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.
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.
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:
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.
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.