Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • Compost, Home or Away

    Good for the garden, good for the planet

    Here in California, the weather is cooling off, the leaves are turning brown, and thanks to some landmark legislation, compost is finally getting its moment in the sun.

    As organics diversion and commercial organics recycling laws are implemented statewide, local jurisdictions are ramping up “green” recycling programs, including residential curbside pickup. From a materials management standpoint, this is great news, since we need to divert large volumes of organic material from our landfills as quickly as possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    More than 13 million tons of organic material went to landfills in 2014. If 1 million tons of that material had instead been composted, more than 216,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from landfills would have been avoided.   

    If you don’t live in a jurisdiction that will pick up your green waste—or, if you do any type of gardening and would typically end up buying compost—you might consider home composting, if you aren’t doing so already.

    Regardless of whether you compost your material yourself or let your local waste management company take care of that for you, the benefits are significant:

    • Compost helps soil retain water, so less water is required to grow plants, whether they’re ornamental or agricultural.
    • Compost enriches soil with nutrients, which makes plants healthier and increases crop yields while reducing or eliminating the need for additional fertilizer.
    • Diversion from landfills means organic material won’t be decomposing and generating methane there.

    CalRecycle has several excellent webpages on home composting, starting with a basic primer, including instructions, links, and troubleshooting tips. The Natural Resources Defense Council also has a nice composting wepbage.

    Here are the quick-and-dirty directions:

    • Start with some sort of container, preferably at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet (one cubic yard).
    • Add “brown” material such as dried leaves, clean straw or hay, or shredded paper products like newspaper and paper towels (“brown” is “high in carbon”). This bottom layer should be at least 4 to 6 inches deep.
    • Add “green” (“high in nitrogen”) material like fruit and vegetable leftovers, used coffee grounds and filters, and grass clippings. This layer should be about half as thick as the “brown” layer.
    • Use a pitchfork or shovel to mix the layer and aerate the pile.
    • Add water until the pile is the approximate consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

    Depending on how diligent you are about your carbon-nitrogen ratios, moisture level, and aeration, (i.e., whether you are a “gourmet” composter or a “casual” composter, according to our primer), sooner or later your organic material will turn into rich, dark, earthy-smelling compost.  While the pile will naturally heat up in the process, careful maintenance can result in temperatures of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill most weed seed and speed up decomposition, so compost could be ready in two to three months.

    The regular application of “brown” and “green” material, regular watering, and mixing to add oxygen to the pile, are what basically differentiate composting from the smelly, greenhouse-gas-emitting process that occurs when organic material breaks down in landfills.

    For a more detailed explanation of what’s happening in your compost bin, see LiveScience’s piece titled “How Do Compost Piles Work?” 

    Here are some more compost-related links on CalRecycle’s website:

    You can also check with your local master gardener program if you have specific questions or to meet like-minded gardeners. Occasionally master gardeners have composting workshops or demonstrations at local events like farmers markets. Give it a try!

     

    CalRecycle RecycleForClimate Compost Home Compost
    Posted on In the Loop by Heather Jones on Oct 12, 2017

  • 21st Century Infrastructure Transforms California’s Central Valley

    Family Company on Front Lines of California’s Climate Fight

    Just months after unveiling its new $7.5 million compost operation in California’s Central Valley, Mid Valley Disposal (MVD) is ready to expand. The family-owned company just received a $1.9 million Organics Grant from CalRecycle to add eight more composting bunkers to its still-new 16-heap facility in Kerman (Fresno County).

    “This is cutting-edge compost technology,” says Mid Valley Disposal General Manager Joseph Kalpakoff. The compost piles are covered with a Gore-Tex material that allows the piles to breathe but does not allow larger, potentially polluting organic molecules to escape. The system produces more nutrient-rich compost than traditional open-air composting does, Kalpakoff says.

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    Once completed, the project expansion will enable MVD to process 105,000 tons of the region’s organic waste each year—transforming discarded food, yard waste, and other green materials into California’s emerging hot commodity.  

    “We’re right in the heart of the agricultural area, so the demand is there for quality compost,” Kalpakoff adds. “We have companies that want to buy everything we can produce right now.”

