Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Customer's Garden

Here are a couple of pictures of one of our customer's yard. He writes "Basically, our story is that in 2005 the yard was gravel and weeds. Prior tenants had used the yard for auto repairs and parking. With pecan hulls, plants and seed from the nursery, and a whole lot of love, we have transformed the yard into a lush green space. And this year we began irrigating through the acequia, and it's just exploded."

Congratulations on a beautiful oasis.

I love it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Persistent Herbicide

I am pretty sure that not many of you follow national compost news as closely as we do.

Recently, the big news has been the introduction of a persistent herbicide by DuPont. Imprelis (also Milestone and Forefront) contains a broad leaf herbicide, aminocyclopyrachlor, designed to withstand "wear and tear", as it were, and remain active for up to a year. This means that when sprayed on a lawn to end growth of broad leaf weeds such as dandelions, the active ingredient remains active, even after being composted, for up to a year or more. Most herbicides available to certified applicators and all those available to the general public are broken down by the microbial action that occurs during the commercial composting process. For this reason, Soilutions has never been worried about what chemicals our tipping customers use on the greenwaste we receive at our recycling facility. (10 years ago, Dow Chemical introduced a persistent herbicide containing the active ingredient clopyrlid. The US Composting Council, and several states quickly joined forces to demand that Dow remove it from circulation.)

After a story by the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/science/earth/15herbicide.html?pagewanted=all) told of 1000's of people in the northeast experiencing die-back or death of certain conifers resulting from "misuse" of Imprelis, we began to followed the story more closely in the trade magazines. Because of the location of the events, and the fact that most use was on golf courses or municipal parks, greenwaste generators of which we don't see much, we were still not worried about it. Then a customer came to us claiming that he planted tomatoes in our soil and they were showing signs of herbicide distress, according to his nurseryman. (Never mind that the soil he bought this year was made two years ago before Imprelis was even on the market, nor that the other 1000 cubic yards of topsoil was getting its usual rave reviews.) The idea that there was toxic soil being sold in the area was becoming a stronger one and that would not do anybody in the business any good.

I called all the nurseries, shopped at the big box stores, checked all the labels of all the available herbicides and found not one contained the active ingredient of Imprelis. Our friends at Plant World, Inc even promised that if they were given the opportunity to carry it, they would decline. Then I called a chemical fertilizer manufacturer in Albuquerque. They do carry Milestone, but that turns out to be an insecticide and it is costly ($500+/gal), too costly to be widely used by our customers. Even they had not yet heard of Imprelis.

So this all happened in July and August. Just as I was writing the draft for this article, DuPont issued a "voluntary recall" of Imprelis and set up a website (http://www2.dupont.com/Professional_Products/en_US/Products_and_Services/Imprelis/index.html) to assist those affected by its misuse. I was skeptical that they would cop to any wrong doing. It is registered with the EPA (http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/imprelis.html) and there are specific restrictions concerning its use on page 9 (or some such)of the warning label booklet (who reads those things anyway?).

Just the next week, while browsing a discarded New York Times I noticed an article claiming that the EPA had banned the sale and use of Imprelis (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/e-p-a-halts-sale-of-suspected-tree-killer/?scp=1&sq=imprelis&st=cse). Score one for the EPA, the USCC,BioCycle and all the others that put pressure on the chemical giant.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Compost Innovations

In my travels this week-end, I had opportunity to repeat the phrase, "We were so early, we were late" several times. In the New Mexico solid waste management business, it is more appropriate to say "We are so far behind, we are leading the way."

At Soilutions, as strange as it may sound, we have to invent every means of production. At first, fifteen years ago, those innovations came fast and furious. But over the years, we got in a routine, got comfortable, got efficient.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to announce that today we had a MAJOR break-through in the process of compost production.

Check it out.

