Managing Organic Residuals PWT Meeting

Cornell Waste Management Institute


Date:         May 28, 2009

Location: Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA), Amboy Compost Site, Airport Rd., Syracuse, NY


Purpose:  To gain guidance from participants on what direction CWMI should take in research and outreach to be able to answer stakeholders’ questions. Provide updates on current programs and share newly developed resources.

Meeting Summary:  This years PWT meeting focused on 1) food scrap diversion, home and backyard composting and composting at schools, 2) biosolids and contaminants, 3) update on CWMI projects and 4) where to go from here and how to do it.

Presentation:  Building a Recovery Network for Surplus Food and Organic Waste in New York State. Gary Feinland, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY and Melissa Young, Environmental Finance Center, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

Tour: Tour of OCRRA food and yard waste composting facility, OCRRA personnel


List of attendees



Barton and Loguidice

James Marion

Cayuga County

Bruce Natale

Clarkson University

Ying Zhang

Cornell Cooperative Extension Wyoming County

Joan Petzen

Cornell University – ILR Workplace Health and Safety

Nellie Brown

Cornell University – Plant Pathology

Eric Carr

Cornell Waste Management Institute

Hannah Shayler, Jean Bonhotal

Cornell Waste Management Institute

Mary Schwarz, Murray McBride

Corning, New York

Robert Popejoy

Empire State Development

Patricia Driscoll

Environmental Finance Center, Syracuse University

Melissa Young

Great Veggies, LLC

Ed Harwood

Mill Creek Quality Earth Products

Peter Viau

New York Farm Viability Institute

Rebecca Schuelke Staehr

NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

Gary Feinland, Sally Rowland, Bill Thayer

NYS Department of Transportation

Gary Glath

Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency

Andrew Radin, Ann Furdock

Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency

Greg Gelewski, Tom Fergeson

Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority

David Lupinski

Stearns and Wheeler GHD, Inc.

Beth Ann Smith, Jeff Heath

Vermeer Northeast

Tony Crane

We Care Organics, LLC

Charles Duprey, Greg Capparelli

Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority

Majorie Torelli


Introductions and Issue Discussions:

Food Scrap Diversion, Home and Backyard Composting and Composting in Schools

Š         Pests and pathogens associated with compost transportation and collection, especially in apartment buildings: if handled properly, it should not be a problem. Containers are important. It is the same as in recycling – if you leave cans and bottles around that are not rinsed, it will attract fruit flies. Therefore, there should be a system in place to keep the scraps moving. A good IPM program to go along with the collection will help.

Š         It is possible that the focus of food scrap diversion to composting facilities should be on institutions, rather than residential as the cost and logistics of residential food scrap collection could be overbearing.

Š         Residents should be encouraged to compost at home – even in apartment buildings. DEC would love to see all municipalities doing at home composting. There is DEC money available to municipalities to buy bins to distribute to homeowners. There should be an education component to go along with the bins., contact Sharon Smith at 518-402-8704.

Š         Are there municipalities that are doing this successfully? It would be good to find out and prepare some case studies about this, including costs, what’s working, etc and get the information out so that others can do it too.

Š         We are at the point with food scrap composting that we were 20 years ago with yard waste. It seems like it’s time for the “food waste planning guide” to go out to homeowners. It needs to be a workbook with different methods and how to do it. This will help divert food scraps the way yardwaste is now being diverted.

Š         Oneida-Herkimer, Dave Lipinski, SWMA is funding 2 colleges to do composting, helping an elementary school and is working with the Utica Zoo:

o   Herkimer Community College: bought them an earth tub,  put it in November, worked well, then semester break came and lost their students, then got really cold and the earth tub froze up and couldn’t start doing anything again until the end of May. Plan on emptying the tub just before semester break this year and put it in a curing pile, so that can start a new one when the kids come back at the end of January.

o   Mohawk Valley Community College – Culinary Arts Program: bought a Mantis tumbler unit, which worked real well until winter break again.

o   Just purchased a tumbling unit for an elementary school in Utica. Had a zero waste day at that school. Started composting on earth day. Mantis tumbler – $500. ER Hughes Elementary school in the New Hartford School District.

o   They have had a couple of meetings with the Utica Zoo to compost straw and hay and herbivore manure.


Biosolids and Contaminants

  • DOT wants to know about biosolids and contaminants in them because they are using a particular product as a silt fence and are worried about leachate. DEC sets standards for biosolids. A beneficial use permit can be obtained from DEC if there is any question that there might be a problem.
  • Is there a quick test for heavy metals? This is in question because of pressure treated lumber that may be used unknowingly as bulking material in composting. Murray Mc Bride says there is a commercial test for copper and chromium. HACH has an arsenic and copper kit. These are for soil. It would be hard to field screen lumber before it goes through the composting process. Gary Feinland says there is a dye that can be used on a fresh cut of lumber that will test for copper. Jean says that you should still compost it, but use it as lower quality compost, such as landfill cover.



