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Green-waste options mulled for Santa Rosa apartment dwellers

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Most [apartments], perhaps 90 percent, do not yet have a food waste option, Migliore said. But a number of complexes have begun testing organic waste programs, including the Coddingtown Mall Apartments. Some residents had installed their own small compost tumblers on their porches, so there was clearly an interest in providing the service, said Harry Brown, one of the property managers.

When Carlos Calzontzi lived in Chico, he and his wife had a little house with a garden and a compost pile where he would throw most of his kitchen scraps.

It felt good to return those nutrients back to the Earth and fertilize the soil to help grow vegetables for his family.

But when the retired city maintenance worker relocated last year to Santa Rosa to be closer his kids and grandkids, he moved into an apartment complex that at the time had no green-waste disposal option. The Coddingtown Mall Apartments, like most apartment complexes in the county, provided its 230 units with garbage and recycling service, but no bins for organic waste.

So he threw his leftover avocado pits, unused vegetable chunks and bread scraps into the garbage, where they went to the landfill.

“We felt bad because we knew all of that could be used in the garden,” Calzontzi said. “We care about the Earth.”

Organic material makes up about 34 percent of the material that Californians throw into landfills every year, according to a 2014 study by CalRecycle, the state waste management agency.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014 law meant to improve organic recycling efforts, in part by requiring businesses like restaurants and food processors to have an organic waste program. But multi-family apartment complexes were exempted from the law.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8680335-181/green-waste-options-mulled-for-santa

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‘Complicated choice’ looms in Sonoma County over next compost operator

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Every week, hundreds of thousands of Sonoma County residents dutifully gather grass clippings from their yards and food scraps from their kitchens, toss them into green bins and then cart them to the curb alongside their garbage and recycling.

Tons of this so-called “green waste” is then hauled, at a cost of $5 million per year, to other counties, where it is chopped up, often mixed with chicken guts, encouraged to rapidly decompose, and then sold as compost.

The process takes place entirely outside Sonoma County — mostly in Mendocino, Napa and Marin counties — ever since Sonoma Compost, the county’s longtime compost operation atop the Central Landfill, was shut down nearly three years ago for wastewater violations.

Now local officials face a complex but crucial decision about the future of composting in Sonoma County, one that will have major implications for the life of the county landfill, the rate of emission of greenhouse gases and the size of people’s garbage bills.

That decision is whether to encourage the construction of a new, modern composting facility here, with costs of $50 million or more, or whether to continue hauling the material to existing facilities elsewhere indefinitely.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8595931-181/complicated-choice-looms-in-sonoma

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Recology eyes big boost in composting in Sonoma County

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Carole Carpenter always felt funny about throwing thousands of pounds of used coffee grounds into the garbage.

The manager of the popular Railroad Square café A’Roma Roasters knew the rich brown granules made a great soil fertilizer, a fact she was reminded of whenever customers asked if they could take some home to sprinkle in their gardens.

“It seems like such a waste to just throw them in the garbage,” said Carpenter, who has managed the operation for 20 years.

But with limited kitchen space, no simple way to set the coffee grounds aside for gardeners, and no green bin to dispose of them in, Carpenter just did what was easiest — she told employees to toss them in the dumpster along with all the café’s other food waste.

So Celia Furber, the waste zero manager with Recology, the city’s new garbage hauler, and John LaBarge, a Recology waste zero specialist, sat down with Carpenter last week to see if they could find ways to help the eatery keep more food waste out of the landfill.

It turns out that A’Roma Roasters should have been composting its food waste since Jan. 1, 2017. That’s when businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of organic waste a week were required under AB 1826 to begin diverting it from landfills. Larger producers were required to start a year earlier.

But the city’s previous hauler, The Ratto Group, did not make it easy to set up the service, Furber said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8106202-181/recology-eyes-big-boost-in

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A look at Sonoma County's plan to fight food waste

