EPISODE 4: Harvesting Power… A Compost Story: Research in Richmond

This is the fourth post in a 5-part series on our journey from certification to acceptance of our compostable food ware products in the Metro Vancouver region. Read Episodes 1, 2, and 3 for the background on this story, and bookmark our blog to follow along!

 

The drive to Richmond is our shortest one yet, and we approach Harvest Power along a rural industrial route. Past a bend, and we can see the methane digesters appear behind the entry house. Our tour earlier in the year showed us where the buildings are and what everything does, but it’s a whole different story now that we’re here to dig into the organics!

Our BSIbio composting story at Harvest has two parts, since they use two different organics processing methods. Richmond Fraser Soil & Fibre is the original facility on the site, with an aerobic, static pile composting system. In 2010, Harvest Power partnered with Richmond Fraser and the Federal Government to bring a high-solids anaerobic digester to the site.

Anaerobic Digestion is Not CompostingSurprise surprise, anaerobic digestion is not composting! By removing oxygen from the organics, only microbes who do not use oxygen can survive. These microbes make methane, and the methane created is collected for energy.

The solid end product of anaerobic digestion – called the “digestate” – can be treated in various ways to become a marketable product. Harvest mixes their digestate into an aerobic static pile, reintroducing oxygen and composting to the digestate to complete its processing.

Harvest Power Aerial Diagram - Richmond BC - Anaerobic Digestion
Harvest Power has a complex layout for their mixed aerobic and anerobic operations.

Harvest has two static piles on the site. One, a certified organic compost stream which takes a restricted, clean feedstock of woody material and residential food waste. The other, a commercial compost stream, combines anaerobic digestate with woody material.

We’re testing our BÉSICS® products on both piles so we can see how our products perform in a regular, large-scale static pile, and also in a high-solids anaerobic digester followed by a static pile.

It was a wet sloppy day to prepare our bags and it turns out it’s not very easy to pack our bags with the anaerobic digester feedstock – after its been thoroughly crushed and combined, it’s a pungent mixture of all the food waste you can imagine – very wet and chunky. Our team innovates a novel bag fill system on the fly, and before we know it, our bags are ready to go!

Harvest Power Anaerobic Digestion Filling Research Bags

Filling our sample bags with a mixture of compostable foodware, and soon-to-be compost!

With our gas meters, filter masks, walkie-talkies, and various safety apparel, we’re chatting closely with the operator who will be loading our bags into the system. A slippery adventure later, and the tunnel is packed and closed to begin its 10 day percolation stage. Just like in Whistler, we will trust our bags to complete their adventure without us.  We’ll come back when they’re ready to switch to composting!

Harvest Power Static Pile Compostable Foodware Disintegration Research

Burying our sample bags on the static pile, ending up 6-12 feet deep!

The aerobic static pile is actually composed of 24 separate rows of compost. So, when we switch the bags to the composting side, we lay them on the side of a row before it’s filled. We attach long rope tails and neon flags to find the bags when we come back.

So began the start of a 3 month odyssey into the complex ecosystem of the Harvest, Fraser Richmond Energy Garden in Richmond, BC.

Harvest Power Disintegration Testing

The team ending the day at Harvest Power Energy Garden in all our safety get-up.

Bookmark us and check back for the Episode 5 conclusion to our Compost Story!

 

BSIbio dug into the compost at regional facilities with the University of British Columbia to make sure our products return to the earth.

We know our products will never disappear, and can only be converted into something else. 

Why do you care? Compostable products become a part of our Canadian landscape through the soil. When you buy these products, you want to be sure they really do what they say they do, breaking down completely and safely. This research is essential as we strive for truly responsible compostable products. Your interest and support of our mission helps make it happen!

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