    The market-driven demand is an encouraging sign for California’s waste reduction and climate goals. For Mid Valley Disposal, however, this latest 21st century infrastructure upgrade is about more than turning discards into dollars. It’s about maximizing benefits beyond its borders by creating jobs (the facility expansion will create up to 18 temporary construction positions and four full-time positions), reducing greenhouse gases, and positioning California’s agricultural heartland for a healthier and more sustainable future.

    “Our family and our management team all live here in the Valley, so the homes and businesses we serve aren’t just customers to us. These are our neighbors,” explains Kalpakoff.

    Kalpakoff’s father started the regional recycling and waste management company in 1997 with just two garbage trucks and a limited collection route. Two decades later, MVD employs more than 400 people at six facilities throughout Fresno, Madera, Tulare, and Kings counties.

    In February 2017, the company unveiled its latest community investment in Kerman. The 10-acre, 68,000-square-foot compost facility got off the ground with the help of a $3 million grant from CalRecycle. The department’s Organics Grant program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities. In addition to creating 50 temporary construction jobs, the Kerman compost facility project resulted in six permanent jobs and a cascade of environmental and economic benefits for the community.

    “At the end of the day, the grant did a couple different things,” says Kalpakoff. “It allowed us to keep our rates to our customers down. It provided a more localized facility. And it provided some infrastructure to the Central Valley that we didn’t have before.”

    MVD’s 20-year trajectory underscores how a business model with growth ambitions can be successful with a focus not on mass disposal, but on recycling and reuse.

    Various state climate and waste reduction policies seek the near elimination of organics in landfills, where the material decomposes and emits methane—a super-pollutant 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When recycled, this material can be converted into value-added products like compost or renewable energy. Compost use provides a simple, proven way to build carbon content and hold more water in soils, which is essential for building climate resilience in our communities and to protect California agriculture from a hotter, drier future.

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    All of the organic material needed to produce MVD’s high-quality compost comes through the company’s new commercial organics recycling programs in Fresno, Madera, Tulare, and Kings counties. In addition to providing a steady feedstock for its new compost facility, MVD’s organics recycling program is helping the municipalities and businesses it serves get into compliance with California’s Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law (AB 1826, Chesbro, Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014). The law requires the state’s largest commercial generators of organic waste to recycle the material instead of landfill it.  It also helps set the conditions for the state to reach the targeted methane reductions outlined in SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016). The law calls for a 50 percent reduction of organics in landfills by 2020 and 75 percent reduction by 2025.

    “We’ve just added about 10 communities to our mixed green waste and food waste program,” Kalpakoff continues. “So we’re slowly adding the expansion of food waste into their green waste collection carts.” 

    The expansion of Mid Valley Disposal’s existing site will support new organic recycling programs for school districts, a local hospital, a baseball stadium, the Big Fresno Fair, and other local businesses and municipalities that MVD serves through its 28 franchise agreements in the region.

    “This latest climate investment provides a much-needed boost to California’s organic waste recycling capacity, which the state must roughly double to meet its greenhouse gas reduction and 75 percent recycling goals,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said in announcing the department’s most recent grants. “These infrastructure projects help diversify our local economies and create durable green jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

    —Lance Klug

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    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Aug 31, 2017

  • SB 1383: What It Is, Where We Are

    Fighting Climate Change by Investing in Organics Management Infrastructure 

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    CalRecycle’s efforts to divert organic material from landfills got a monumental boost with the passage of Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, Chapter 355, Statutes of 2015), which establishes targets to reduce organic waste disposal.

    Every year, California landfills about 20 million tons of organic materials, and approximately 10 million tons are suitable for compost, mulch, or in-vessel digestion, or could be recovered for human consumption—or never produced in the first place. For example, 5 million to 6 million tons are food waste, some of which is perfectly edible and can be captured and distributed to people through food banks and food recovery organizations throughout California. About 40 percent of our waste stream is compostable or digestible food waste and organic waste, while another 20 to 25 percent of our waste stream is paper and lumber waste.

    SB 1383 mandates that organics disposal be reduced by 75 percent by 2025 in comparison with the 2014 baseline, and that we recover 20 percent of edible food destined for landfill disposal. Reaching these goals and getting organics out of landfills by preventing the generation of food waste, recovering edible food for human consumption, and composting or anaerobically digesting much of the rest would go far in helping reduce methane emissions. For example, each ton of food waste that is prevented or recovered for human consumption and kept out of landfills results in approximately 2 metric tons of C02 emission reductions.