Arlene Karidis, WASTE 360
About 45,500 tons of food is dumped in California’s Sonoma County landfill each year, while about 82,000 of its citizens go hungry every month. The Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition (SCFRC) is working to bridge that divide by diverting what is salvageable and edible to feed the hungry.
SCFRC is developing an online, countywide listing whereby charities can accept donations of produce, dry goods and prepared food. Donators will be able to enter their zip codes to find nearby drop-off locations for their surplus food. But the coalition, including government organizations, non-profits and individuals, has plans beyond this mapping tool.
“The SCFRC is dedicated to creating a community where food is shared equitably and where there is a deeper understanding of the valuable resources that go into producing food. We are working on community-based solutions to reduce food waste, increase food recovery, and create more awareness about this issue,” says Mimi Enright, program manager for University of California Cooperative Extension’s (UCCE) Community Food Systems. (UCCE is facilitating SCFRC’s initiative.)
As a corollary effort to the resource listing, SCFRC is planning an awareness campaign with both a consumer and business focus. And it’s developing a website to serve as a landing page to provide consumers and businesses with more information on how they can support food recovery.
One of the lead organizations is nonprofit CropMobster. It is building the listing technology. It will host the directory on its website and market it on its existing platform, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area.
Read more at: A Look at Sonoma County, Calif.’s Plan to Fight Food Waste

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Group aims to tackle Sonoma County food waste

Christi Warren, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To add an emergency food provider to the directory, click here. Interested in more information about getting involved with the Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition? A panel and screening of the film “Just Eat It” will be held at Healdsburg SHED, 25 North St., 6-8 p.m., Sept. 14.

In Sonoma County, about 45,500 tons of food waste go into the landfill each year.A group of local nonprofits is aiming to change that by diverting it instead into the hands and homes of the estimated 82,000 people who go hungry each month in Sonoma County.
Called the Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition, the group is at work on a mapping tool to help the public reduce its food footprint. It will allow someone to punch in their ZIP code to find the nearest drop-off spot accepting whatever they’re trying to donate, whether prepared food, unsold farm stand produce or excess apples from a family’s backyard tree.
“That, for me, is like the 2.0 iteration of food recovery and food waste prevention,” said Suzi Grady, program director for Petaluma Bounty and a founding member of the coalition.
Many producers across the North Bay already have such relationships with emergency food providers, Grady said, like when Petaluma’s Della Fattoria has leftover bread, or San Rafael’s Wild West Ferments accidentally orders too much cabbage.
“So we’ll go pick that up and distribute it to an emergency food provider,” Grady said.
The newest effort is a way to simplify that process and make it easier for small producers — even private citizens — to connect to the food recovery movement, broadening the supply chain for emergency food providers across the North Bay. Private donations are covered by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, which excludes donor liability except in cases of gross negligence.
Read more at: Group aims to tackle Sonoma County food waste | The Press Democrat –

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Petaluma to turn sewage into truck fuel 

Eric Gneckow, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
Using the latest technology costing millions of dollars, Petaluma will soon be turning to a new source of fuel for powering its fleet of garbage trucks — your toilet.
The California Energy Commission announced this month it was awarding Petaluma $3 million to build a natural gas collection and automotive fueling station at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, part of an overall $15 million expansion expected for completion in 2018.
The broader work will increase capacity while allowing the plant to take high-strength waste from local industry, creating a scale that Petaluma Environmental Services Manager Leah Walker said was sufficient to process solid waste from city residents and businesses into the foreseeable future.
The project will allow Ellis Creek to keep pace with the massive growth in local breweries, dairy processors and others — companies that generally truck their high-strength waste elsewhere for treatment. Shortening those trips will lower greenhouse gas emissions, as will the eventual switch from most of Petaluma’s diesel-powered garbage trucks to those running on biologically derived natural gas.
Read more at: Petaluma to turn sewage into truck fuel | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

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Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors have voted to extend the beleaguered Sonoma County Waste Management Agency until officials can hammer out a deal to return composting to a local facility and settle a high-profile lawsuit challenging the planned future compost site at the Central Landfill.
The agency, which oversees the county’s multimillion dollar composting operation, will dissolve next February unless representatives from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park approve a one-year extension until February 2018. The county and the remaining six cities already have voted in favor of extending the agency operations, which include education programs and collection of yard waste, food scraps and hazardous materials.
Santa Rosa and Healdsburg will take up the matter this month. Rohnert Park voted in January against an extension, but city officials could take up the issue again. Meanwhile, officials said they hope to resolve some points of contention.
“We think we can get the fundamental issues resolved before the sunset date,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, who represents the city on the agency’s board.
The agency has been under fire in recent years for what some county and city officials contend is an inefficient organization plagued with prolonged legal troubles. At issue is construction and operation of a new $55 million compost facility at the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati. Sonoma Compost Co., a private company and the county’s former dominant compost provider, was forced to close in October by a settlement of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by a group of neighbors who live near the landfill. The settlement cost ratepayers more than $1.1 million.
Since the closure, ratepayers have seen increases of about $4 on their monthly garbage bills to pay for the costs of hauling organic matter out of the county, said Patrick Carter, the agency’s interim director.
“We are desperate to bring compost back to Sonoma County — our farmers need it, and outhauling all that waste is not a good economic or environmental solution,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the county’s representative on the 10-member board of directors for the agency. “The question is how do we build a state-of-the-art facility without being subject to lawsuit after lawsuit.”
Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency | The Press Democrat

