Tag Archives: curbside composting

Naples-area compost operation growing and thriving (article)

Original article found here: http://www.mpnnow.com/news/20161128/naples-area-compost-operation-growing-and-thriving

A small backyard compost turned into a rich farming operation in Prattsburgh that is keeping Naples-area food waste out of the landfill

Al Zappetella makes weekly rounds through Naples to pick up buckets of kitchen scraps. Barrels of discarded onion skins, banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, apple cores and other food waste — along with leaves, yard trimmings and other organic waste — get trucked a few miles down the road to Prattsburgh.

Zappetella has been doing the free pickups for a few years now. That is, after he and partner Celeste Arlie realized they were outgrowing their small, backyard compost pile in Naples. Family, friends and neighbors began adding to the pile. It cut everyone’s household waste by more than half.

Then, as Arlie posted on the Facebook page set up to get the word out, they went bigger: “In an effort to make the world a little bit greener we wanted to bring composting to our community.”

Now, at their farm on Route 53 in Prattsburgh, where Zappetella brings the weekly haul from 12 households and several Naples businesses, the compost operation is thriving. Food scrap pickups include from the local grocery store, Rennoldson’s Market, and restaurants such as Roots Cafe and The Grainery among other stops. Prattsburgh Central School is also on board, and Zappetella hopes the Naples school district will join, too.

From inside the barn, Zappetella shows a number of 32-square-foot beds, where the compost soil is in various stages of development. He started about four years ago with 2 pounds of worms. They multiply like crazy, he said. The worms recycle the food scraps and other organic material by eating the scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm’s body. Compost exits the worm through its tail end — basically, it’s the worm poo that does it, Zappetella said, pulling up a fistful of the rich mix.

Outside the barn, Zappetella pointed to the surrounding undeveloped hillsides from the family farm that runs on both sides of Route 53. “We want to use all the resources,” he said. A few of the farm’s 30 or so chickens pecked at a fresh pile of food scraps — it’s OK that meat and bones are in the scraps because the chickens eat it, he said. With help from his sons and other family, Zappetella said they are able to keep the place going and look to grow.

In all, along with the chickens, they have 14 goats and 7 Icelandic sheep that all live under the watchful eye of Loli, an Anatolian shepherd who guards the place. “She’s fearless,” said Zappetella. Before they got her, he noted, bears raided the farm and broke into their beehives.

Four of the 20 acres are fenced in, and a new barn is going up across the field. Eventually, they would like to open a roadside stand to sell their goat-milk products and other farm produce.

The compost makes rich fertilizer for growing their fruits and vegetables and they sell “16th-inch fine-sifted worm castings,” he said.

With nearly half of all the waste that lands in landfills from food and other organic material, the push is on put it to use. Ontario County is behind the effort, with its move to reduce landfill waste by at least 60 percent within the next nine years. The contract with landfill manager Casella Waste Systems Inc. expires in 2028, when many say they want the county to shut down the facility in the town of Seneca. A big part of the effort involves the county and its municipalities and businesses working together, while individuals also take the lead.

“Waste is a lack of imagination,” said Keith Turner of Canandaigua, quoting the owner of a local worm farm. Keith and his wife, Sue, collect coffee grounds from Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters in Farmington for compost.

“So this is trying to have an imagination,” Keith said.

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I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Waste is definitely a lack of imagination.

This is inspiring!  While I don’t have a barn, or much of a yard- I wonder if I could collect my neighbor’s food scraps, too.

I think that proactive composting is going to continue picking up momentum as it becomes correctly perceived as a necessity.  Whether you live in the city or out in the country, whether you’re aware of environmental issues or not, I have this hunch that composting will become something that brings people together.

I know how sappy that sounds, but think about it- we’re all people, we all defecate in the water supply and bury our food in landfills instead of returning it all to the soil so we can grow food to eat.

Also- 1/16″ worm castings are NICE.  That’s some fine stuff.

A Quick Statement to the City of Philadelphia on the Importance of Composting (article repost)

(reposted from my other website, tylertalkstrash.com)

Recently I was asked to provide a statement to the City of Philadelphia on why composting needs to be made more widely available for its residents.

While there will be some difficult logistical challenges to evaluate, there is absolutely no reason why this can’t make positive progress.

I was in quite a rush, but at the last minute I was able to type something out.  Luckily, I think about this very issue quite often so I was able to write a cranky blurb just in time.  Here it is:

I’ve lived in Philadelphia for nine years, and while the city has plenty of green initiatives going on for it, there’s also plenty of room for improvement.

