urban farms and community gardens.

Servicing both residential and commercial customers almost entirely by bike, Sam Holloschutz, Circle Compost’s Chief Sustainability Officer, estimates that Circle Compost diverts approximately 1,500 to 2,000 lbs/week of organics. Its largest customer (by weight) is a juice bar that produces around 500 lbs/week of residuals. Organics are collected in 5-gallon buckets or 32-gallon totes depending on the customer’s needs. Circle Compost is having a special trailer built to enable its bicycle haulers to collect and carry up to 500 lbs. “Our attitude is we want to help the customer if the fit is right, so if we can’t do it by bike initially we will start by vehicle but then do everything we can by bike,” explains Dave Bloovman about providing hauling services to large accounts.

Circle Compost currently employs three cyclist haulers, including Bloovman, who service three routes in the heart of Philadelphia. On average each cyclist travels about 12 miles to complete a route, which takes around two to three hours from start to finish. Routes end at the composting sites where the haulers become composters, unloading collected food waste and adding carbon, usually a mix of wood chips from local landscaping services as well as leaves and coffee chafe, also collected by Circle Compost. “We want to keep things hyperlocal,” says Bloovman, who notes that routes and any potential for expansion are based on composting sites and the feasibility of servicing the area by bicycle.

Montreal, Quebec: Call For Tenders To Build Organics Recycling Capacity

The City of Montreal issued calls for tenders this summer for four planned facilities — two composting plants, an anaerobic digester with biogas upgrading, and pilot-scale mixed waste processing with organics recovery. All are to go into operation in 2020. A tender call is expected in September for the fifth and last facility included in this program, another anaerobic digester that will be built in a second phase for a 2024 start-up. Estimated cost of all five is $344 million (CDN), with $135.6 million of the total coming from the provincial and Canadian governments. “It’s a huge project for the province,” says Alexis Caron-Dionne, engineer with the Technical Support and Infrastructure Division of the Environment Department.

The facilities are to process residential food waste and yard trimmings, as well as some materials from the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector. Residential organics will be collected in a program launched two years ago when the City of Montreal began to distribute household “brown bins.” Under the current program, more than 540,000 bins will be offered to single-family homes or multi-unit buildings with no more than eight units. “Source separation is our priority,” explains Caron-Dionne. At present, the materials collected are trucked to independent contractors’ sites some distance away with substantial greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel.

The first anaerobic digester will be located at the eastern end of the Island of Montreal and will process 66,000 tons/year of food waste, mainly from residential sources, with enough from the IC&I sector to keep the digester at capacity. One of the composting plants will also be at the east end, processing 32,000 tons/year of yard trimmings and digestate from the nearby anaerobic digester. The second composting plant will be on the west end of the Island, with capacity to process 55,000 tons/year of food waste and yard trimmings and, eventually, digestate from the second anaerobic digester. The pilot mixed waste processing with organics recovery (MWPOR) facility will be located in the east end and will take in 27,500 tons/year of MSW anticipated to be from multifamily sources after residents have removed organics for the brown bin program. The aim is to determine whether there’s enough organic matter left to make it worthwhile to resort waste after source separation to recover materials that were not properly diverted by residents in local programs.

Both digester locations will include facilities for upgrading biogas to renewable natural gas, commonly referred to in Quebec as biomethane. Biogas is not burned to generate electricity in Quebec because the province has plenty of power from hydroelectric projects, which is sold at a low price and is considered carbon neutral. For the composting plants, the goal is to provide high quality material that will be approved for unrestricted use.

New York, New York: NYC Rolls Out Largest Expansion Of Curbside Program To Date

The New York City (NYC) Department of Sanitation (DSNY) implemented the largest expansion of its residential curbside organics collection program to date, with new service for 360,000 Brooklyn residents starting in June. This brings the total number of residents with curbside collection access up to 1.6 million. DSNY plans to continue expanding collection service to residents in additional neighborhoods this summer, and eventually offer curbside access to more than 2 million residents in 2017. Factoring in the more than 100 drop-off locations around NYC, DSNY aims to provide organics recycling options to all residents by the end of 2018.

