Organics
We transform organic waste streams into nutrient rich earthlife® soil products, animal feed, and renewable energy. In 2017, Casella recycled over 400,000 tons of organic materials.
The term organics encompasses food waste, yard debris, and soiled paper, as well as wastewater treatment solids, food manufacturing by-products, animal manures, paper mill residues, wood ash, and other mineral residuals. We recycle these materials and recover their value through composting, product blending, anaerobic digestion, alkaline stabilization, and direct to market land application. We also manage organic residuals to disposal facilities when they are not suited for recycling.

The Organics Opportunity at Casella

An important way for society to rebuild our soils, generate renewable energy, and cut our climate impact is to reduce and recycle organic waste and by-products. As a company, we manage 1.4 million tons of organic residuals, including wastewater biosolids, industrial organics, source separated food waste, and the food fraction of municipal solid waste. The graphic below details our management of these materials in 2017. We have defined four categories of management: renewable energy + recycle to soil (anaerobic digestion), recycle to soil (compost and land application), landfill gas to energy (landfills that produce renewable energy), and disposal (incineration and landfills without energy capture).
Data note: 2017 organics managed, by destination. Units = thousands of tons. All figures are actual scaled tonnages into internal and third party facilities, except food waste tons to landfill-gas-to-energy and disposal, which were estimated based on the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) we delivered to our own and third party facilities.
Navigating Your Food Waste Options
We work with our customers in many ways to put uneaten food to good use. Answer the questions below to understand which combination of solutions is best for your food waste.
Food Waste

In 2015, the U.S. government declared a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030. The United Nations' Global Sustainable Development Goals include a similar target. Closer to home, each state within our operating footprint is working to reduce food waste through regulatory mandates and/or voluntary initiatives. Interest in food waste diversion is at an all-time high.

Casella has been in the food waste business since 1999, when we began taking source separated food waste to a composter near Burlington, VT. Over the years, our food waste service offering has grown and expanded. In 2017, we captured over 60,000 tons of food waste for beneficial use.

The decision tree graphic to the right shows how we work with our customers to find the right solution or combination of solutions for their food waste.

Grind2Energy

In our journey to help our customers put their food waste to a higher and better use, we are always tracking and testing the latest technological innovations. One solution that has proven itself as an exciting and reliable option for our customers is the Grind2Energy system from Emerson InSinkErator. The system equips customers to process their food waste into a pumpable slurry that we deliver to local digesters to produce renewable energy and soil fertilizer products. Our customers find that it meets their needs for cleanliness and usability, and they are proud to share its great sustainability story with their employees and customers.

Biosolids and Other Organics

Wastewater treatment biosolids remain an essential consideration for any community striving for sustainable organics management. Across the country, communities are rethinking their wastewater treatment plants, seeing them as water resource recovery facilities, capable of transforming wastewater into clean water, soil fertility, and renewable energy.

Throughout the northeast, we assure many organic by-products find a second life. Short paper fiber from paper mills is used to produce animal bedding, wood ash from biomass energy plants helps increase crop yields in agriculture, and seaweed extracts from consumer product manufacturing facilities find their second life as a soil amendment.

Here is how we are advancing the recovery of biosolids and other organics in the northeast:

  • Market Development: Casella's earthlife® brand of landscape, horticultural, and agricultural products are designed to improve soil health and productivity. Our innovative animal bedding and manufactured topsoil alternatives help to conserve local resources.
  • Education and Awareness: Policy-makers in the northeast are very focused on protecting regional water quality by limiting the runoff of soil nutrients into lakes and streams. We co-sponsored a summit for scientists and policy-makers to review the interplay between recycled organics and nutrient management.
  • Land Reclamation: In addition to serving agricultural and horticultural markets, we have been expanding our work in land reclamation using repurposed materials: restoring overworked fields and re-vegetating old gravel pits. This important work helps to re-establish healthy ecosystem functions on degraded land without using virgin materials.
  • Working Upstream: Effective organics diversion begins long before material is loaded onto trailers. Our team works with customers and prospective customers to evaluate and alter their processes to assure their organic by-products are most suitable for the highest and best use.

Making Animal Bedding in Maine

During the summer of 2016, Casella Organics visited the Verso Paper Mill in Jay, Maine with a proposal to recycle the facility's short paper fiber (SPF) into a bedding product for dairy cows. Verso embraced the idea, and the two companies collaborated closely to make it happen.

Success took time, but in 2017 the mill adjusted its operations to separate primary and secondary SPF and took a series of steps to meet regulatory quality standards. The extra effort has proven worthwhile.

Today at our Hawk Ridge Compost Facility, we combine and blend Verso's primary short paper fiber with select types of wood ash to produce a quality bedding called Fiberbed®. The product naturally excels at absorbing liquids, and a Fiberbed study at the University of Maine found reduced instances of mastitis-causing bacteria. As an added benefit, when a farm uses a load per week of Fiberbed and spreads the resulting bedded manure on their fields, they receive approximately $50,000 of lime value.

Through innovation, teamwork, and careful management, we're now combining two "waste" materials to produce a valuable agricultural product. Last year, 25 dairy farms throughout the region benefited from the new Fiberbed production.

Responsible Nutrient Management
Anyone with a garden knows that plants require soil nutrients - such as phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and more - to grow. However, excess nutrients can run off into rivers and lakes and lead to problematic algal blooms, choking weeds, and habitat degradation, which can in turn impair public water supplies, recreational resources, and wildlife biodiversity.

States in the northeast are developing new regulatory programs designed to limit nutrient (phosphorus) runoff from sources such as agricultural lands and suburban runoff. This growing focus on nutrient runoff is one of the most significant emerging factors influencing our ability to beneficially use organic residuals in northeastern watersheds.

Soil products made from organic residuals could play a significant role in helping to reduce phosphorus runoff. This is because the products contain carbon, nitrogen, and micronutrients, which help to enhance soil structure and support plant growth. Unfortunately, because these products do contain phosphorus, overly simplistic nutrient management rules could deter their use.

We believe that recycled organics can and should continue to play a valuable role in building our region’s cropland and landscapes, and in protecting our watersheds. Casella’s Nutrient Management Planners are working with decision-makers to develop and advance best management practices, based in sound soil science, that will allow and encourage the beneficial use of recycled organics.

Goals
Putting the Pieces Together
Our Goal:
Track Progress by Monitoring:
Our Focus Over the Next Two Years:
Learn more about our Sustainability Initiatives
Capturing value from waste through innovative resource solutions.
Our comprehensive Resource Solutions enable us to apply our knowledge and experience in recycling, collection, organics, energy and landfills to create economic and environmental value for our customers and our communities. Click here to download the PDF version of our 2018 Sustainability Report
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