The most obvious is the lack of curbside compost collection.

Composting is my hobby- it’s what I do. On a weekly basis, my curbside blue bin is overflowing, while my trash can rarely makes the trip to the curb at all. Everyone’s blue bin is overflowing, so why do we still have the waste issues we have?

There’s two important things to consider here- first of all, is that “recycling” is not enough. Most plastics that are put to the curb never see another life. They don’t have the value to be resold unless they are in pristine condition and someone actually wants to buy the material.  Some plastics are cheaper to extract and produce again than they are to recycle.

The recycling rates for plastic are abysmal. #1 and #2 plastics are 25% or less, with #3 through #7 at 6% or less (I found this statistic in the Bag It! documentary.  Watch it, it’s awesome). Even glass is running out of options these days, which is criminal because it doesn’t leach undisclosed toxins into your food and water like plastic does.

It’s unfortunate because people think they’re actually recycling everything from their house when in reality they’re being deceived of their efforts. Just because something is recycle–able, doesn’t mean it’s actually recycled.

Worst of all, this material is often burned to create a trivial amount of energy that would never cover the energy wasted on even starting up an incinerator.  Waste-to (of)-Energy is a massive lie and needs to be uncovered more thoroughly for what it is.

Anyway…organic material is organic material. There’s no room for failure here. I compost all my food scraps at home, my soiled paper products, and essentially any item that is organic. I also have a compost toilet to avoid fouling up our water supply.

The point is that this massive amount of organic material that we all generate, which comprises over 50% of landfills (food, paper products and yard waste combined, according to EPA in 2012) is now creating methane. Think of it this way- Our landfills could be 50% smaller than they are currently!

Landfills are devoid of oxygen. Worse yet, landfills often flare off these gases which are mixed with other toxic, cancerous compounds. Methane is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. There’s nothing good about a landfill, especially when most materials we dispose can be handled in another manner.

If all this organic material hits the compost pile instead, it utilizes oxygen to break down naturally, with carbon dioxide as the natural byproduct. After a few months, you’re also rewarded with fertile soil to be used again. It’s the world’s oldest process.

Mayor Nutter stated that he aspired to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country. This will absolutely never happen without composting being provided. This can be done by not only teaching people how to do it at home, but also creating smaller centralized sites throughout the city plus curbside pickup. While this will be a tricky process, it’s one we need to evaluate in order to get the City to where it needs to be.

We’re long overdue with making composting a common activity, both at home and the workplace. If more people composted at home, it would reduce the burden on our landfills.

If more people composted at home, they’d start asking why they can’t do it where they work.

They might realize that if they skipped one TV show to build their compost pile, they could cut their landfill burden in half. Upkeep is one commercial per week. Seriously!

If you haven’t started composting yet, give it a shot. Significantly less trash to the landfill, reduced greenhouse emissions, and fertile soil. Although most people aren’t losing sleep about becoming attentive to one of humanity’s biggest problems, it must become standard behavior in order to sustain our future.

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

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– 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.

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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.

For Restaurants, Composting Is a Welcome but Complex Task

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration revealed this week that he was rolling out a plan to make New York City residents separate their food scraps for composting, chefs and restaurateurs with an interest in sustainability welcomed the news. Composting can help the city manage its huge trash output, and a growing number of restaurants already separate their scraps for organic-waste pickup.

But many others, even some who are committed to recycling, say that finding ways to fit more bins, more staff time and more expense into their daily routines will be a struggle.

While the mayor’s initiative will apply to residences and schools, and will be voluntary, at least at first, the administration says restaurants and other food businesses will also be required to compost eventually. Food waste makes up more than 30 percent of the city’s daily trash, according to the mayor’s office, and restaurants account for 70 percent of that produced by businesses. Some chefs will be well prepared for the change: in April, the mayor announced that 100 restaurants, including Chipotle and Momofuku, had signed up for a pilot composting program.

Other cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, already require that restaurants compost their wastes. San Francisco passed its composting ordinance in 2009, and the chef Danny Bowien recalls the green bins dedicated to organic waste popping up everywhere, from fine-dining kitchens to tiny taquerias. “After a while it just becomes second nature,” said Mr. Bowien, who made composting part of the kitchen’s routine as soon as he opened Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side last year.

There is no time frame for making composting mandatory in New York City restaurants. “For now we’re just focused on the pilot program, so we don’t have a date for that,” said a representative for the mayor’s office. But some restaurants have been composting for several years.

