executive order

Executive orders:  federal mandates for diversion

Professionals who must comply with green purchasing mandates —

  • Facility managers
  • Purchasing agents
  • Engineers
  • Landscape architects
  • Planners
  • Other specification writers

will find composting and/or compost use an integral component to many directives.

Biodegradables make up a high percentage of the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. It’s almost impossible to meet recycling goals without diverting organics to composting.

Poor soil and loss of topsoil are identified as the root cause of so many water management problems. Compost is the go-to solution to effect a permanent fix.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be touching on key points of EO 13514. Let’s start with the mandate to achieve 50 percent diversion by 2015.

Recycling plastic, metal and glass is important to achieving the 50 percent mark. But those materials only make up about a quarter of the U.S. waste stream.

To meet the goal, paper, pallets, cardboard, food waste and other biodegradables must recycle, too.

Granted,  composting is not the first choice for some of these materials.  The best option for clean paper and unwaxed cardboard is making more paper and cardboard.

But those processors don’t want dirty paper and waxed cardboard.  Composters do.  Dry, carbon-rich waste makes good amendment for materials like sludge and food waste.  Microbes don’t give a fig about a little dirt and happily breakdown the wax along with the cardboard.

Food waste can also recycle through anaerobic digestion (AD) to make energy.  But what comes out the back end – digestate – is compostable. AD extracts only energy. All other beneficial properties are still available in the compost feedstock.

Waste-to-energy via landfills or incinerators destroys those properties. These waste options do not return organics to the soil or “close the loop.”

Collection is the biggest hurdle

Everyone is enthusiastic about food waste diversion. But door-to-door collection is still not available in most areas. Few complexes and facilities generate the volumes required to make single-source collection economically viable.

But if composting is the key to hitting that 50 percent target for your facility, don’t stop with food. Look at all biodegradables:

Vegetative debris

  • Pallets
  • Paper, cardboard
  • Cooking oil and grease
  • Biodegradable plastics (if your composter accepts them)
  • Sludge and other processing wastes

– all can go into a dumpster bound for composting.

Tipping fees at the local composting facility can be less than the landfill, too.  That’s good news for facility managers. But always remember — volume is what makes the economics of diversion work best.