With 11 composting facilities in five states, Republic Services helping lead the charge to divert garden and food waste from landfills across the country. The Phoenix-based company, which processes 1.7 billion pounds of organic waste per year, converts this material into 270,000 tonnes of compost per year or into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.

While organics diversion is a concept widely adopted for its environmental benefits, the actual practice of diversion is often dictated by local regulations.

“The development of new organic waste management infrastructure, especially to meet demand, is driven by regulations across the country,” said Chris Seney, director of organic operations at Republic Services. Waste today. “California is leading the way, but you see organic regulations all over the country, not just in California, but in the Northwest, the Northeast, and in cities like Minneapolis, Boston and Austin. you really see [the passing of these regulations] all over the country now and it’s growing pretty quickly.

California, where SB 1383 was enacted in September 2016, is perhaps the most progressive state when it comes to organics diversion. This legislation is due to be implemented on January 1, 2022.

According to CalRecycle, “SB 1383 sets targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the level of statewide organic waste disposal from 2014 levels by 2020, and a 75 percent reduction in ‘by 2025. The law provides CalRecycle with the regulatory authority required to meet organic waste disposal reduction targets and establishes an additional target that at least 20 percent of edible foods currently disposed of are recovered for human consumption. by 2025.

The Republic’s Otay landfill is off-grid thanks to its use of solar energy.

In practice, SB 1383 will require every household and business in the state to recycle its organic materials.

Seney says about 23 to 25 million tonnes of organics is currently landfilled in California, which is more than half of the volume of incoming waste. With the state’s goal of diverting 15 million tonnes of organic waste from landfills by 2025, CalRecycle has estimated that the state will need around 100 to 150 new composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. to reach this goal.

One such facility already in operation is at Republic’s Otay landfill in Chula Vista, Calif., Which was commissioned in 2018. According to Republic, this composting site is an “innovative example” of company commitment to rerouting.

According to Seney, the Otay landfill site differs from a standard windrow composting site where organic waste is divided into rows of long piles and aerated by mechanically turning the piles. Instead, the Otay landfill uses positive aerated static pile (ASP) technology where airflow is continuously introduced into the compost piles using electric fans.

Beyond the positive ASP method, a GORE blanket is placed on top of the raw material of the compost. Together, this composting methodology results in a greener way to manage organic waste. Republic Services currently operates six ASP composting facilities in California and Oregon.

“Using positive ASP with the GORE blanket is a very effective way to control odors, reduce emissions, and dramatically reduce the amount of water used by a facility while reducing the footprint or actual square footage. required for a composting facility. Since ASP incorporates the use of a biofilter through which air passes, air and odor emissions are reduced by 90 percent or more [from a standard windrow composting site]. The cover keeps rain and other moisture out, and due to its construction, you can literally stand over the cover on the compost heap and have no idea that there is food waste and dirt. green waste that biodegrades right under your feet. Seney said.

While the positive ASP method and the use of the GORE blanket are recognized as part of the industry best practices for organic waste management, the great thing that sets the Otay landfill apart is the fact that ‘it works 100% on solar energy. All fans and blowers, as well as the office, are off-grid.

“Because this is an active landfill, operations can be moved around the facility as needed. And because it runs on solar power, you don’t need a generator, you don’t need to run electricity. It’s a very innovative and impressive installation, ”says Seney.

The Otay site has been in the pilot phase for two years and processes 5,000 tonnes per year of green and food waste. The installation will increase to 60,000 tonnes per year in 2021 in anticipation of the implementation of SB 1383.

Take a step back

Before organics can be effectively composted or recycled, contamination must be removed from the waste stream.

Seney says about 5 to 15 percent of the commercial source separated organic material (SSO) Republic collects is contamination. To eliminate this contamination, Republic takes this material to a pre-treatment operation.

“To really divert food waste from the landfill, because you can’t send this stream with contamination to an anaerobic digestion facility or a composting facility, you have to remove the contamination first. This is where these pretreatment operations come in, ”explains Seney.

He says Republic has a pre-treatment facility in Anaheim, Calif., Which was commissioned in 2018, where contamination is removed from food waste from restaurants and grocery stores. Republic has worked closely with its partner, the city of Anaheim, which Seney says strongly supports the organic project.

Seney says this facility, licensed for 250 tonnes per day, can process up to 20 tonnes per hour. The SSO Republic brings on its commercial collection routes are dumped on the bottom of the landfill and then fed into a hopper by a front loader. The material goes down a conveyor and into a horizontal hammer mill, which is manufactured by Scott equipment.

“The SSO goes into the hammer mill, and in the machine you have 55 paddles oscillating up to 400 RPM and they’re offset by a 1/8 inch screen. It is very durable and does an exceptional job of removing contamination. I would say up to 99% of the contaminants are separated from the food waste because they push the organics through the sieve and the contaminants stay in the drum, ”says Seney. “It does a great job of separating and doesn’t cut the material because obviously you don’t want to chop up the contamination and mix it with the ‘clean’ organics. What is removed are mainly plastic bags and silverware, which are easily removed by the machine. The “clean” organic material can then be sent to composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.

Food recovery

While Republic Services is known for collecting and disposing of waste, the company also helps collect food for consumption that would otherwise go to landfill.

Republic has partnered with local food rescue organizations, including World Harvest and Food researchers, for several years serving those in need in the Los Angeles area. Recovering food requires moving the recoverable food quickly and safely, so that it does not spoil. To help these efforts, Republic sponsored a refrigerated truck for Food Finders.

“When it comes to organic diversion, you’re going to continue to see this industry grow rapidly, and you are already seeing it. –Republic Services Director of Biological Operations Chris Seney

“We collect the surplus food from commercial businesses, then this food is collected and helps feed families in need. These combined efforts have provided over a million meals in Los Angeles alone, ”Seney said. “Helping local families is part of being a community partner, and it has become a win-win solution to implement a food recovery program that could have a positive impact on people in the communities we serve.

“But even with all of our local food salvage efforts in Los Angeles, we found that there was still food, especially produce, that we still couldn’t divert. The Republic team did a great job there and came up with a solution with the LA Zoo. We have started diverting around 10 tonnes of produce per month to the zoo, which feeds them for their animals. “

Be recognized

Last September, Republic Services was recognized by the National Association for Waste and Recycling (NWRA) as organic recycler of the year 2020 for its innovative approaches to organic waste management.

“As one of the nation’s largest recycling and waste management service providers, Republic Services is committed to protecting our planet and extending the life of the materials we recover from the waste stream. a priority, ”Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic, said in a statement. “The organic products industry is an emerging sector which offers us enormous potential to develop our business and strengthen the circular economy. We are proud to be at the forefront of the industry.

While Seney says being recognized for the company’s efforts is something the organization is proud of, there is still substantial room for growth.

“Organics is a huge opportunity that exists across the country, with food and garden waste accounting for around 30% of municipal solid waste going to landfill. [according to the EPA]. With regard to the diversion of organic products, you are going to continue to see this sector grow rapidly, and you are already seeing it. I have a national card that follows the regulations for organic products. And when I look at what that map looked like from 10 years ago to today, there are a lot more states — 10 or 12 more — that have organic regulations in place. Even outside of California, you see this conversation happening all over the country. It will definitely continue to grow and ultimately be governed by regulations, which will change the course going forward, ”Seney said.

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Waste Today. The author is the editor of Waste Today and can be contacted at [email protected]