December BioCycle World

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

Economic Impact Of Recycling In Texas

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) released its recent study on the economic impact of recycling activities in the state. Approximately 9.2 million tons of MSW designated materials were recycled in Texas in 2015. Typical recyclables (paper, plastics, metal, and glass), organics (yard trimmings, brush, green waste, and food and beverage materials), and construction and demolition materials accounted for 8.7 million tons, or 94.4 percent of the total recycled materials in the state. Based on an average commodity market for typical recyclables, organics, and C&D materials, that equates to a value of $702 million. Based on the tons of MSW recycling reported for this study, the 2015 recycling rate in Texas was 22.7 percent.

The study found that more than 17,000 person-years of direct, indirect, and induced employment were supported by recycling activities during 2015; collection generated the largest employment impacts, followed closely by processing facilities. The recycling industry was also responsible for generating nearly $195 million of revenue for state and local governments in 2015, through sales taxes, property taxes, and other taxes and fees. Texas manufacturers that use recycled feedstocks supported almost 9,500 person years of employment during 2015.

2017 Food Recovery Challenge Awards

In 2016, over 950 businesses, governments and organizations participated in the U.S. EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), including organizations such as grocers, restaurants, educational institutions and sports and entertainment venues. Together, these participants diverted 740,000 tons of food from being landfilled or incinerated, saving businesses up to $37 million in avoided waste disposal fees. FRC participants used cost-effective and creative practices that included reducing excess food from educational institutions, sending food scraps to animal feed and providing in-house food recovery training.

EPA recognizes FRC participants and endorsers with awards in two categories: data-driven and narrative. The data-driven award recipients achieved the highest percent increases in their sector comparing year-to-year data. Narrative award winners excelled in the areas of source reduction, leadership, innovation, education and outreach and endorsement. Familiar names among the 2017 FRC national award winners include Ramona High School in Ramona, CA and Food Forward, North Hollywood, CA in the Improvement by Sector category, and in the Narrative Category, are the City of San Diego for its leadership, San Diego International Airport for its innovation, and Spoiler Alert in Boston for its education and outreach. The regional EPA offices also give awards to FRC participants in their region. National and regional winners

New Stats On Wasted Food

New reports released recently by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, analyze the amount and kinds of food wasted in people’s homes in Denver, Nashville and New York City, and identify patterns that suggest how these problems and opportunities could be tackled at a city level nationwide. It tracked the types of food and beverages discarded, and to which destination, i.e., trash, drain, composting, and fed to pets, as well as their reasons for doing so. The report also estimated how much of that food was potentially edible. The data was compiled from kitchen diaries and surveys completed by residents, as well as from food waste audits, which were conducted by digging through residential trash and organics bins in each of the cities.

The first report, Estimating Quantities and Types of Food Waste at the City Level, provides a baseline assessment of residential, industrial, commercial and institutional food waste in the three cities. An average of 3.5 pounds of food per person was wasted at home every week across the three cities, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) of that could have been eaten. The most common reason given for wasting edible food was that it was moldy or spoiled, followed by residents not wanting to eat leftovers. Six of the top 10 most commonly wasted edible foods in households were the same in all three cities: coffee, milk, apples, bread, potatoes and pasta. In Denver and New York, the residential sector was estimated to produce the most food waste, followed by restaurants and caterers. In Nashville, the residential and restaurant sectors were virtually tied for the top two generators of food waste. Other substantial contributors included food wholesalers and distributors, food manufacturing and processing, grocers and markets, and hospitality.

A second report — Modeling the Potential to Increase Food Rescue: Denver, New York City and Nashville — quantifies how much surplus food in these cities, beyond current donations, could potentially be directed to people in need, rather than discarded. Up to 68 million additional meals annually could be donated across all three cities, beyond current donations, under optimal conditions. This included up to 7.1 million meals in Denver, 9.3 million in Nashville and 51.9 million in New York.

Denver and Nashville could meet as much as an additional 46 percent to 48 percent of their cities’ unmet food needs, respectively, by maximizing food donation from retailers, institutions and other consumer-facing businesses located in their community. Similarly, New York could meet an additional 23 percent of its unmet food needs, beyond current donations. Across all three cities, the retail grocery sector demonstrated the largest untapped potential for increased food donation among the sectors reviewed.

Orange Peels Restore Degraded Tropical Forestland

Del Oro, a large food processor in northwest Costa Rica, has been producing juices and concentrates from tropical fruits since 1995. Its processing plant has been certified under the ISO 14000 Environmental Management System since 1997.