Building a Recovery Network for Surplus Food and Organic Waste in New York State

Gary Feinland, NYS DEC - Albany

  • First and foremost, we need to change our mindset to talk about food as a resource, not as waste: recovering surplus food and food scraps can help feed the hungry, improve the soil, and create clean energy.
  • Food Recovery and Reuse are the first step: from farmer and warehouse surplus to consumers or Food Banks, from landscaping and restaurant waste to energy or soil amendments.
  • Develop a network and engage the public: DEC used community dialogue and face-to-face meetings – 7 forums in 2008 led by DEC to talk about diversion by bringing stakeholders together in several areas of the state.
  • Things that work:

o   Reduction: Universities are going trayless: St. Lawrence University reduced food waste by 42% by going trayless and saved 330,000 gallons water annually by not having to wash trays, were able to decrease personnel and purchase less food.

o   Donation: Long Island Cares and Rock and Wrap it Up have 300 volunteers that will transport food from places that have it to places that need it. This solution is underutilized. Gary will create a document to help groups donate.

o   Diversion: Buffalo wanted to compost food scraps. Visitors Bureau identified restaurants, hotels, etc. They had a composter set up to take it and had funding in place, but with the budget crunch, it was lost. They are still going to do it, it will just happen more slowly.

Š         Next Steps: Gary will summarize, post stuff online, create on-line discussion forums, promote state agency diversion (to correctional facilities?) offer webinar series and offer regional courses/conferences. These would include: how/why conduct a waste audit, waste reduction tools and strategies, food donation, analyzing the costs of diversion, separation/collection of food scraps, education of staff and clients, in-vessel compost system review.

Š         There is a website called Shared Harvest Forum to share new ideas and best practices on food/food waste management:


Recovering Surplus Food via Online Exchanges

Melissa Young, Environmental Finance Office, Syracuse University

  • Launch of NY Food Trader:
  • Objective: Facilitate interactions between regional producers and consumers of food.
  • To see the listings, you do not need to join, but to post a listing you will need to create an account.
  • It is tabbed with Biomass Trader ( and soon there will be Ag Trader.
  • Biomass Trader facilitates interactions between local producers and consumers of biomass waste and biomass-derived products and Ag Trader will do the same with agricultural products.


Update on CWMI Projects

  • Dairy manure solids (DMS) as bedding and composted bedded pack: Three years of research showed that properly managed DMS can provide an economic benefit without compromising herd health. Composted bedded pack barns can improve cow comfort and the condition of feet and legs and did not affect body condition or linear score over the one year period studied.
  • Soil contaminants project: This project is primarily focused on contaminants in urban gardens in NYC. GreenThumb and Cornell Cooperative Extension-New York City are collaborating with CWMI on this project. We are collecting soil samples from 100 gardens in the city. We would like to tie existing data and research findings together to get educational materials out; identify research needs and connect them directly into tangible information on what to do with that research.
  • Mortality and flesh waste composting: We have developed emergency response materials in the event of an Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak. All of it is on the website and can be downloaded for use in case it is needed at
  • Compost Facility Map: CWMI compost facility map is online at Its intent is for people to find compost, compost facilities and compost education/demonstration. In addition, it can be used for people to find places to bring their organic waste. If there are any facilities that you know of that are not listed on the map, please contact Mary Schwarz, or click on the link to add a facility.
  • New Proposals

o   Assessing the fate of drugs used in livestock mortality and manures (barbiturates for euthanasia, continuous wormers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and the leachate coming out of the piles - Hatch

o   Characterize and facilitate exchange of organic residuals that could be and used as resources – NYFVI (submitted).

o   Agronomic and soil conditioning value of organic residuals - Hatch

o   Assessing and addressing exposures to soil contaminants from urban gardening activities - NIH (submitted)


Where to go from here and how to get there:

  • Backyard composting: Proposed that CWMI do a webinar with hub sites receiving webinar be CCE offices and SWMA sites – do master gardener or master composter series, but do it online. That way if the counties don’t have resources to do their own training, they still can open up their offices for a webinar. Maybe get Americorps involved to be the manpower to handle the lines with questions (like the master gardeners do).
  • Need for a document to be developed to talk about diversion of food scrap to home composting and ways to facilitate collection of home and industrial food residual for municipal food scrap composting.
  • Interest in more information on contaminants in soil and how to interpret, interest in quick home tests. 
  • Still need for bedding strategy information but no immediate research need, help needed to facilitate exchange of available organics that could be used in a variety of ways.
  • Funding available from DEC for waste reduction, recycling and household hazardous waste programs at
  • Economic Development will be able to start accepting applications for funding in late summer.
  • NYFVI has an annual cycle of funding. This year’s were due June 7th.  Keep an eye out for next year’s funding at:


Tour and Presentation of OCRRA Amboy Compost Facility, Greg Gelewski

  • This facility is located at the old Syracuse airport, and can be found on CWMI’s facility map at
  • Statically aerated piles using forced air – food scraps and yard waste. Takes approximately 60 – 90 days to compost, then it is screened.
  • Will be integrating storm water and leachate management soon.
  • OCRRA charges a tipping fee for food waste and sells the finished compost.


Thanks to all who participated in this Program Work Team (PWT) meeting or as Mary puts it “People Working Together.”


As always, if people have thoughts, ideas, research or programs related to organics management that we can help with please contact Jean, Mary, Hannah or Murray at CWMI.