Tag Archives: commercial composting facility

How Gigantic Turned Aerated Piles Work

This is a good overview of how an outdoor composting system works.

I hope they can make videos explaining water treatment, biofilters and trommel screening in greater detail.

I’ve always wondered where washing of the equipment, such as trucks and equipment, comes into play.

I never see it mentioned, although odors have led to the downfall of plenty of composting programs…

Failure of the Wilmington Compost Facility Underscores Need for a Locally Based and Diverse Composting Infrastructure (article by Neil Seldman)

The content that follows was written by Neil Seldman and originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/failure-wilmington-compost-facility-underscores-locally-based-diverse-composting-infrastructure/

Go directly to the link above to check it out.  I’m reposting simply because hopefully more people will read it that way and it’s an important topic to discuss if we’re to move in the right direction with one of our biggest waste issues.


The rapid increase in community-scale composting in the Mid-Atlantic is sorely needed. The recent closing of the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center in Delaware, due to the loss of its operating permit, has pushed the need for a distributed and diverse composting infrastructure to the fore. Source separated food discard programs from New York City to Washington, DC, are now scrambling to find alternative sites to tip their loads.

The Wilmington Organics Recycling Center was at the center of expanded food discard collections in the Mid-Atlantic region. Developed, sited, permitted, financed and built by The Peninsula Compost Group (TPCG), the facility was designed to receive 600 tons per day of source separated organic materials from government institutions, grocery chains, schools, food processors, sports venues, restaurants, and other large food waste generators.

A separate company, named the Peninsula Compost Company (PCC), was set up to own the plant. Its original members included the EDiS Company and Greenhull Compost LLC (both of Wilmington, Delaware), as well as the developers, TPCG. The facility commenced operations in late 2009 composting around 200 tons per day.

For the first two years, TPCG was the managing and operations partner. During that time there were no verified odor complaints or Notices of Violation from the State of Delaware and the compost produced met every Federal and State standard for unrestricted use.

However, the anticipated ramp-up to 600 tons per day of incoming food waste did not occur as anticipated, placing economic strains on the facility. In 2011, Waste Management Inc. (WMI) approached PCC seeking to participate as an investor in the project and to provide food and wood waste to fill the facility’s capacity.

This overture and ensuing transaction were welcomed given WMI’s interest in accelerating organics recycling services and developing value-added compost-based products in the Mid-Atlantic. WMI invested millions into buying the largest individual ownership share of PCC.

When WMI announced this strategic investment in PCC in May 2011, it touted the facility’s ability to add over 200,000 tons to the company’s processing capacity. Despite incentives to increase the volume of organics processed, WMI was unable to help PCC reach the plant’s 600 ton-per-day capacity and the material delivered by all haulers was too often contaminated.

In mid-February 2012 – within a year of WMI’s investment – TPCG was removed as the operations manager and eliminated as voting members, a step that made WMI the majority voting member of PCC, with the largest controlling interest.

However, WMI maintains it never could and still cannot control PCC. This is counterintuitive given that all of the Wilmington plant management people were direct employees of PCC, a company that WMI dominated with a majority of the voting shares.

Between mid 2012 and its closure in fall 2014, the facility received hundreds of odor complaints, Notices of Violation from the State of Delaware, and complaints about plastic and glass contamination in the compost.

Although W.L. Gore and Associates, the technology provider, and a number of well-known independent compost consultants and experts made recommendations that would have resolved those issues, most of those suggestions were apparently not acted upon.

As a result, the operations continued to suffer from contamination and odor problems. Odors reached area neighborhoods and businesses, even though sufficient buffer areas existed. On October 20, 2014, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, in the face of permit violations, refused to renew the facility’s permit, thus shutting down operations. (Click here for DNREC’s closure order and here for its press release.)

All active composting of existing material onsite must to be completed by January 16, 2015. By March 31st, all compost and related waste must be removed. The facility’s closure has not only crippled business and local government food waste diversion programs, but has also given commercial food waste composting a bad name.

Andrew DiSabatino, Jr., Managing Partner of PCC, reported that the Wilmington Peninsula plant would not be reopened. Another plant that had been planned for the southern part of Prince George’s County, Maryland, is unlikely to move forward.

