BioCycle Magazine

Food scraps recovery in Ohio

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Courtesy of Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

THE STATE of Ohio launched the Ohio Food Scraps Recovery Initiative in June 2007. Prior to the launch, there were internal discussions at both Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for months and years prior to the formal announcement. In September 2007, the State invited grocers, haulers and composters to a stakeholders meeting to determine the interest, and identify the barriers, to implementing regional programs (see “Ohio Targets Food Residuals Composting,” BioCycle September 2007).

There was an overwhelming interest from all stakeholders. Grocers, and other businesses that generate food scraps, are looking for ways to be better environmental stewards, and the waste haulers and composters are interested in providing services that can assist in these efforts. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of composting facilities, and resulting costs associated with hauling, were identified as key barriers.

Ohio EPA and ODNR have met regularly since the stakeholders meeting to determine the best way to overcome these barriers. The Ohio Grocers Foundation began a food composting pilot project in several parts of the state with a number of goals. One goal is to develop a supermarket manual (similar to that of Massachusetts), while another goal is to determine if the supermarket will have a cost savings, break even or possibly pay more for the management of wastes.

The Foundation’s pilot project is nearing completion, but has yet to determine the cost impact. Concurrent to the pilot project, Ohio EPA and ODNR planned another stakeholders meeting that focuses on the hauling piece of the equation. On March 20, 2007, both small and large waste haulers attended the meeting and were introduced to Ohio’s vision for management of food scraps and the need to develop strategies for hauling.

The hauling companies expressed an interest in the initiative, recognizing that their customers are requesting this service. The participants are interested in working with Ohio EPA, ODNR and ultimately the businesses and composters that will make these projects successful. Ohio EPA and ODNR plan to contact each of the attendees and identify hauling strategies for the regions they service in Ohio.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure for composting facilities has been developing through the interest of the composting industry. While only three facilities actively accept food waste, five existing facilities have submitted applications to Ohio EPA since September 2007 to change facility class. Composting facilities are categorized by the Ohio EPA into four classes, based on the type of material accepted. For instance, Class II facilities may receive and process food scraps from external sources, as well as yard and animal wastes. Three steps are needed to establish a Class II facility: registration, license and financial assurance. With more Class II facilities, and more hauling, organic waste streams (such as nonsaleable crops of potatoes) will be managed appropriately.

The infrastructure will get additional attention at a June 2008 Food Scraps Composting Conference hosted by the Ohio Compost Association. The Association will invite the hundreds of yard waste composters throughout the state, and other interested parties, to the conference to motivate the industry to take advantage of this emerging area.

Anaerobic digestion is still an area of interest. Kurtz Bros. commenced operations at their Akron facility last October. The facility is only permitted to accept sewage sludge, however they have expressed an interest in digesting food scraps. The company plans to establish an anaerobic digester in Columbus next year to accept all types of digestable wastes.

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