Recycling Organic Materials at Facilities
Compost piles at the Washington
County Biosolids Recycling Facility in
Fort Edward, N.Y.
Whether it be recycling of sewage sludge (biosolids) from publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs); food residuals recycling from food recovery programs at hospitals, colleges, office buildings, prisons; industrial organic waste from food processing facilities; used paper products; yard waste; or other organic materials, organic waste recycling helps divert waste from landfill sites and incinerators and creates a nutrient-rich end product that replenishes tired soils.
It is imperative that facilities that manage these types of activities are designed and operated in an environmentally sound manner since these materials are derived from solid wastes and could contain unacceptable levels of heavy metals, human pathogenic organisms, and other constituents of concern if not properly controlled.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regulates facilities involved with the land application, composting and other recycling methods of certain types of organic waste materials under Title 6 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules, and Regulations (6 NYCRR) Part 360 Solid Waste Management Facilities. A large portion of the materials recycled are biosolids generated from POTWs across the State, and like commercial fertilizers, materials produced from the recycling of biosolids are moved to markets in many states. In 2010, approximately 105,200 dry tons of biosolids were recycled for beneficial use by composting, heat drying, chemical stabilization and direct land application. This was approximately 30% of the biosolids produced, up from 5% in 1989. Typical use depends on characteristics of the product and the needs of the marketplace. Digested biosolids, so-called Class B, are typically used in agriculture as a nitrogen source for the growth of crops, while composted biosolids, Class A, are more often used in landscaping due to high organic content and low nutrient content, which makes a good soil amendment, but a poor fertilizer. Chemically stabilized biosolids are typically used as an agricultural lime due to their pH and neutralizing value, while heat-dried pellets are often used directly as a fertilizer due to nutrient content. See the (Biosolids Management in New York State Report - PDF file, 525 KB) for further details on biosolids generation and management in New York State.
Another large source of organic material for recycling is yard waste. According to the USEPA report, Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2009 Update, it is estimated that yard waste makes up 13.7% of the solid waste generated nationwide. It was estimated that nearly 1.1 million tons of yard waste were recycled in New York State in 2009. Composting and chipping are cost-effective ways of turning leaves, brush, grass clippings, plant wastes, and other organic materials into useful products like compost and mulch. These are low cost and easy to manage ways to produce materials for use as peat, topsoil, mulches, and other soil amendments. Since a great deal of yard waste is often already collected separately, waste recycling provides a practical solution for communities to more effectively manage a significant portion of their solid waste stream.
Food residual wastes from institutions such as hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, amusement parks, etc., or residuals generated from industrial sources such as grain, bakery, dairy, candy, animal feed industries, etc., also make up a large portion of organic waste recycled in New York State. In New York State the Department estimates that food scraps represent nearly 18% of the MSW generated each year.