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Food scraps now OK in Sonoma County yard waste bins

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Under a little-recognized shift in rules at Sonoma County’s Waste Management Agency, households are now allowed to throw all food scraps into the green bin, including meat, bones and dairy products.
Rules were changed last July, when the agency started hauling yard waste and food scraps to compost facilities outside Sonoma County, but agency officials did not inform the public. Since the closure of Sonoma Compost Co. last October, the agency has been trucking all yard and food waste to compost facilities in Novato, Ukiah and Vacaville.
“We didn’t tell everyone right away because we wanted to make sure what we were taking to the other sites was acceptable to them,” said Patrick Carter, interim executive director for the agency. “We wanted to make sure there was enough capacity, and we didn’t want to cause rates to go up.”
Ratepayers have already seen higher bills this year. Rates have risen roughly $4 per month since October, Carter said.It costs about $4.5 million to truck organic waste out of county, up from $2 million when it was handled at the Central Landfill west of Cotati.
Waste accepted for compost includes produce, pasta and bread, eggshells, meat and bones, cheese, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, grass clippings and leaves and paper plates and napkins.
Read more at: Food scraps now OK in Sonoma County yard | The Press Democrat

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Santa Rosa expands ability to treat grease, food waste at sewer plant

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A massive crane lifted the last of four large silver tanks into place at Santa Rosa’s wastewater treatment plant last week, a major milestone in the city’s $3 million effort to turn tough-to-treat waste into energy and save local businesses money in the process.
The new equipment at the city’s Llano Road plant isn’t much to look at. The four 10,000-gallon tanks sitting on a concrete pad are not unlike the steel tanks found in typical breweries and wineries in the area.
But when they go into operation in April, the towering cauldrons will contain a far more potent brew — thousands of gallons of stuff typically too nasty to send down the sewers, including fats, oils, grease, food waste and slaughterhouse slime.
Currently, those and other high-strength wastes are trucked from North Coast restaurants, wineries, breweries and food producers to Oakland, where they are turned into energy at the treatment facilities at the massive East Bay Municipal Utility District.
But by building its own high-strength receiving and storage station, Santa Rosa hopes to treat that waste locally, turn it into biogas to keep the plant’s power costs down, and save local businesses significant transportation costs.
Read more at: Santa Rosa expands ability to treat grease, food | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , Leave a comment on Hey Mr. Green, should I care how far my food travels?

Hey Mr. Green, should I care how far my food travels?

Bob Schildgen, SIERRA
Hey Mr. Green,
I hear that agriculture and food transportation take a whopping amount of energy, and therefore contribute to global warming. If so, what can we do about it?
–Janet in Jacksonville, Florida
Locavores complain that agribusiness burns way too much energy. Growing food, however, takes less of the total U.S. energy budget–about 2 percent–than processing and packaging it. And surprisingly, given all the fretting about food miles, food transportation requires only 0.5 percent of our total energy, and half that much comes not from big rigs barreling down the interstate but from shoppers driving to and from stores and restaurants. A car on a four-mile round-trip to fetch 50 pounds of groceries uses 300 times more fuel per pound per mile than a semi does.
Increased reliance on fast foods and commercially prepared meals adds to food-related energy use, because it requires more transportation and replaces manual labor with machines. But the biggest food-related energy drain is in your own home: Refrigeration, cooking, dishwashing, and disposal consume a third of the energy in the food system.
Here’s how to reduce your dinner’s energy content: (1) cut down on heavily processed, excessively packaged food and get back to basics, which will help farmers (who once received nearly 50 cents of every food dollar and now get only 17 cents, thanks to the increased share taken by processors, packagers, and marketers); (2) bike, walk, carpool, or take public transit to food stores; (3) avoid fast foods and eat out less; (4) get efficient Energy Star-approved appliances; (5) grow your own produce if possible; and (6) do like Grandma said: Clean your plate and don’t waste so dern much. Annually, 34 million tons of food waste ends up in dumps, creating the greenhouse gas methane and wasting the energy it took to produce it. –Bob Schildgen
via Hey Mr. Green, Should I Care How Far My Food Travels? | Sierra Club.