    California’s Organics Management Infrastructure

    Currently, about 5.5 million tons of organic waste per year are being sent to nearly 180 compost and in-vessel digestion facilities throughout California.

    California will need to invest in additional infrastructure to divert more organic materials from landfills, including building new facilities and promoting new markets for recycled organic products like compost, fertilizers, and biofuels. CalRecycle estimates we will need up to 100 new composting and in-vessel digestion facilities, at a likely capital investment of $2 billion to $3 billion, to accommodate the organic waste we currently landfill.

    Part of this investment will come in the form of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds that are appropriated through the state budget and funded by Cap-and-Trade dollars. CalRecycle used these funds to finance several grant and loan programs to address the organics waste stream.

    In the first cycle of the grant program in 2014-2015, nearly $15 million in grant funds was distributed to two composting facility projects and three anaerobic digestion facility projects. Both types of facilities offer diverse benefits to California’s economy—but face unique barriers to entering the marketplace.

    Composting facilities and their suppliers are constantly working to provide clean material that results in end products welcomed by the agriculture industry. There is an additional need for creating increased market demand for mulch and compost for erosion control and landscaping in public places. And although composting facilities are less expensive to build than in-vessel digestion facilities, they often face intense local opposition. They also are becoming more expensive because many incorporate new technologies like aerated static piles, which circulate air through the compost, eliminate the need for manual rotation, and reduce composting odors and volatile organic compound emissions (some VOC emissions are precursors to ground-level ozone formation).

    Digesters are generally more complex facilities to build than composting facilities. Digestion feedstock can include food waste and green materials. These types of facilities produce biogas, composed mainly of methane and carbon dioxide, that can be used to produce end products like biofuels for trucks and other vehicles that run on renewable gas. The residual material from digestion is called digestate, which can be composted or used to produce fertilizers and soil amendments. Like compost facilities, there is a need for increased market demand for the biogas and digestate generated by digestion facilities.

    This year, CalRecycle has separated grant applications for composting and digestion projects since the cost of doing business, emissions levels, and desired grant amounts vary greatly between the two types of facilities. The current grant cycle boasts $12 million each for composting and digestion projects and again allows a partnership with food recovery organizations to capture edible food.

    Food Waste Prevention and Recovery

    Food waste alone comprises about 18 percent of the material disposed in California landfills. SB 1383 includes a provision that requires that not less than 20 percent of edible food otherwise destined for disposal be recovered for human consumption. In order to recover the edible food successfully, California will need to increase the capacity for generators and food recovery organizations to store, transport, prepare, and distribute this additional food. Therefore, CalRecycle has made available $5 million in grant funds to organizations that will reduce methane emissions by preventing food waste in the first place and by recovering and distributing edible food. Thr latter effort is of immense importance because 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 4 children in the state have inadequate access to food.

    These Food Waste Prevention and Recovery dollars have been allocated into small- and large-tier pools so smaller, grassroots organizations will not compete with larger, more complex operations. Although this is the first year this funding has been available, program administrators anticipate a response from many smaller organizations that can apply for grants from $25,000 to $100,000. Grants of this size could be used, for instance, to help edible food generators purchase refrigerated vehicles to transport recovered food from their kitchens to food banks and soup kitchens. Larger grants are awarded in amounts ranging from $100,001 to $500,000, which are large enough to help existing operations make significant improvements and expansions to their facilities to capture additional edible food. California will need infrastructure of both kinds to meet the SB 1383 mandates.

    CalRecycle is excited to be working on this law—it’s is a real paradigm change, the most significant in solid waste management since the passage of AB 939 in 1989. To implement it, CalRecycle is working on regulations in consultation with the Air Resources Board, which is the lead agency overseeing implementation of SB 1383. Although the regulations will not become effective until 2022, CalRecycle intends to adopt them in late 2018 to send a strong signal to jurisdictions, generators, haulers, and others, and to provide them with several years of lead time to make necessary budgetary and programmatic changes.

    Even so, regulations alone will not address all the challenges involved with implementing SB 1383, including the difficulty of expanding the processing infrastructure and increasing market demand. Therefore, CalRecycle continues to work on a more holistic approach that includes collaboration among state agencies, working with stakeholders and industry leaders, and expanding our capacity to reduce waste generation and divert a greater percentage of our organic material toward landfill alternatives.

     

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    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Aug 21, 2017