Discover magazine reports that when Del Oro started operations, management was approached by two ecologists from the University of Pennsylvania who had an idea about how to manage rind and pulp residuals from processing oranges. Their proposal was to land apply the organics on about 7 acres of degraded land that Del Oro owned, which was adjacent to a national forest. A pilot program yielded rich black loam and a diversity of new plants, and in 1998, the company unloaded about 13,000 tons of orange waste onto the forestland. The project was ceased shortly after due to a lawsuit filed by a competitor of Del Oro.

About 15 years later, researchers at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the health and composition of the application site and found a nearly 200 percent increase in woody biomass and three times as many species as a control area next door. Soil sample data, published recently in the journal Restoration Ecology, showed significantly elevated nutrient levels, which persisted even as late as 2014, when the last round of sampling took place. There were 24 species of trees in the treated area, compared to eight in the control, and the composition of species was much more balanced. The shade cover was more complete, and the researchers say that they didn’t even begin to count things like woody shrubs, vines and other smaller species. In short, it looked like a jungle again.

“In the area surrounding where the orange peels were deposited, the few trees that we found were almost all just two species of pasture-associated trees that are not typically found in the mature forests of that part of Costa Rica,” co-lead author Tim Treuer, an ecology PhD student at Princeton, told Discover magazine. “In the fertilized area there was a much greater diversity of trees, including many species that are typically only seen in older forests. Not only did the orange peels jumpstart the return of forest, but they’ve already triggered the return of a rapidly maturing one.”

Reducing Manure Odors On Farms

Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) have found that titanium dioxide and ultraviolet light can improve air quality in areas of intensive livestock activities. They landed on this solution after learning that in the late 1960s, researchers at the University of Tokyo discovered that titanium dioxide, when given a helping hand by ultraviolet light, encourages the breakdown of all sorts of organic compounds. It causes oxygen and water vapor in contact with its surface to react and form molecules called free radicals. These substances oxidize and destroy organic compounds, turning them into carbon dioxide and water. Since the odor of excrement is composed largely of organic compounds, and titanium dioxide is cheap, Dr. Jacek Koziel at ISU wondered whether it might be employed to deodorize livestock dwellings.

In their initial experiments, reports The Economist, Koziel and his team created a standardized manure-like stench from a mixture of dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, diethyl disulfide, butyric acid, para-cresol and guaiacol. They then coated the interior surface of a glass container with a commercial preparation of titanium dioxide, known as PURETi Clean, which contains millions of tiny crystals of the chemical. These greatly increase the surface area of titanium dioxide available for reactions to occur on. The researchers pumped their simulated odor into the container and activated the coating using a “black light,” a low-powered source of ultraviolet light.

Koziel varied temperature, humidity and ventilation levels in the container to mimic conditions in both summer and winter. In summer-like simulations the drop in odorant level was 27 to 62 percent, continues The Economist article. In winter conditions, it was up to 100 percent. Field-scale tests conducted during the summer on a pig farm in Iowa using a black-lit, titanium-oxide-coated tunnel that farm air was drawn through, cut overall levels of odors by 16 percent and reduced one of the worst-smelling constituents, para-cresol, by 22 percent. The apparatus used for this trial was only 8 feet long and 12-inches in diameter. Researchers believe scaling up to create a bigger surface area should produce better conversion rates.

Dwindling Landfill Capacity Sparks Diversion Plans

The City of Fort Worth, Texas is the fastest growing big city in the country, expected to become the nation’s 12th largest in the next few years. Its population grew 29 percent since 2006, to 854,113. In 2011, estimates were that it would take 50 years for the landfill to run out of space. That now stands at about 22 years, noted a consultant’s report, “Rethinking Waste for a Green Fort Worth,” a 20-year solid waste management plan. The city owns the landfill, but it is operated by Republic Services. Nearly 234,000 tons of waste are collected annually from residential customers. And residential waste only comprises about one-third of all the waste generated in the city; industrial, commercial and institutional waste comprises the remaining two-thirds. The landfill could be extended by as much as 10 years if much of that material is recycled.

Fort Worth’s recycling goals are aggressive. By 2037, the city wants to divert at least 60 percent of the collected garbage from the landfill, and 80 percent by 2045. Fort Worth started curbside recycling in 1991 with small bins. By 2003, residents were given carts, one for recycling and one for garbage. Before 2003, the city diverted 7 percent of waste from the landfill. Today, it’s about 21 percent. Some of the ideas to extend the landfill’s life are simple, like enforcing brush separation for curbside collection so that the brush can always be recycled instead of disposed. Another recommendation is to not allow grass clippings in the landfill, which would save tens of thousands of tons of waste, the report said. The city will consider recycling food scraps, but would first conduct a pilot program to work out logistics. To encourage more businesses to recycle, a team of four employees will begin visiting businesses, much like a sales team, to get them on board.

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