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Green Mountain Biochar: An exploration of the potential for biochar production to help Vermont achieve zero-waste by 2020

Peter Huntington
University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Abstract: 

This session will present ongoing research and discuss the potential role and impacts of biochar production in the state of Vermont.  Vermont is working towards achieving its universal recycling and composting (URC) law, but obstacles pose challenges and opportunities to new forms of organic waste disposal.  Act 148, Vermont’s URC law was unanimously passed by the state legislature in 2012 and is being implemented in phases until it comes into full effect in 2020.  An unfunded act, the waste ban forces haulers and waste disposal entities to transform their practices.  Existing commercial compost facilities in the state will not have the capacity to handle the flow of organic materials projected by 2020.  Vermont’s Act 148 has opened a window of possibility for new forms of waste management to emerge in the state.  Although biochar production is not yet an officially recognized method of waste disposal in Vermont, it could play a significant role in organic waste cycling while producing multiple yields, benefits, and value.  Biochar systems could potentially also meet goals of local renewable energy production and carbon sequestration and play a part in state-wide resiliency plans in response to the effects of climate change. This session will discuss ongoing research based on interviews with a range of stakeholders, which seeks to answer: how could biochar production be organized in Vermont so that organic solid wastes become a source of value?  Where in the landscape of Vermont can biochar production systems be fixed for optimal conversion of waste materials into char?  Who are potential partners in the establishment of biochar production, practice, and markets?  Results of this research will be published in a white paper, recommending policy and planning steps for the future of biochar production from waste in Vermont.

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