In 2007, Michael Anthony changed the carting contracts at Gramercy Tavern to work with a waste-management company with dedicated compost trucks. For years, the restaurant has filled a bin each day with about 30 pounds of vegetable and meat scraps. Mr. Anthony also has the luxury of tucking the stuff out of the way before service begins, in the restaurant’s own garbage room, a space that makes composting on a larger scale viable. He calls having such a space “a dream.”

The team at Le Bernardin has been separating food scraps from other garbage since last summer, filling up about five of their nine plastic bins each day with fish bones, vegetable peels and any food that can’t be saved to cook the staff’s meal or wrapped up for City Harvest. These biodegradable bags are put away after prep, before service, and picked up daily around 2 a.m. The chef and co-owner, Eric Ripert, said that it took some time to train his team to separate scraps, but that the young cooks are already “so sensitive to sustainability,” and so disciplined, that the sorting quickly became a part of their process. Because pickups are frequent and the food waste is so fresh, Mr. Ripert says, “there’s absolutely no smell at all.”

Other professional kitchens have tried composting and have run into setbacks. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., has a robust food-recycling system (some goes to the farm’s compost bed, while some is set aside to feed the pigs and chickens). But Dan Barber, the executive chef, said Blue Hill’s sister restaurant in Manhattan hasn’t been able to find a satisfying, lasting solution. In the past, a company has picked up bags of scraps, or the waste has been driven directly to the well-kept compost beds at Stone Barns. But with construction under way in the city restaurant’s basement, the scraps are being tossed out with the regular garbage at the moment, because there’s nowhere to put them.

Kelly Geary, who runs a meal-delivery service called Sweet Deliverance from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was so committed to composting that she made a habit of shuttling food waste herself from her workplace to the trio of 30-gallon bins in her own backyard, at least until her small business could afford a pickup service. When work slowed down, Ms. Geary cut back on the extra expense of the pickup service, and the chef is now reluctantly throwing away more than 50 gallons of organic waste each week.

In New York kitchens, space may be the biggest challenge to composting. The trimmings at the vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy would be ideal for recycling, but the chef, Amanda Cohen, says her minuscule East Village kitchen is too tiny for a bin.

Storage isn’t the only concern among chefs; Sara Jenkins, the chef and owner of Porchetta and Porsena, also in the East Village, says she cares about reducing waste on a larger scale, but her fear (shared by many New Yorkers, if social media are any indication) is that the decomposing food will attract rats. Others who compost say that has not been a problem.

Chefs with composting programs say that frequent pickups from a reliable carting company make recycling far less messy than it sounds, and that proper containers with tightly fitted plastic lids contain smells and protect the waste from pests better than plastic bags. The chef Ginger Pierce and her husband and co-chef, Preston Madson, have a 60-gallon compost bin in each of their three kitchens — at Isa, Freemans and Peels — and fill the bins with scraps one to three times a day. “If you’re going to shop at the market, and you’re supporting farmers, composting seems like an obvious next step,” Ms. Pierce said, “and it just becomes part of your routine.”

Jean Adamson of Vinegar Hill House in Dumbo, Brooklyn, says composting is not just about being eco-friendly — she’s still looking for a good method — but it also has the potential to be cost-effective. (Most restaurants pay waste management companies by the pound for what goes into landfills anyway.)

But Joe Burke, director of sales at Action Environmental Services, a waste management company, said it costs more to pick up organic waste because the process, from pickup to dump, is much slower.

He said the idea that composting will save a restaurant money is something of a myth. “We offer the service because our customers are dedicated and they demand it,” he said. Action has 300 restaurant clients signed up to recycle organics, along with Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.

Not all restaurants in New York have the space for bins, let alone separate rooms to store their scraps.

“Garbage is one of the biggest challenges that we have in the restaurant business,” said Alex Raij, chef and owner of the Spanish restaurants La Vara, El Quinto Pino and Txikito, where she has the trash carted away seven days a week. Ms. Raij, like many chefs trying to figure out how to recycle organics, said she would welcome the challenge if the city’s new push for composting extends to restaurants. Finding a way might be complicated, she said, but maybe it’s time for kitchens that take the farm-to-table maxim seriously to extend it to their garbage bags, too. “The way we buy and cook food is so responsible,” she said. “But the way we discard food? It’s not.”

It’s refreshing to see this topic written about… cities have their concerns, and New York City is no exception.

I see the usual worries in the article, with the main being the fear that compost attracts vermin.  One thing to remember, is that the exact same waste is at the curbside right now, it just has other crap mixed in with it.

