(Dr. Yebo Li, Associate Professor in the Department of Food, Agricutlural, and Biological Engineering. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio State University Extension’s OARDC. Specializes in anaerobic digestion, biopolyols and polyurethane, and algae. Photo by Ken Chamberlain.)
The Department of Food, Agriculture, and Biological Engineering (FABE) of the BioProducts and BioEnergy Research Laboratory (BBRL) at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), of The Ohio State University and Groundz have partnered to provide students with organic waste for bio-energy research and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program opportunities.
This week, Groundz cleared 27,000 pounds of organic waste recycled. All this waste could have gone in an anaerobic digester to process it into CNG, electricity, and organic liquid fertilizer. The 27,000 pounds Groundz has recycled has been breaking down aerobically, as compost at our urban farm sites.
Anaerobic and aerobic breakdown processes.
When our material breaks down in the presence of oxygen it is aerobic. Aerobic is “in the presence of oxygen” and in fact to make the best soil requires between 40% to 60% air to breakdown the organic fraction and improve soil texture and encourage roots to sow easier. Compost is ready between 4 and 6 months.
Anaerobic digestion is the breakdown of material without oxygen. Once oxygen is removed from the breakdown processes, anaerobes and methanogens favor these conditions. Hot water is added to aid digestion process: The heat transfers from the water to the biomass feedstock (a fancy word for organic waste). After 26 days the digestate has resulted in the production of natural gas, electricity (through a generator), and organic liquid fertilizer(the byproduct), which contains many more nutrients and minerals as compared to conventional fertilizers that only contain N,P,K, even though soils need to be nourished with at least 52 minerals and nutrients for healthy growing of crops and plants.
I thought Groundz was a composting organization?
The demand to recycle organic waste is driving the demand for urban farms, edible education, and digestion.
Groundz is an organic waste recycling organization dedicated to procuring organic waste feedstock from cafes, stores, restaurants, QSRs (Quick-Serve Restaurant), landscapers and tree services and using the material to benefit urban farms, schools, and sustainable properties and practices. Using the material as its end-use provides us a unique opportunity to consider all possibilities of organic waste recycling, and there are two possibilities: (1) Composting. (2) Digestion.
With composting we setup and oversee the process at all our farm sites. A farm site can be an urban farm or an edible education initiative tool at schoolyards. Under Ohio EPA Class II waste exemption rules and regulations; we operate under the 300 square foot active compost space exemption. We may consider a large-scale farm, but these sites will have to remain within the 300 square foot exemption, unless they want to register as a Class II operator. The 300 square foot exemption gives us about 50,000 pounds/year or 100,000 pounds/year if composting processes doubles back. Considering organic fraction, material goes through micro-cycles, but additionally added material on material that’s already broken down, adds at least 3 more months of breakdown time.
Feel free to contact us if your urban farm or school is interested in becoming a Groundz Hub for composting opportunities.
Digestion adds 3,000 tons/year of organic material recycled, at the smallest digester unit. And units can go all the way up to 240,000 tons/year. Schools can choose which scale is most appropriate for their site and Groundz provides all the feedstock procurement (organic waste). STEM programs at school will have opportunity to collect data for their classes, use power for the school building, have the option to attach a CNG pump if the school for school buses, and organic liquid fertilizer for landscaping.
OSU FABE and Groundz.
We are privileged to work with OSU’s BBRL lab with our organic waste samples. I am working with one of Dr. Yebo Li’s post-doctoral student Liangcheng Yang, at BBRL, to measure and value our waste coffee grounds from Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks samples according to bio-energy potential, nutrients, and minerals. He will be using a 2-litre digester to measure the samples. In the results we will be able to tell if “America Really Does Run on Dunkin” or if Starbucks coffee waste will value higher in bio-energy values and organic liquid fertilizer content.
Students at OSU’s BBRL will also have a chance to help/tutor and enrich STEM and science programs at area schools in Cleveland, potentially Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Green Corps youth employees at Buckeye Learning Farm, and others.
We share in the revenue with our schools and sustainable sites, the production of compost, bio-fuel, electricity, and organic liquid fertilizer. Opportunities exist for STEM programming and entrepreneurship at your school or sustainable site. Groundz STEM members may also include, if your school is interested, in edible education initiatives that relate with biology classes, especially at universities. We believe it is important for students to connect and be inspired in their science classes with hands-on opportunities, and consider careers they had not considered before.
By Gregory Jackson
Founder, Chairman, and COO