Compost Conference 2010 follow up

Follow up from January 2010 compost event

Colleagues.  Enclosed are the notes from the January 15 convening.  Thanks to all of your for your work that day and for your willingness to follow up on this important work.  I will be following up individually with each of you over the next few days about the next steps and the committees you volunteered for.

Here is a link to a story that came out in about the convening

Greg Gerritt


Providence Compost Convening  January 15, 2010  Rhode Island Foundation


At the end of our time together, participants will:
–       Have a shared understanding of an overview of our current regional solid waste management systems
–       Be informed and inspired by successful municipal composting systems, and gain an understanding of how they addressed challenges
–       Agree on steps to take to establish city-wide sustainable compost system(s) for yard waste and kitchen scraps

Key points from Greg Gerritt’s presentation
Compost, the product of the breakdown of organic materials, is critical to life on earth.
In agriculture this recycling of organic material makes agriculture possible.  If you feed the soil, it takes care of you.
Local agriculture is one of the bright spots of the RI economy during the recession, and compost makes this possible.
To increase the food grown in RI we need more compost, and we have the materials at hand to create it, our food waste that currently is landfilled.
More and more communities are collecting and composting food waste.  San Francisco is the best known example, but other communities are doing it and the scale of operations varies.
Providence produces about 100000 tons of solid waste a year, about 1500 to 1800 pounds per person.  Up to 300 pounds per person could be composted, 5 million pounds.
We have a multidimensional puzzle:  There are lots of pieces in the puzzle.  Collection, composting, redistribution to growers.  There are several streams of food waste, household and restaurant/institutional are the two biggest.  There are several collection options. There are a variety of ways to compost, home, locally, in windrows, in vessel. Our job is to assemble the puzzle, determine the right mix for our community.

Mayor David Cicciline noted that composting can be a part of the City’s efforts to revitalize it self, moving it towards sustainability and prosperity.

Key points from Bruce Fulford presentation
There are at least 267 composting facilities in 40 states. Colleges, communities, industries are all building composting systems.
There are almost as many different systems being used as there are compost facilities
Windrows, in vessel, combination systems in which heat, biogas and other products in addition to compost are tapped.     Presentation showed the various technologies being used and the tools to manage them. Noted all of the various issues that are problematic, smells being among the most noticeable. Showed examples of bio filters for smells and the fact that plants can be grown in some of the filters.
Questions:  Does the technology of large scale composting use more energy than it saves?  Do not really have that answer.  Possibly the best solution is small scale operations.
Best ways to collect food waste?   It depends upon the community. There are many different ways to do it.
Pricing?  Depends upon the mix of tipping fees, collection costs, and the price one can receive for the finished compost.

Participant’s prioritized task groups:

Current State – existing conditions in the various communities in Rhode Island, for solid waste, compost, and local agricultural needs for compost
Feasibility – Study Best facilities for our needs, the appropriate scale, locations, costs
Policy Research & Implementation – How does composting fit state regulations, are there improvements in regulations that would facilitate this work
Education: – Audiences: leaders, community, residents, institutions, public; benefits;
Communication: Outreach, Marketing, PR, the language of “resource” not “waste scraps”
Economic Opportunity Job creation, business creation, improved nutrition, community building
Design and pilot on-the-ground projects that integrate within current infrastructure

FYI, the following is the reports from the small groups that were sifted into the seven topics for further study.

1.      Feasibility Study: what collected, where it comes from, who will be coordinating, collection/ processes, where will it go, uses for compost, cost/ benefit analysis, financial aspects
2.    Planning Meetings: committee, education/ outreach, job creation+ small
3.    Research Regulation + Policy

1.      Research + Networking: Existing conditions+ models, operations (facility, waste quantities), other success stories, regulations
2.    Economic Model/Plan(s)
3.    Education: Residents, decision-makers, city planners
4.    Policy + regulation changes