One industry consultant wondered if WMI’s goal was to shut down the plant in order to eliminate competition with its regional landfills. Yet, why wouldn’t WMI want to clean up the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center – a facility they partly owned with the largest controlling interest – in order to secure on-going capacity for the growing food waste composting sector?

Consider that the lack of wood waste was one of the most critical problems facing the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center. (Wood waste was needed as a source of carbon to balance the highly nitrogenous food waste.) WMI could have delivered adequate carbon materials for composting but did not; its Tullytown, Pennsylvania landfill (~55 miles from Wilmington) receives tens of thousands of tons of yard and wood waste, for which it earns landfill tip fees.

According to WMI spokesperson, John Hambrose, WMI remains committed to organics recycling and is involved in numerous other projects and operations across the U.S and Canada. WMI, for example, is a partner in Harvest Power’s wet anaerobic digester project in London, Ontario. That facility accepts 67,000 metric tons of material a year and generates 285 megawatts of electricity and other products.

Hambrose points out that WMI has made significant investments to increase its capacity to manage organic material. “Our customers want this service so we invest in facilities that will help us meet the demand for composting services. WMI invests to succeed.” WMI operates 39 yard trimming and food waste facilities in the U.S. Referring to the growing ‘zero waste to landfill’ movement, Hambrose stated, “We need composting capacity to build our business.”  Indeed, WMI used the Wilmington facility to successfully win the bid to transfer New York City’s organics.

Is there too much reliance on distant far-away facilities? ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e Director, Brenda Platt, who has been trained as a compost facility operator in Maryland, thinks so. “There is not enough focus on home composting and small-scale farm and community sites, followed by onsite institutional systems and then development of medium sized private and public operations for remaining organics,” she asserted. “One beauty of composting is that it can be small-scale, large-scale, and everything in between. We need more emphasis on locally based systems as the priority.”

No matter what scale the facility, proper management and quality control are essential.  As noted by Nora Goldstein of BioCycle Magazine, “What is key in compost manufacturing at any scale is production of a high quality compost as that opens doors to a wide range of markets and end uses — from growing food to managing storm water and erosion. This requires clean incoming feedstock.

Indeed, cities could be developing closed loop local systems to recycle food waste into compost to green neighborhoods and enhance the health of urban soils. Compost is increasingly valued for its ability to improve water retention in soil, treat non-point source pollution, and cut sedimentation run-off via green infrastructure such as raingardens and bioswales. Centralized, far-away and large-scale facilities make it harder to return finished compost back to the community for use.

The good news is that there is huge potential to expand composting at the local level. ILSR’s 2014 report, Growing Local Fertility: A Guide to Community Composting, describes successful initiatives in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Programs range from urban to rural and include demonstration/training sites, schools, universities, pedal-powered collection systems, worker-owned cooperatives, community gardens, and farms employing multiple composting techniques. At recent forums in Baltimore (sponsored by BioCycle and ILSR) and Philadelphia (sponsored by the City Council), community-scale composters spoke before enthusiastic audiences.

If implemented, a decentralized approach – one that combines home and community-scale composting with on-farm and medium-sized operations – would create jobs, reduce private and public sector costs for managing waste, and better tie compost to healthy soils and local food production, thereby reinforcing a community culture of sustainability and engaged environmental stewardship. Moreover, with a diverse infrastructure, problems at one site will not disrupt the whole system.

For further information on the benefits of composting, composting basics, national and state statistics, model programs, policy opportunities, and a discussion of community-scale composting, see ILSR’s 2014 report State of Composting in the US: What, Why, Where & How.

To learn more about our Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders composter-training project (a collaborative project with ECO City Farms), please email us at NeighborhoodSoilRebuilders@gmail.com.

-Neil Seldman


This article was produced under ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e Project, which is advancing composting in order to create jobs, enhance soils, protect the climate, and reduce waste.


I’d like to hear about what suggestions were made by consultants and experts to keep the facility open.  It’s suspicious that the site was working fine for its first few years until Waste Management stepped in.

At a certain point, there’s just too much volume to handle and this site is proof of that.

I don’t think Waste Management solely sabotaged the facility in order to eliminate landfill competition, simply due to the fact that their composting services allow them to make plenty of money as well.  Perhaps it’s an added bonus, though.

If Waste Management is actually committed to organics recycling and “invests to succeed”, then WORC would still be operating today.  Then again, their forays into healthcare and medical waste processing have failed, too.  Maybe they weren’t committed.

