PANEL 4 Composting: Policy, Practice and Viable Business Enterprise

Betsy Johnson:

  • Healthy soil key to urban ag, key time:  compost regulated by 2 agencies and new regs coming up:  DEP and MDAR, both on panel
  • How is compost regulated and what is further needed?
  • City of Boston coming up with new zoning, no more than 5% of a site can be used for composting, is that realistic and helping urban ag be profitable and viable?
  • Develop list of recs for advocacy

Andy Brooks (founder of Boot Strap Compost): Res and commercial composting business.  Currently have 25 commercial accounts, mostly offices, mission to provide service and platform for people who want to compost.  Small amounts from each, but a lot of small amounts.  Have relationship with 4 farms in Eastern MA, depends on schedule and how much they’re picking up.  Where does it go now and where could it go?

Adam Mitchell:  Save that Stuff owner:  One goal, zero waste, collect food waste – large scale, core business is recycling, have recycling facility in Charlestown, next to Boot Strap Compost (under Tobin Bridge).  Challenging environment, but created 45 green jobs in last 5 years.  Development arm called …  Economics don’t work currently, but …  Structural issues in Boston of becoming zero waste facility – have to either fund department and education and/or fully fund school system.  Policymakers have to decide but we have to push them.

Greg Murphy:  Green Leaf – went out of business b/c never had food waste permit.  Got one in Carver, MA, on cranberry bog.  Green Leaf was Boston’s only commercial composting facility, needs to be more.  BRA is letting more composting in commercial areas.  Urban ag will only be sustainable if we make composting happen in the City.

Bruce Fulford (City Soil):  Currently runs city’s composting facility in Mattapan, work to deliver benefits of composting to community.  composting not common of pop 30 yrs ago, factually converting lots (tons) of waste away from incinerators; waste disposal and bigger picture.

Jared Kennedy (MDAR)  Best of both worlds, live in City but work with agricultural issues.  Have seen a shift from farming in rural areas to farming in urban areas, dept. has had to shift as well.  Division he directs provides farmers tools and resources to be good stewards of the land – programs on agricultural energy, business planning, protecting resources while composting.  Farmers have enjoyed unique exemption – collect outside materials, charge tipping fee, generate product, and use it for their own profit.  Oversee farms with agricultural composting permits.  Period of funding opening now – if you’re a farmer be on the lookout!!

BJ:  Will Allen, premiere advocate of urban ag, on his site use vermiculture (worm composting).  Any regs getting involved with this?

  •  JK:  no, do not work with vermiculture
  • GM:  commercial farms will be regulated by MDAR, not DEP
  • JK:  ag units, no limits on # of acres, different statutes, state statures very broad when it comes to definition of farming

 Audience Member:  research on food waste throughout world as it related to restaurants, China and SA have policy, need to finish plate or take it with you, could give smaller plates, charge fee for food waste.  Would like to see something like this (food waste policy) in restaurants in US.  Reactions?

  • BJ:  New DEP regs will require all commercial composting by 2014
  • GM:  societal education necessary, it happens when society is ready.

Audience member:  Lynn community and school gardens, use lots of compost because don’t want to use soil from Lynn, compost does not contain trace minerals, found someone using trace mineral pellets, any comments?

  • BF:  all compost not created equal, could create deficiency in soil – competent soil testing is necessary, understand what your soil needs and what you are buying

Audience member:  urban situations conflict on where compost is happening, low income areas have … how could MDAR help communities where facilities are located to protect …

  •  JK:  would be challenging to apply purchasing restrictions…new program would be applied to protect urban land (?)

Audience member:  rats!  Attracted to processed food, has there been study done where everyone in neighborhoods that compost organic food waste and have lessened rats problem?  Change perception?  Would be tremendous benefit for neighborhoods to use composting as vermin deterrent

  • GM:  compost does not attract rats if organic matter, but unfortunately some people don’t compost correctly

Audience member:  is there a library or resource list for people

  • BF:  misperception that “compost happens”; rot happens, not compost!  Could attract rats, post-harvest crop residue great food for rats.  Problems are rats, flies, and odors.  Inspectional Services would come out in violation of nuisance ordinance.  Need timely attention to labor required
  • JK:  farmers underestimate amount of work necessary to compost.  Have to get moved, time and investment underestimated.
  • BF:  Boston’s leaf collection brought to community gardens had car parts in it!  Only after it has been managed and …

Audience member:  perception of compost:  cultural change and education, what is being done now and what could be done in the future?

  • AB:  educational component of Boot Strap – currently working in 3 schools and want to take on one more.  Want to educate younger gen on merits of composting.  Long term goals and perceptions – helping young students also touches parents, learning inherent worth of food scraps as commodity
  • AM:  promotional materials, “compost and clean up your trash”, 1.  cleanliness big piece of education, also 2.  focus on cost of composting vs. trash pickup; 3.  Helping people achieve zero waste as businesses.

Audience member:  starting out, what was smallest area you successfully compost in?

  • GM:  backyard composting squirrel carcasses
  • Desktop

Audience member:  how much compost would you need to cover ¼ acre of garden with compost?

  • Depends on type of composter, how much labor,
  • BF:  Revision Urban Farm 800 square feet for 1/3 acre site, close to 10% of area dedicated to composting, imported leaves, tilapia mortalities, took aggressive management at times,
  • GM:  city’s pending zoning regs are saying 5% can be dedicated to composting, management matters, what techniques should be used?
  • BJ:  vermiculture could be the answer

Audience member:  Q for JK:  is there facility combining composting and waste water treatment?  Anaerobic digestors??

  • JK:  State DEP has interest
  • BJ:  assessment of capacity of existing waste water treatment plants, expensive to do … biowastes??  Can they take some fraction of food waste ??  Part of infrastructure could handle it, but …
  • AM:  MWRA has RFP out for working with anaerobic digestors, someone will invest money to bring “slurry product”
  • AM:  each house needs 3-container system (1 compost, 1 trash, 1 recycle) – only way city will get to higher diversion rate for composting (Boston only has 18%)

Audience member, Director of Brownfields/EJ at DEP:  Commish really pushing solid waste master plan, talking about organic materials, doesn’t make sense not to

  • 30 gallon compost bins subsidized by city, everyone should have one pushing anaerobic digestion, have people and resources working on all of this get away from waste

Ideas for Everett

Commercial composting

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