*** figure out which of these are categorized as::: state, city, private, non-profit, restaurant, dining services. ***

1.      Policy work, to understand current regulations + policies à+ to get them changed as needed
2.    Feasibility Study – Research the how, where & when’s à examine all the questions
3.    Public Education Campaign
4.     Powerful, action-oriented Mayor’s Commission, time limited,             deliverables: feasibility (cost, regulations, sighting, supplies, scale             (multiple levels/ scale)
5.     Reframe language from “scraps/waste” to “valuable resource for long             term fertility” – media
6.     State-wide policies, regulations so we have a consistent, long-term             organic improvement of soils (eg. RR alternatives that are             incentivized)
7.     R+D on products (storage/pickup) and piloting transportation             options (eg. “depot”) and education
#7 is dealing with improving current systems and infrastructure while…
#4,5,6 take the work of expanding scale

1.      Space – figure out where it’s going
2.    Figure out regulations and petition to get regulations changed – POLICY WORK
3.    Where will the end product go?
4.    How to store? (residential / commercial systems before pick-up)
5.    What is it? Yard waste + food scrap ratio (defining what constitutes food scraps) – collecting for optimizing the ration – How do we collect the right ratio?
6.    Do we want them mixed?
7.    Public Education Campaign – promote home composting
8.    Review of regulations that either facilitate or obstruct compost
9.    Identify “pioneers” who serve as models for community
10.  Have a model community compost system
11.    Create demand for commercial use compost
12.  Create programs that promote the use of compost: i.e. EPA – Greenscapes
13.  ******* Policy Work – to get regulations (understand current regulations + policies) and get them changed if they need to be
14.  ** Public Education – for home composting, have a “model” community composting project, identify pioneers
15.  **** Provide funds – in communities to research – how, why, where – feasibility study


1.      Success stories (similar sized cities)
2.    Education – what is compost? Why compost? PILOTS (small-scale)
3.    Where is it going (how much) – facility (operation component), pickup, operations + regulation
4.    Student involvement/ advocacy
5.    Organizing Existing Networks – community gardens
6.    Educate Administrators/ Policymakers & Institutions (business leaders)
7.    Research – how big is waste stream, storage (large scale vs.. small scale facilities), waste production (commercial waste, backyard waste)
8.    Economic Model for success
9.    Regulatory (zoning, ordinances) – tie to urban agriculture
10.  ****** Research + networking existing conditions,+ models, operations (facility, waste quantities, regulations, other success stories)
11.    *** Economic Model/ Plan
12.  ** Education (residents + decision-makers, city planners)
13.  *** policy + regulation changes

1. Multi-tiered & large commitment (scales) – small education program in conjunction with large city push
2. Take advantage of stimulus money for green jobs and sustainable infrastructure
3. Use other cities as models (brainpower)
4. Use our greatest assets – play to our strengths!

(5) : MELONS


1. Identify what will be collected: where it is coming from, what will be             collected, who will be coordinating? Collection/ process, where will it go, the             end use, financial
2. Education/Outreach (different audiences): **SCLT, Resource recovery,             DEM, Resource Recovery, School Departments, Bruce?
3. Regulation/ Policy: research/ ***requirements (derived from             stakeholders), zoning laws, application (what can be used + where)
4. ***Hold a series of Planning Meetings
5. *Form a Compost Committee
6. Inform RI Solid Waste Planning Committee (2010 – should be a             component)
7. ******Feasibility Study
1.      ***Mayor passes ordinance to create an advisory committee that can research + report the feasibility of options (with steps to implementation + timeline + “power”): cost, regulations, sighting, supplies, scale – clarify the focus on municipal or neighborhood or wider right scale – start small —– small “loops” that can handle small scale – develop experience without the huge investment.
2.    **Multiple levels – so if one fails, there’s a backup
3.    ****Transform the language from waste/scraps to resource for long-term soil fertility
4.    Figure our the right criteria for non-agricultural municipal/commercial enterprises (currently must be in vessel)
5.    *****The state creates a long-term organic program for improving soils. E.g. incentives, for highest best use consistently – so composting systems have supplies of “carbon” – action items to implement: why can’t RR compost go to the community/ industry? Why can’t RR encourage it to go to local composters? Residents? (restaurants)
6.    ** Explore storage + pickup from “suppliers” – product design – pickup service – educational staff
Explore “reverse farmers market” depot for residents/ restaurants to deliver: trucking business opportunity with “tipping fees” + connection to composter.

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