This article continues our ongoing blog series about organics management, with additional low-cost composting options.
This article continues our ongoing blog series about organics management, with an introduction to home and neighborhood composting options.
Organics recycling—commonly known as composting—is a controlled, aerobic (requiring oxygen) biological process which results in the decomposition of organic materials. This decomposition process occurs naturally in nature. Composting is performed naturally by microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other living organisms) which digest the organic residues for food and energy and speed up the decomposition process. The primary end-products are carbon dioxide, water, and compost.
The controlled composting process is created by combining organic materials in proper ratios into containers, piles, or rows; turning or aerating the materials to provide adequate air flow, and, ensuring sufficient moisture to achieve accelerated decomposition. The “finished” material is then allowed to mature through a curing period, resulting in compost.
Compost users include homeowners and municipalities, nursery and greenhouse operators, landscapers, gardeners, farmers, grounds maintenance personnel, golf course…
The State Electronics Challenge (SEC) is a free program that encourages state, regional, tribal, and local governments, including schools and other public entities, to demonstrate environmental sustainability and reduce costs by "greening" the management of their office equipment.
Why Office Equipment? Computers are the poster-child for environmental concern. They are ubiquitous, pervasive and constantly changing. Computers, monitors, copiers and printers contain toxic materials; they are heavy users of energy and paper and are often hard to recycle. Nearly everyone has seen or heard about the negative practices in end-of-life scenarios for electronics. The SEC offers a positive strategy for addressing the problem.
Partners are state…
The Consumer Electronics Association revealed the results of a recent national survey of electronics recyclers conducted by the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. on CRT glass management in the U.S., at a meeting yesterday with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. and the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse.
Food “waste” is often not “waste,’ but discarded food that is nutritional and safe to use. In 2011, more than 20% of American households were either food insecure at least some time during the year or had very low food security, where insufficient money or household resources lead to food intake reductions and eating pattern disruptions. Promotion of food donation is one way that rural and small towns can work to reduce and better manage food discards, while also providing social benefits for the community.
A food bank is typically a charitable organization that solicits and warehouses donated food and other items. Collected food is distributed to community agencies which serve people in need, often servicing hundreds of community-based organizations in large geographic areas. Food banks will usually accept foods that are packaged or can be stored for a period of time. Food recovery or rescue programs (often affiliated with homeless shelters) usually redistribute perishable foods locally, such as already prepared food from caterers, restaurants, and cafeterias.
Businesses benefit from food donation through…
The organics management hierarchy starts with reducing organics at the source through smart landscaping, grasscycling, leaf mulching, and food waste reduction. Keeping organics onsite—at residences, schools, institutions, government buildings, and businesses—or not producing them in the first place, offers the most cost effective management solution for communities. These practices save money by reducing municipal leaf and yard waste management and collection needs.
Landscaping that incorporates local and regional native plants (xeriscaping) and "edible landscapes" results in less yard waste. Smart landscapes are easier to maintain, typically healthier and more resilient, tend to be better adapted to local soil conditions and climate, and offer benefits to local wildlife. Encouraging residents to plan lawns in accordance with their family needs (e.g., smaller lawns if there are no children in the family) can significantly reduce maintenance, fertilizer applications, and grass clippings generation.
During the growing season as much as half or more of yard waste is grass clippings.…
Strategies that Support Organics Management Practices
Rural, semi-rural, and small towns often face challenges to implementing organics diversion and composting programs. Challenges range from a lack of information about program opportunities, to concerns about costs, and compliance with state requirements for compost operations. There are many factors that contribute to developing a successful program. Securing the support of decision makers, as well as the citizenry, is a first step for moving forward. And, a successful program must be tailored to meet the needs of each community.
Decision makers and the public may need to be persuaded of the value in adding organics management as an undertaking for their community. They may feel the program isn't needed or that organics management is too costly. These negative attitudes can have many roots, but generally it is the result of a lack of information about the amount of organics being thrown in the trash or "managed" through backyard burning, and the associated wasted resources to the community. As a result, the potential benefits and economic growth opportunities through improved organics management are overlooked.
Through NERC's "Best Management Practices for Organics & Debris Management in Rural Towns in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont" we are providing webinars, workshops, resources, and technical assistance. This article is the start of an ongoing blog series about organics management.
In 1960, Compost Science, now BioCycle began publication. Its founder, Jerome Goldstein stated in the inaugural issue's editorial: "We are thoroughly convinced that there is a need to conserve this country's as well as the world's natural resources. We believe that converting municipal and industry organic wastes into useful products would be an effective step forward in a long-range conservation program." More than 50 years later, organic materials continue to be undervalued as a resource in this country.
This article addresses hazardous materials that may be encountered in salvaging or deconstruction, as well as planning for reuse and recycling. It continues our blog series on laying out a "roadmap" for builders and contractors on moving towards zero waste for construction and demolition projects. Zero waste is a path that can lead to savings and profit.
Zero waste does not actually mean "zero waste," as some think. Instead it is a goal and en route to that goal, great change and value can be achieved. And, contractors can realize cost reductions by following this path. Zero waste in construction and remodeling projects focuses on looking for opportunities:
- Generating less waste by using materials more efficiently – saves money;
- Reusing materials on site, or selling or donating them to someone else for reuse – cost containment, potential revenues or tax benefits; and
- Recycling whenever possible – might save you money and could even bring in revenue.
Zero waste in construction and remodeling is a win-win proposition, and not as hard to do as you might think.
The next installment on special event composting includes setting up the "compost team" and event publicity, along with examples of special event composting in action.
The compost team
An essential key to successful composting is active monitoring of the green stations.
One monitor per station ensures that:
- Attendees are educated, not frustrated!
- Contamination of collected materials is reduced.
- The need to sort through collected materials is eliminated.
Compost coordinator duties include:
- Set-up (containers in place, signage, etc.).
- Train, assist, and relieve station monitors.
- Oversee removal of full bags or carts to the service area.
- Vendor training and monitoring; and
The compost coordinator must provide station monitors with an overview of what is compostable and what isn't, as well as composting/recycling logistics, and safety (lifting, not sticking hands directly into containers, etc.). Monitor duties include: providing a brief "compost talk" to event attendees and helping them sort materials; notifying…