All eligible households, those in buildings with nine or fewer units, receive a starter kit that includes an indoor kitchen container, an instruction brochure, and either their own outdoor brown bin or a larger one to share for the building. Residents place food scraps and food-soiled paper products into their kitchen container, then transfer the material to their outdoor bin for DSNY collection on their pick up day. Yard trimmings may be put directly in the bin, or placed at the curb in open, unlined containers or in paper lawn and leaf bags.

Miami, Florida: Zoo Doo Compost

Zoo Miami officially launched its “Zoo Doo” compost made from zoo animals’ manure. It has been collecting about 2,000 lbs/week of manure from six elephants, five rhinos, and three Bantengs (a species of cattle from Southeast Asia). The manure is mixed with trees, plants and other landscape debris that has been ground up, and compost the material in an in-vessel Enviro Drum supplied by DTE Environmental. Zoo Doo compost is used on Zoo Miami’s grounds and is available to the general public — $12.95 for a five-pound bucket or $30 for a full cubic yard.

Austin, Texas: Food Scraps Collection And Composting Expands

The Austin City Council approved a contract to dramatically expand the city’s curbside organics collection and composting program. The new contract builds upon the pilot program that has been in place for nearly four years. Under that program, Organics By Gosh, a local composting firm run by a husband-and-wife duo, processed organic waste collected from the curbs in front of 14,300 homes at no cost to the city. Under the new contract, the same company will gradually expand its service to roughly 200,000 homes by the end of the three-year contract, for which the city will pay $1.51 million. The contract award was challenged by another waste management firm, Texas Disposal Systems (TDS), which did not bid on the contract itself. The company has refused to enter bids that would require it to submit to the city’s antilobbying ordinance.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Compost Crusader On The Grow

Organics hauler Compost Crusader has acquired a 9,000-square-foot warehouse for equipment storage and maintenance and office space, as well as began servicing its second curbside organics pilot route in Sherwood on June 1. “After three years, I can finally stop working from my house,” exclaims founder Melissa Tashjian. “Compost Crusader was maintaining our two trucks outside in two rented parking lot spaces, but with the increased revenue and truck mileage from the [first] pilot, it became clear that the cost of not having a central location was becoming well worth the cost of a mortgage.” The new warehouse features a back lot for truck parking, which Compost Crusader shares with a metal fabrication company that helps maintain its equipment and builds its dumpsters.

Compost Crusader began servicing 500 households in its first organics curbside collection pilot last November for the City of Milwaukee. For the Shorewood pilot, it recruited 100 residents (and a small waiting list) to sign up for weekly collection through October, and every other week starting in November. In Milwaukee, residents combine food waste and yard trimmings in 64-gallon bins, while Shorewood pilot participants put only food waste in 32-gallon containers. “Shorewood already has a yard waste collection method, and didn’t feel the need for a larger container, which would have cost more money,” Tashjian explains. “Milwaukee had a less convenient way of doing yard waste collection and so chose to combine them.”

So far this summer, she estimates, the Milwaukee pilot is averaging roughly 1 ton/120 households/week. (Shorewood is a bit less, approximately 1,000 lbs/100 households/week.) “We have very little contamination from our visual assessments of the carts,” she notes, adding that the company has had to completely reject a cart only twice since the Milwaukee program began. “The other issues are easily removed, like bag of dog poop or soda can, and we tag it, do a digital documentation and give it to the municipality.”

Providence, Rhode Island: Collaboration Yields Rhody Gold Compost

Leo Pollock and Nat Harris, cofounders of The Compost Plant in Providence, started selling a line of compost in collaboration with Earth Care Farm in Charlestown (RI). The product line, Rhody Gold, was launched in April at Cluck!, an urban farm store in Providence. The Compost Plant is working to bag compost to supply 15 to 20 additional retailers across the state, according to an article in the Providence Journal. Compost feedstocks include restaurant food scraps, animal manure, fishing by-products and coastal seaweed. The Compost Plant collects material weekly from 40 to 50 different sources and delivers it to Earth Care, where it is composted for eight months to a year. The compost is then taken 45 miles away to Warren where The Compost Plant bags and distributes it. Pollock and Harris founded The Compost Plant in 2013 as an organics collection and soil distribution business. Rhody Gold is their first commercial line.

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