They could have provided plenty of brown materials for the site, but I think that the surrounding towns could have done the same thing just by providing brown materials from street cleaning.

Composting needs to be a multi-pronged effort in order to work.  I would prefer that everyone makes their own compost at home, but I think that’s a tall order to ask people to do without serious education.

Curbside organics collection definitely makes sense, but where is it going to be hauled away to?  I feel like this is the main obstacle in the way at the moment.  Come on investors, get going on building a network of indoor composting facilities.  You’ll make money hand over fist and take care of the primary waste issue surrounding our country today.

Tulsa, OK Chooses Incineration Over Composting (article)

Article reposted from: http://www.energyjustice.net/content/tulsa-ok-chooses-incineration-over-composting

Tulsa, OK Chooses Incineration Over Composting


– by Jarrel Wade, August 6, 2014, Tulsa World

Trash board members voted Tuesday to begin the process of seeking bids for contractors to pick up curbside green waste and take it to the city’s burn plant.

The recently introduced plan from the Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy is to send green waste to the city’s burn plant permanently, essentially ending Tulsa’s curbside green-waste program as it was originally promised.

The TARE board vote authorizes staff to invite bids from contractors for board evaluation and possible acceptance at future meetings.

The vote followed discussion about several contractual obligations that hindered implementation of the new plan.

TARE officials have said their goals are to keep costs low, keep the system environmentally responsible and make the trash system simple for customers.

One problem is that the city would be forced to continue requiring that green waste be put in clear plastic bags even though it likely would go in the same trucks to the same location as trash.

The contract with the city’s haulers, NeWSolutions, requires that green waste be in a separate waste stream, TARE attorney Stephen Schuller said.

“Competitive bidders could bring a lawsuit on such a fundamental change,” he said.

Another problem discussed was TARE’s inability to seek bids for contractors to take the green waste to the city’s green-waste facility, which some board members had requested for price comparison.

Schuller said a contract between the board and the burn plant mandates that all green waste — if taken by a TARE contractor — go to the burn plant, owned by Covanta Energy.

Because the city, not a TARE contractor, has picked up green waste since the program began, it could take the yard trimmings elsewhere.

However, since the program began in October 2012, it hasn’t.

Green waste has gone to the city’s burn plant instead of to the green-waste site because of problems processing the plastic bags.

Tuesday’s meeting also focused on a presentation from Covanta Energy spokesman Matt Newman about the burn plants’ emissions being well under Environmental Protection Agency limits.

Newman said the burn plant is a net reducer of greenhouse gases, while separate gases that lead to hazardous ozone are kept to a minimum.

The burn plant accounts for 0.2 percent of Tulsa’s nitrogen oxide emissions — a precursor to ozone, he said.

In terms of emissions, Newman said, the burn plant is much better than a landfill and is competitive with a green-waste site.

“If you go to a mulch or a composting site, it depends on the technology that you employ,” Newman said regarding which option is better for the environment.

Michael Patton, executive director of Tulsa’s Metropolitan Environmental Trust, said meeting EPA regulations on emissions is not the same as recycling green waste when it comes to being green.

“Greenhouse gases are not an issue for Tulsa. Ozone is,” he said.

Tulsa has had excessive ozone pollution since at least 1990, when alerts began for the city.

July 23 was Tulsa’s first Ozone Alert day of 2014.

Officials declared four alert days in 2013; 21 in 2012; and 25 in 2011.

Patton told TARE board members they should reconsider plans to send green waste to the burn plant rather than pursue compost ideas.

“If we can reduce NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) in any way possible, including by avoiding burning green waste, I think Tulsa wins,” he said.


Tulsa wins when they decide to kick Covanta out.

There’s no reason whatsoever to burn organic materials.  Focusing on ozone or nitrogen oxide is not the issue; the issue is destroying perfectly good materials instead of putting them back into the earth as nature intended.

What kills me is that all the pro-burn idiots are constantly saying “waste to energy”, yet there’s no metrics on how much energy.  That’s because it’s a loss, plain and simple.  Burning organic material means it’s gone.  We need organic material to continue the earth’s nutrient cycles as intended.

Landfill the air, and lie about the pollution, or return the material back to its original state with nothing to hide… it’s time to reconsider, Tulsa.

