Commentary: Growing the U.S. Composting Industry

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

It is a great time to be in the compost manufacturing industry! After 15 months on the job as the Executive Director of the US Composting Council (USCC), I remain thrilled to be a part of this industry and passionate about the opportunities that lie ahead. In 2012, major emphasis was placed on growing as an industry, establishing strategic partnerships and enhancing public awareness of the merits of recycling organics. This Commentary considers each of these in turn.

Industry Growth: Our industry is growing. Month after month, publications like BioCycle chart positive trends in our industry and point toward a path filled with promise and opportunity. To accelerate the pace, the USCC will be busy in 2013 with several key initiatives. In January, we will be releasing our model rules for compost manufacturing, developed by a multistakeholder group of experts, to assist states as they revise existing regulations or promulgate new ones. The model rule template includes a three-tiered permit structure, with design and operating requirements based on materials composted and technology employed. The foundation of the tiers is the feedstock categories, which are based on the materials’ potential risks to human health and the environment.

The model rule is anticipated to be a “living document” that will be periodically reviewed and updated as knowledge and experience in compost manufacturing and regulating continue to mature. Adoption of these rules will help mitigate the regulatory burden and streamline the permitting process for new compost facilities, enhancing opportunities to build infrastructure.

In March, the USCC will be launching the Million Tomato Campaign, a national initiative focused on promoting compost use. The campaign will bring together the nation’s compost producers, chefs, community gardens and food banks to help build healthy soil that produces sustainably grown, local food for the nation’s communities. Celebrity Chef Nathan Lyon, co-host of PBS’ Growing a Greener World and author of “Good Food Starts Fresh,” is the spokesperson for the campaign, encouraging community gardens to grow their own tomatoes in soil improved with compost and offering healthy tomato-based recipes for families.

Partnerships: The USCC continues to build strategic partnerships that will help the Council move forward on this path of sustained growth and economic vitality. The USCC’s efforts, particularly in this area, are based on economic theory and aimed largely at increasing and balancing both the supply of feedstock and the demand for compost. To increase the availability of feedstock that our members rely on, we support legislative initiatives to ban organics from landfills and seek opportunities to build awareness of the social and environmental benefits of recycling organic material. To increase market demand for compost, we collaborate with industrial and commercial consumers such as landscapers, landscape architects, golf course superintendents, green builders and designers, and state agencies responsible for transportation infrastructure.

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