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Research Focuses on Using Algae to Treat Leachate

There are a total of 9,416 water bodies in the United States classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as ‘impaired’ due to nutrients, ammonia and algae. Near such impaired water bodies, efforts are being made to improve water quality by reducing the nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, discharged by publicly owned water treatment works (POTWs).

Landfill leachate is commonly routed to POTWs and can contain high nutrient levels, such as nitrogen concentrations of 50 to upwards of 2500 mg N/L (usually in the form of ammonia), that can be received at a treatment plant. One option to deal with landfill leachate is to treat it on-site rather than sending it to a POTW.

Biological treatment systems can be used to remove nutrients and various types of systems have been explored for treating leachate. One such approach has been the use of algae as the main biological component for such a treatment system since algae naturally consumes nitrogen and phosphorus for growth, both of which are found in abundance in leachate.

In addition to removing nutrients from leachate and reducing overall nutrient content from POTW effluent, algal biomass can be harvested to produce various useful by-products, such as: biofuels, livestock diet supplements, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and even electrical components such as supercapacitors. The use of lipids from algal biomass is frequently considered in the search for alternative transport fuel sources. One of the largest hurdles in the use of algae for biodiesel is making it economically affordable. Coupling algae production for biomass production system to a leachate treatment approach could offset some of the treatment costs associated while producing a useful end product.

When considering wastewater sources to be used as nutrients for algal growth, leachate is often overlooked. While domestic wastewater is one of the most commonly investigated, research at Drexel University by the author and faculty, Mira Olson and Christopher Sales, has found that a mixed algae-bacteria culture proliferates in the high ammonia conditions of landfill leachate. These studies show an average of 29 percent nitrogen removal from leachate. The use of a nutrient source high in ammonia, along with a mixed algal-bacterial culture, resulted in a greater overall nitrogen removal.

The challenges of operating this type of algal treatment system include the variability of both environmental factors (temperature, sunlight) as well as the leachate composition, such as fluctuating ammonia concentrations, organic particulates, heavy metals, and any other constituent that may aide or inhibit biological growth. While more research is needed to refine the approach, the data show that the use of algae may prove attractive in the long run as new approaches to utilize waste as a resource are being explored.

Kaitie Sniffen is a Ph.D. candidate at Drexel University and a PTR Baler & Compactor EREF Scholar. Her research interests include sustainable practices, resource reuse, waste to energy technology, water remediation and alternative energies. Kaitie received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where she also studied the fate of gold nanoparticles in aquatic environments. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling and any activity that involves being outside or on a body of water.

Need to Know

More Plastic Packaging Can Mean Less Waste, Say Experts

Plastics manufacturers and their customers in the European Union are under constant pressure to reduce the volume of plastics used in packaging, not least by the 2004 EU packaging and packaging waste directive. However, new research from Denkstatt, an Austrian environmental sustainability solutions think tank, has indicated that increasing the use of plastic in food packaging in a smart way can reduce spoilage in food and drink products, reducing waste.

It is the latest salvo in a long debate over the value of packaging — with packagers having been on the defensive for a decade, arguing that their output, by protecting products, reduces waste flows.

Continue reading at Plastics News

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How One Company is Making Cigarette Butt Recycling Not Only Possible, But Popular

Cigarette butts are the worst—they dot sidewalks, clog gutters, and soil oceans. Now a New Jersey-based company has found a way to recycle these unwelcome discards, and the program has gone global.

Known as the Cigarette Waste Brigade, TerraCycle’s effort to make recycling cigarettes easier for smokers is a first-of-its-kind program according to Albe Zakes, VP of communications at the company, who told Fusion that “before TerraCycle cigarettes weren’t recyclable.”

Since kicking off in New Orleans, the Cigarette Waste Brigade can now be found in cities nationwide, as well as internationally in Australia, the U.K., France, and Brazil. To date in the United States, TerraCycle has set up over 7,000 cigarette recycling bins and more than 38 million butts having been collected. Promoted as a company that “makes the non-recyclable, recyclable,” TerraCycle was founded by Tom Szaky in the early 2000s after he dropped out of Princeton University.

Continue reading at Fusion

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California Agency Approves Mattress Recycling Council’s Recycling Budget and Fee

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has approved the Mattress Recycling Council’s proposed budget and recycling fee to fund the state’s mattress recycling program, known as Bye Bye Mattress.

As a result of the approval, mattress retailers and other sellers must collect an $11 recycling fee on each mattress and box spring sold to California end-users. The fee will go into effect Dec. 30, and applies to all sales of new, used and renovated mattresses and box springs. A mattress and a box spring are each considered a separate unit, and the fee must be collected on each unit.

The money will be used to fund mattress collection, transportation and recycling services throughout California. The program will also create a network of collection sites for California residents, hotels, universities, hospitals and military bases and will support a fund to help communities battle illegal dumping.

Continue reading at Furniture Today

Need to Know

Montgomery's High-Tech Recycling Center Shuts Down

Montgomery’s new, high-tech recycling center has shut down while the leaders of the business meet with investors and others to work out a new deal. The city’s trash trucks are now bypassing the center and going straight to the landfill.

“I’m anticipating it to be a temporary suspension,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said about the private business.

The Infinitus Renewable Energy Park opened last year to separate and convert the city’s trash into commodities like paper and glass. The company then resold those products and pocketed the profits. It started taking trash in May 2014, and it was diverting more than half of the waste from the landfill at the time it closed.

Continue reading at the Montgomery Advertiser

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Providence Cracks Down on Illegal Trash Dumping

Providence is installing eight cameras in areas around the city prone to illegal trash dumping.

City Public Works Director Russell Knight says the motion-activated cameras are housed in small metal boxes and mounted on telephone poles.

When a camera detects movement, the lens cover pops open and it takes pictures. The images can be stored in a memory card in the camera or be sent by Wi-Fi to a computer.

Continue reading here

Need to Know

NYT Report Blasts Recycling

John Tierney, writer of the Findings column for The New York Times Science section, penned a lengthy piece in Sunday's New York Times blasting the practice of recycling in the United States.

It's not the first time Tierney has taken aim at the recycling industry. He wrote a piece nearly 20 years ago called Recycling is Garbage, also for the Times.

In his latest piece, Tierney writes about many of the issues that the industry has discussed of late, including the difficulties in managing the costs of recycling and making it work economically. But he also blasts recycling on environmental grounds, saying that in many cases there is no benefit to the practice. In some cases, he says, recycling generates more carbon dioxide than it saves.

He writes: 

While it’s true that the recycling message has reached more people than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all.

Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies.


The future for recycling looks even worse. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish.

Waste360 explored many of these same issues in our recent special report on recycling. To check that out, go here.

Read Tierney's full piece here.

Need to Know

Denver Lags Other Cities When It Comes to Recycling, Composting Policies

While West Coast cities are diverting more than 60 or even 70 percent of their household waste from landfills with aggressive recycling and composting rules, Denver has yet to notch 20 percent.

The city long has lagged by making recycling voluntary. It offers curbside composting pickup only to certain neighborhoods, while charging a fee that keeps participation low. As a result, Denver's city-run trash service says just 16 percent of waste from the single-family homes and small residential buildings it serves is kept out of the landfill.

Continue reading at The Denver Post

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Phoenix Mulch Plant Ordered Shut Down Following Pollution Complaints

Phoenix city officials ordered an open-air mulching facility to shut down this week after a months-long battle with nearby residents and business owners, who complained the odor and particulates emanating from the facility were making them sick. 

In a letter to Green Earth Recycling, which set up on the corner of 23rd Avenue and Williams Drive about 18 months ago, Planning Director Alan Stephenson gave owners 60 days to clear out its 10-foot-high piles of mulch and cease operations.

Continue reading at the Phoenix New Times

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Recycling Machinery Manufacturer Moves to West Chicago

A worldwide manufacturer of machinery for the plastic, rubber and recycling industries has opened a new facility in West Chicago.

Avian USA Machinery, LLC, opened its 35,000-square-foot North American headquarters at 1901 Powis Court this spring. A grand opening celebration with guests from China, Japan, Mexico and local companies was held last week.

"I think it's just representative of the business growth that is taking place in our community," John Said, the city's director of community development, said of Avian's decision to move to West Chicago. "I believe it's a wonderful adaptive reuse of this facility."

Continue reading at the Daily Herald