TARE is not helping you, they’re screwing you.

White Castle composts food, paper waste (article)

article originally found here: http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130312/NEWS03/130319989?CSReferrer=comments

Fast food chain White Castle has launched a pilot composting program at six of its Ohio restaurants.

Discarded food and paper from the six locations near Columbus, Ohio, have been composted by an Ohio company since December, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The resulting product is used in landscaping on White Castle property and is available for the public to purchase.

If the six-month trial is successful, White Castle will consider rolling out the program to additional restaurants, the article indicates.

“[It] took a little bit of getting used to at first, getting everything in the right bucket, but now it’s really smooth and it’s not much extra work for the staff,” Chris Shaffery, regional director, told the news agency. “We compost hamburger boxes, towels, coffee filters and grounds, all food products, anything you can eat.”

White Castle has previously implemented other “green” measures, such as switching to recycled paper bags.


Now this is great news!  It’s insane to think about how much waste from a fast food establishment is actually compostable.  While this won’t ever get me to open the doors to this establishment (except maybe doors that contain a dumpster inside to satisfy curiosity, not hunger), it’s certainly a great step in the right direction.

What will it take for McDonalds, Burger King and the like to start composting?  Think about it- Other than the plastic straw/lid, plastic cups, plastic bags, utensils and condiment packets, there’s essentially nothing that you can’t send through a commercial composting facility.  Sure, you’ll have to pick out plastic film that remains from the paper cups, but that’s within reason as bigger facilities have a conveyor belt/vacuum at the end of the line to remove contaminants.

This is a trend I can get behind…let’s hope the trial works out!  One step at a time…

Is Composting Endorsed Where You Live?

Today I stumbled upon the Wormcycler Municipal Program, which ties your municipality into a worm composting program by subsidizing part of the costs to get started while promoting the benefits of vermicomposting.

I wonder how effective their program has been, and if anyone in my home city of Philadelphia has actually done this.  If you haven’t noticed, I happen to like composting and want everyone to do it.

While I keep asking and pushing for curbside compost pickup in Philadelphia (which I’m told won’t happen), people can do it themselves at home, which is probably the better option anyway.  Or start a community collection point for compost…Philadelphia just opened one in my neighborhood (video/article to come shortly!).

It frustrates me to no end that composting isn’t expanding more rapidly, especially here in Philadelphia.  Our Mayor is always talking about how Philly has the goal to be the greenest city, yet we don’t have composting available to residents or really outright endorse it.  Recycling can only make up so much of our waste stream, while composting handles all our organic waste as well as all the crappy paper waste that won’t get recycled in the paper stream (think paper towels, napkins and even coffee cups).

Composting is THE no brainer process that can get anyone that much closer to the goal of zero waste.  So if your town says they don’t have the money/interest to start up a program (quite likely), then they should be promoting composting and making it front and center for residents to get started easily.  End rant (for now).

Just How Important Are Biodegradable Plastics?

It seems like over the last year or two, all the major companies have been jumping on board not only with a “green” product line, but with biodegradable plastics. I’d like to focus on the three major food service items that have been getting makeovers: cups, utensils and trash bags.

To narrow it further, forget about items listed simply as “degradable”… what isn’t? This is deceptive. “Biodegradable plastics” or “compostable plastics” that will completely compost in a commercial compost facility are what to look for. PLA (polylactic acid) is one of the most common corn based plastics used.

Are they worth it? I’m not so sure. Assuming they’re non-toxic and biodegrading as described, most people will not be able to compost these items in their backyard piles. This instantly reminds me of the Sun Chips bag, which upset people because they didn’t disappear immediately, let alone for a seemingly indefinite period of time.

The issue with bioplastics is that they need extended high temperatures in order to break down properly. Commercial composting facilities are the only places that really seem to do this easily, and a quick interview or two revealed that they have trouble with them.

Biodegradable plastic trash bags actually appear useful, if not for their high cost, lack of durability and fraudulent imitators. Make sure they are certified to the ASDM D6400 standard, which composting facilities will most likely require. Otherwise, you may end up with an oxo-biodegradable bag, which does not fully compost.

It’s no secret that landfills aren’t aerobic havens of biodegradation, however. What’s the point of spending more on a bag that might just remain as it is? There’s no light in a landfill, and oxygen is not freely mixing anywhere. My experience with these bags is that they fall apart if waste is held in them for too long, so in a way that’s comforting that they will degrade at least to an extent.