When I see creativity and innovation of this magnitude, it makes me proud to work here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vermicultural Mycology

This morning, in a rush to get the kids up and ready for the day, coffee drunk, breakfast made, and house organized for the early morning guests (long story), I decided to take the kitchen waste from the last couple of days to the worms. The import of this is not that I recycled my food waste, but rather that I decided that it NEEDED to be done this morning. I could have and maybe should have taken the five minutes it usually takes to feed the worms to sweep the floor of dog hair, or to return the "camping" gear from last night's sleep over from the living room to the bedroom. I could have paid a couple of bills, scrubbed the toilet, picked up dog poop, shaved, loaded the washing machine, or ... you get the picture. But this morning I decided to reward myself with an early morning jaunt to the worm bin. (Without getting into details, the last couple of weeks have rewarded me fairly obviously when I have made seemingly selfish or pleasurable decisions rather than the responsible or logical ones.) So I gambled with being late and falling behind, with missing that first moment of sleepy innocence (which is getting more and more fleeting) when my boys arise, and took the containers to the worm bin.

As I said, I have recently been rewarded with my rash decisions. This morning was no different. Check out what greeted me when I lifted the lid...

I, as usual, have no idea what I am looking at here, but it is so darn beautiful that I don't really care.

I am often asked about things in a worm bin that aren't worms: rolly-pollys, flies, ants, mice, etc. My response is always "those macro creatures are just participating in the decomposition process. If they don't bother you, they shouldn't bother you." Mushrooms fall into the same category. Mushrooms and other fungi breakdown the "harder" woody material in your bin, i.e., wood, paper, and in this case, corn cobs.

So I snapped a couple of pictures, carefully dumped the kitchen waste away from the mushrooms, closed the lid, and recognized the fleeting beauty just offered to me.

Happy composting.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Farmer's Market

Just a couple of photos of last week's Farmers Market.

Our waste collection station

Our fearless leader: Ski

Look for these signs at future events

This next week, we will have for sale bags of vermicompost and bottles of liquid compost extract as well as bags of our Premium Compost. If nothing else, stop by to check out our tumblers.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Demand Accountablity

Study: Biodegradable Products in Landfills May be Harmful

From Waste & Recycling News -- Biodegradable products, such as disposable cups and utensils, may be doing more harm than good in landfills, according to researchers from North Carolina State University.

The study, which was published online in Environmental Science & Technology, found that so-called eco-friendly products release a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down.

The problem is attributable to the rate at which biodegradable materials break down, the study found. According to Federal Trade Commission guidelines, products marked as biodegradable should decompose within "a reasonably short period of time" after disposal.

But that rapid deterioration may be environmentally harmful, the researchers found.

Federal regulations do not require landfills that collect methane to install gas collection systems for at least two years after the waste is buried. If materials break down and release methane too quickly, the study said, much of the methane will likely be emitted before the collection technology is installed. This means less potential fuel for energy use and more greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers found that a slower rate of biodegradation is more environmentally friendly because the majority of the methane production will occur after the methane collection system is in place.

"Methane can be a valuable energy source when captured, but is a potent greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere," said Morton Barlaz, co-author of the study and a professor and head of N.C. State’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, in a statement. "In other words, biodegradable products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly when disposed of in landfills."

So next time you buy yummy food from your favorite local cafe, ask them why they aren't offering recycling services (like those offered by us at Soilutions) for the premium biodegradable service ware they offering to look more green.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Road side Ruminations

I was driving my boys home from school yesterday when I got to thinking. As anyone with pre teen boys will tell you, they are constantly hungry. I try to make it a point to have a burrito or some snack for them so they stay in a good mood on the drive. Yesterday I came from work, so did not have a chance to stop and stock up. I did have some peanuts in my lunch pail and offered them up. They ate them ravenously and made a game of tossing the shells out the window at various street signs.
Now what got me thinking was how cool it was that we could just throw the shells out the window without any social discrimination. Tossing peanut shells out the car window isn’t considered littering in my book. Since they are a natural product I consider it feeding the critters that scavenge the roadsides. I put apple cores, sunflower seeds, and orange peels in the same category.
When we pulled up to a stop sign and the car in front of us opened its door and dropped a McDonald’s bag on the ground before driving away, it made clear a point: by eating natural food in the packaging that Mother Nature gave it, we are making our lives easier in yet another way. Not only are we putting less strain on the systems (health care, sanitary, road maintenance, etc,) but we are putting less strain on ourselves. I mean I don’t have to worry about finding a trash can, or about spending an hour on the weekend cleaning the foot wells of my car.
How cool is that?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Show Us Your Compost!

