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    Investing in Composting

    By Keith R | August 14, 2007

    Topics: Waste & Recycling | No Comments »

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    A few weeks back Rio de Janeiro (RJ) state’s agency in charge of environmental licensing, the State Environmental Engineering Foundation (FEEMA), announced the first-ever environmental license granted in that state to a privately-owned commercial composting plant.

    The licensed was granted to VideVerde, a subsidiary of the Venativ environmental services group, for a station in Resende, in RJ’s Médio Paraíba region. VideVerde has already invested R$400,000 in the plant, expected to rise to R$900,000 by year-end.

    The plant already processes 350 metric tons a month into 80 metric tons of organic compost targeted at agricultural, landscaping and gardening markets. The composting station takes organic wastes — such as food residues from restaurants and yard and similar wastes from gardening and tree-trimming services, etc. — that are collected directly from the waste generators. [My question, which I hope to find the answer to from VideVerde, is whether the organic wastes only come from clients utilizing Venativ’s special waste hauling services, or if it accepts from other sources as well.]

    VideVerde says that keeps strict control of the heat and microorganisms used in its aerobic process to both ensure final quality and that the composting does not results in any methane emissions (methane is a potent greenhouse gas).

    Why is this news, some of you may be asking?

    Because in Brazil, as in much of Latin America, while there are many composting operations listed as existing (about 80 in Brazil), most of these are publicly owned and municipal-run and in actuality are idle or faltering. Why? Not because the feedstock hard to get (it’s not), or that the technology or process are difficult (they’re not), or the end-product incapable of gaining a market foothold (good quality compost, properly marketed, can find strong niches with loyal buyers).

    Venativ logoRather, the problem usually is that municipal composting projects are not very good at developing markets, some have not maintained quality control, and most utilize an operational model heavily dependent on subsidies to stay viable. Hence you find farmers complaining about the inconsistent quality of compost from municipal facilities, and some only seeking it if it is far under-priced (compared to costs) or, in one case, free. When a municipality is faced with budget cuts, the composting station is often one of the first victims.

    This scenario has occurred so often across Latin America it led one friend of mine who’s an expert on waste management in LAC to wonder aloud if large-scale composting (as opposed to household or small, institutional-level) would ever catch on in the region.

    Hence to my mind it is a positive sign that a private company thinks it can make profitable business out of composting on a commercial scale in RJ state. A private sector composting service usually is more likely to make greater marketing efforts, take more risks than would a public sector compost plant in order to develop and grow a paying clientele for quality compost.

    Maybe this is the start of a quiet revolution in the paradigm and fortunes of composting in Brazil, and in Latin America as a whole…


    Desde a Secretaria del Ambiente (SEA) do Estado de Rio de Janeiro:

    Fábrica licenciada pela Feema será inaugurada em Resende

    A Videverde, primeira empresa particular de compostagem de resíduos a ser licenciada pela Feema (Fundação Estadual de Engenharia do Meio Ambiente), órgão da Secretaria do Ambiente, será inaugurada na próxima terça-feira, dia 17, às 10h, em Resende, na Região do Médio Paraíba.

    Localizada na Rodovia Presidente Dutra, a Videverde investiu R$ 400 mil, com previsão de investir, até o fim do ano, R$ 900 mil. Atualmente, processa 350 toneladas/mês de resíduos que são transformados em 80 toneladas de composto orgânico a serem usados em atividades agrícolas, paisagísticas e de jardinagem.

    Técnicos da Feema informaram que a atividade da Videverde garante um destino útil para os resíduos orgânicos, evitando sua acumulação em aterros e melhorando a estrutura dos solos. Já os profissionais da empresa disseram que também os restos de comida dos restaurantes industriais, as aparas de gramas e as folhas secas são tratados no pátio de compostagem da nova usina.

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