Of the three items mentioned, I think that biodegradable trash bags are a fair choice as we will always have material to send out somewhere, be it large quantities of recycling or trash. If everyone recycled and composted to the max, we would still need bags here and there to maintain order.

Next up is the biodegradable cup. I find cups to be avoidable in many situations with enough planning, and I enjoy trying to bring my water bottle with me everywhere I go. One way to do this is to get a nice filtering water bottle so you desire a better taste with no exceptions. Let’s face it- we don’t have water coming out of the tap, it’s fluid at best. Quit the soda and ditch the chlorine taste.

Anyway, Styrofoam cups are much cheaper than bioplastic cups and always will be although there’s essentially no recycling market for them. Who cares, they’re cheap and made of mostly air, right? It’s still a toxic product breaking into smaller pieces to be readily bioaccumulated while doing nothing to change our throw away behaviors.

Finding a compostable paper cup is harder than I once thought. Through some extensive research, I’ve found that most paper cups have a plastic liner inside. That must be a source of the plastic I pull out of my finished compost every once in a while! if you can find a paper cup with a wax liner (soybean wax, not paraffin wax), you are in luck. I haven’t been able to find one, but supposedly they exist and will compost.

I wonder how many plastic utensils get recycled. I’d be willing to wager slim to none, unfortunately. How about the corn or potato based utensils? They seem like a good idea, but this is another case where habitual reduction will outweigh material usage.
I keep one fork at my work desk, and I’ve used it for 5 years. If everyone did this, our disposable flatware needs would diminish quite a bit. I think this is more reasonable than carrying a portable spork around. I tried it, but I kept forgetting it when I needed it.

Little changes can lead to big outcomes, and bioplastics are not the greatest answer. It is possible that they may provide some short term relief, but even that’s questionable. They fall short on addressing the real problem at hand: our (fixable) throwaway culture.

Firm Pulls the Plug on Compost Dump (news article)


VILLAGERS are celebrating after the firm planning to build a compost dump near Awsworth withdrew its planning application.

But a plan for a smaller plant from the same developer near the sewage works off Halls Lane, Newthorpe, is still ‘live’ according to Nottinghamshire County Council.

The proposed Westby Lane plant would have seen 12 32-tonne lorries travel back and forth through Awsworth each week, leading to grave concerns from residents that the roads in the village could not handle it.

The local residents’ and tenants’ association mobilised a campaign against the plan with dozens joining protests near the proposed site in Babbington after Alfreton-based HW Martin’s plans were revealed in May.

Many of the campaigners were concerned about health risks from airborne pollutants and Awsworth parish councillor Kurt Whitten said he was ‘over-the-moon’ at the news that the plan had been aborted.

“It’s absolutely brilliant news,” he said.

“I am not against things like that in principle but where they were planning to put this one was totally the wrong place. It was ridiculous.

“I think everybody in Awsworth will be pleased with this.”

A Nottinghamshire County Council spokesman confirmed that the highways department had objected to the plan because of the difficulty of access along country lanes.

This led to the firm withdrawing its application.

County councillor for the area Ken Rigby said he has been fighting for a 7.5-tonne limit through Awsworth to force lorry drivers to use the bypass built nearly a decade ago.

He said that drivers’ satnavs were sending them through the village.

“I’m very, very pleased,” he said. “I was concerned about the health grounds and about the lorry movements through Awsworth.

“I am working very hard to try to get a limit in place.”

The county council spokesman confirmed that HW Martin’s application for a composting plant in Newthorpe is still in the system and would be considered at a later date.

The A610 near Newthorpe means the trucks will only have to pass over a small section of bridleway to access that site but residents nearby are still concerned about the plan – particularly because the proposed site sits next to a sports ground where various local teams play.

[It’s nice to see some active participation to ensure that a composting facility is placed in a better location than proposed…I’d suggest they do something about using the phrase “compost dump”, though! -tyler]

How Does Commercial Composting Work? (video)


Have you ever wondered how a commercial composting facility works?  Technology has advanced over the years, and now it’s way beyond a pile of dirt sitting there being tended to by a farmer.  Click on the link below to take an interactive tour of one of the freshest composting facilities in the United States using Goretex technology: