Compost file/research plans 3/8/10

Compost file/research plans 3/8/10

A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks.  I met with 15 people in Providence on Feb 24, most of whom had attended the Jan 15 meeting.  Katherine and I had worked on the agenda, but it just did not fly.  We were a bit ahead of them, they needed me to go slower and focus differently.  Whereas I was really focusing on linking food waste producers and food waste composters, they needed to start looking at numbers.  More on this after a description of the Newport meeting.

The next day, February 25 I conducted a meeting in Newport expressly about beginning the process of developing something on Aquidneck Island.  27 people attended.  All had been invited because of their connection to some aspect of the business, recycling, government, farming, food waste production, composting.  Many signed up for research/follow up, but as in Providence, few seem to be following through.  Last week I was sick, but I have sent out several follow up notes, with meeting notes and a research plan.  Will see what the response is, and do appropriate follow up, with those I think will do research, and with those who may be important to connecting food waste to a composter.  We did make one good linkage, but they shall remain nameless here.  Let them  work at the appropriate speed without pressure.

Here is the research plan I sent out.  Pretty much the same issues as everywhere except I did not single out municipal collection.


The first issue to look into is the demand for compost.
This might be broken out in several different ways:
Demand for landscape quality compost
Demand for high nutrient compost for growing food
Demand for organic high nutrient compost for organic gardeners/farmers
Demand for compost if agriculture become larger in RI/in the local area.
Demand for compost at different price points

I am not sure how to figure the demand for compost, so would appreciate any suggestions on what to look for to base calculations on.

Another issue is how much material is available to be composted:
Again, several components to the question:
In compost lingo there is a differentiation between Greens (high nitrogen materials) (food waste, grass clippings, seaweed) and Browns (high carbon materials) (leaves)
How much Green/high nitrogen material is available?   300,000 tons per year in RI??
can it be easily separated from various waste streams, and at what cost (monetary. Labor)
Several different streams.  Municipal pick up, restaurants, institutions, supermarkets/produce stores
How much is in each stream, and what is the ease of separation in each stream?
How much Brown material is available (anecdotal evidence says some composters have a brown material shortage compared to the amount of food waste they might be able to gain access to)
How much compost could be created in addition to current production based on the materials available?

Separation, storage, pick up, transportation issues
Can the producers of large amounts of food and other Green compostable waste (supermarkets?) reasonably separate out the compostables?
Are there segments of this waste stream that are easier to gather than others?  ( I had some of this discussion with URI food service recently)
Can this compostable stream be safely and cleanly and odor free stored for pickup?
What kind of containers would be needed, how often would they need to be picked up, what costs are involved (both capital and continuing)

What are the current costs of disposal for this waste stream?  Transport/tipping
How much can be saved by diverting it/ what new costs come into play
an extra pickup?  Less trucking? Changes in tipping costs

Some people are already writing back about what numbers they can provide, but most of it I will need to be more diligent on, and possibly collect on my own.

Following the cold that laid me down for a few days I went to URI to begin the process of helping them divert food waste to a composter.  Sejal from URI Master Composters program was there as was a person from the URI Dining Service and Richmond Sand and Gravel.  We need to collect much of the same information noted above in order to help them get started.  I think that is what I need to focus on the next few weeks, knowing only a limited amount of data will come from elsewhere, though I have a few reliable colleagues for that part.

Instead of blogging I have been sending out grant proposals, all seeking $3900 to fund 3 hours a week of this project.  Sent out 4 of them, we shall see.  Big money is going to  come from elsewhere like EPA or USDA, for on the ground work.  But that I will get more help with I hope.

I was going to return to the Providence meeting and where that goes.

One thing is that the data is important, same data as we want for Newport and URI.  But it also seems useful to reorient the research in Providence looking at the 4 waste streams separately.  The streams we shall be looking at are home composting, municipal collection of food waste to be composted, restaurants, and institutions.

This is the draft research plan for Providence that I have only circulated to a very limited number of people for comment.  Snce no one actually reads this blog, it is safe here until refined and sent out.

Focusing strictly on Providence, though readily transferable to other communities research would focus on

Home composting
Municipal collection of food waste from all households/compost at a facility

In each case develop a full action plan with costs.

Home composting
Develop materials and outreach program to educate households about composting and what resources  ( bins, education) are available while  working with URI, RIRRC to make sure capacity is up to snuff.
Suggest pilot projects to test various aspects

Examine what other cities such as SF are doing and how they did it.
Policies needed  (no food waste in trash?, timing of collections, etc)
Costs for set up
bins, modifications for collection systems on trucks
contracts with waste hauler
facilities and capital costs
potential savings
Education and roll out of program
how to do
what it would cost
Returning the compost to local gardens
cost, investments
Sources of Browns to mix with Greens
Potential Pilot projects

Source separation issues ( 3 sectors production waste , cooking waste,  post consumer waste)
Storage/collection (what type of storage technology, how often to pick up)
Where to compost/how
Costs versus present systems
Sources of Browns to mix with Greens
Potential pilots

Need all the same information as restaurants

Next step is to do the research in conjunction with those who are also digging in.

One other wild thing:  Started talking about a project in Providence, one college and a site we need to develop. So far just a gleam in the eye, but the same research needed for all of this applies here as well.

Enough for Today.  Greg Gerritt

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