I feel like starting a new campaign. I want to see a little chutzpah from our customers. I want to see how people are composting. Be it at home, school, work, play, real or imagined.

So take a picture of you or someone you know in the act of composting. Make sure the image above is visible somehow. Send it to me either Facebook or through email or whatever. As I said, I want to see how creative you all can be.

Who knows, maybe there is a free yard of compost for the most interesting...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Our Place in the World

I recently spent an evening listening (I didn't feel like she needed advice just then) to a friend lament her lack of place in this world. She feels she has no meaningful job, no permanent place to stay, and as such, doesn't feel like she contributes. She expressed envy that I get to go to work everyday and do something to save the earth. She felt useless because she spent one day in bed, unable to get up and shoo the ants away.

It got me thinking. What is important, nowadays? Is it important to go to work everyday? Certainly. Is it important to ensure that your kids have an active interesting social life? Absolutely. But it is also equally important to recognize a body's need to stop periodically, to reflect, to weep. From the devil's advocate point of view, I could argue that she did less damage to the earth yesterday, than I did driving to work, then school, then to soccer practice, then home again.

But more importantly, she spent the day reflecting. Today, she will be more sure and aware of who she is and where she belongs. I hope the little things she does everyday to make the world a better place for her, me, and anyone she runs into are as clear to her today as they always are to me.

At Soilutions, the nature of what we do allows us to come into contact everyday with people who are trying to do their part to make our world a better place. The impact a small urban garden has on the world (I know I am sounding overly dramatic here, but it's true) is immense. But there are other ways to impact positively our world. For those that don't or can't garden, just being kind, courteous, and considerate has an equal impact on this world we call home.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

C and D Recycling

Soilutions, Inc., a compost facility and organics recycler in the South Valley of Albuquerque, will stop accepting construction lumber as of March 30 2011.

Due to the high cost of processing, long labor hours cleaning the material of contaminates, and a lack of end market for the finished product, we are forced to stop receiving construction lumber from many LEED new construction projects. This will affect nearly twenty contractors and at least two major haulers. We currently accept about 3000 cubic yards a month.

Until we can find a market for the finished material, there just isn't any financial reason to keep accepting it.

Materials range from coarsely ground chunks to uniformly screened mulches. Some of the finished products meet the NMDOT specifications for mulch and mulch logs and are on the state's approved product list. Many are competitively priced.

Uses for the material include decorative mulch for the urban gardener, erosion control, SWPPP implementation, and NMDOT applications.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Worm Bin

I know I am a compost dork. I had a real reminder of that this last week.

I am moving into a new apartment. What do you think I set up first? The shower curtain? The computer table? No. I saw that I needed a recycling center first. Moving generates a lot of trash, or I should say it generates a lot of unwanted discards: paper from unpacking, cardboard from the new coffee maker, coffee filter, the paperboard six pack holder, orange peels, etc.

Here is a picture of my simple worm bin.

It's just a 5 gal. bucket with some worms and bedding at the bottom and various organic discards thrown on top. As it dries out, I pour undrunk coffee (a rarity I can assure you), and used dish water. The bulky cardboard I hope will be compressed as more material gets dumped on top.

As you can see, nothing fancy, but it erases the constant chagrin I have when faced with throwing away perfectly good waste.

Moving is usually a time of reflection. A chance to change things that I've always wanted to change but couldn't find the time to do so. I have a long road ahead to make an environmentally healthy living area out of my new small apartment, but at least I got the important thing out of the way.