If businesses were required to compost outside in the alley, that might be a different story…but it would all be going offsite.

My first thought is where would they truck it all to?  Wilmington is pretty far, what else of that facility’s size (Wilmington Organic Recycling Center) is nearby?  Maybe there’s one in the works…

My first candidates for getting it rolling in New York would be the pizza shops and coffee shops.  They have the simplest waste streams with the highest percentage compostable materials.  By my own findings, pizza shop waste is nearly 90% compostable by weight.

Of course, the waste hauler has the confusing point of view: where is he hauling his organics to?  Are they limiting his daily amounts he can give them?  I don’t see how he’s charging more for time reasons… it’s more expensive for the customer if they have to buy proper compostable liners, and the per ton rate for organics recycling is absolutely lower than it is for landfilling…and hopefully it stays that way.

Denver council announces composting for city hall, but what about the rest of city?

[article originally posted at: http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2013/04/22/denver-city-council-launches-composting-program-at-city-hall-bring-us-your-refuse/94406/]

on Friday sent out a press release saying that has come to the City and County Building, meaning staffers in the building will be able to compost their food scraps and coffee filters.

Aurora and Cherry Creek school kids are introduced to the benefits of composting –something Denver’s City Council understands. The council on Friday sent out a press release announcing an effort to compost materials in city hall. The city has not expanded its residential composting program for years.

Though the announcement came that government officials and staffers will be able to compost, the city is woefully short of its goal to bring composting to the rest of the city. The city launched a pilot program in 2008, using money from a federal grant to buy carts and a truck to pick up composting.

That pilot program is still going with about 2,200 Denver households paying about $10 a month for compost pickup. The city expanded the program last year to 18 elementary schools and a few municipal buildings that now includes the City and County Building.

But there isn’t any more money available to purchase more trucks and carts. Now, only one route goes through the city picking up composting, said Charlotte Pitt, manager of Denver Recycles.

“We have been in a holding pattern with the composting program because of the budget,” Pitt said. “We would probably need an additional $400,000 to add another route. And about 10 to 15 routes would be needed for the city.”

About 70 percent of homes that are eligible for recycling pickup have subscribed to the free service — or about 116,000 homes. The city in 2010 published a master plan, calling for a 30 percent reduction of waste into the city’s landfill.

That could easily be achieved through composting, Pitt said. In Denver, organic material makes up about 58 percent of the waste sent to the city’s landfill. That is
more than 100,000 tons of material per year that is compostable.

“We see it as the key,” Pitt said. “Really, if we did nothing else, composting would be the key to getting us to that diversion rate. It is something that we continue to look at as best we can. We continue to look for grants and creative ways to grow it. I think as the budget concerns start to dissipate they will start looking at composting. But it is hard. We are a general fund agency. When you have furloughs and cuts no one can justify buying trucks and carts for composting.”

Denver City Council’s press release said the implementation of Denver’s comprehensive Master Plan for Managing Waste in the Mile High City, including a three-cart waste collection system (recycle, compost, and trash) is a top priority of the Denver City Council. During a budget retreat last week, it was listed as the sixth top priority of the council for 2014.

“This pilot program is the next step toward a Council goal established last year to set an example of waste reduction for the City. It illustrates Council’s commitment to being a leader in diverting waste from the landfill and I look forward to learning from the results of this effort,” said Council President Mary Beth Susman.

The composting program at the City & County Building includes a weekly compost collection by Denver Recycles/Solid Waste Management, a division of Denver Public Works. Denver Recycles delivers the compostable material to the A1 Organics facility for composting. A1 Organics then composts the materials and sells various grades of compost to retail and agriculture.

Denver Recycles in partnership with A1 Organics also sells discounted compost at its annual Mulch Giveaway and Compost Sale in early May.

This is a scenario I’ve seen before… a group of people that want to do something, but can’t get around the costs of it.  Although I’m sure they’re already on it, my suggestion would be to put energy into educating the people on how to compost at home.

Yes, this means people will have to do work.  Instead of separating materials into a container for compost versus the recycling, now they’ll have to manage it in an outdoor pile.  With some quick education provided by a mix of interns, volunteers and students, the process can be taught rather quickly and fill the void until curbside collection is a reality.

Now that I think about it, how critical is curbside collection if everyone does it at home?  Sure, “everyone” is a long shot, but I envision a movement of composting at home.  Maybe I dream too much.  Either way, if 58% of Denver’s material going to landfill is compostable (which seems higher than the usual numbers), a little education can go a long way here.