Commercial Composting-One of Hottest US Industries-Brings National Conference to Phoenix in January

More than 1,000 members of the commercial composting community will be gathered Jan. 28-31 2019 for the first time in the Phoenix, AZ region for the annual conference of the US Composting Council in an era of infrastructure challenges, keen attention to food scrap diversion and the link between compost and climate change. Read more

Composting Council Launches Second Professional Certification

Reston, VA–The US Composting Council’s Certification Commission is introducing a new credential that is designed for industry professionals who are experts in the field of compost manufacturing and facility management. Read More

Composting Collaborative Webinar on Nurturing Entrepreneurs to Grow Infrastructure

The Composting Collaborative, of which USCC is a founding partner, is focusing its October webinar on the role of new businesses in closing the gaps in providing organics recycling collection and compost production and sales. USCC has found that encouraging entrepreneurship is one answer. Read more

Acclaimed Soil Health Author Schwartz to Keynote National Compost Conference

Judith D. Schwartz, author of the critically acclaimed book, Cows Save the Planet, will be the keynote speaker at the US Composting Council’s 27th Annual Conference, Renew and Regenerate, the USCC announced today. Read More

The rebirth of the US composting industry, in many ways, can be attributed to the development of biosolids composting as a waste management method. Of course, in the late 1970’s and through the 1980s, ‘biosolids’ was called ‘sewage sludge’. Back then, the US EPA was moving towards the banning of ocean dumping of biosolids, and was tasked to create safe land-based uses for it.

Market Applications For Biosolids Compost
*Turf Establishment-soil incorporation
*Turf Maintenance-top dressing
*Garden Bed Establishment-soil incorporation
*Potting media component
*Agricultural soil amendment and nutrient source

Before Biosolids Recycling—Sewage flowing into the ocean near Los Angeles
Photo: Wikipedia

After Biosolids Recycling—Turf at a Maryland park with biosolids compost incorporated

What are the best ways biosolids composters can take advantage of the evolution of regulations and technology to ensure their customers that they make safe, saleable biosolids? With the help of Clean Water Act funding, pretreatment programs were implemented – which identified and lowered industrial sources of heavy metals – so cleaner sludges could be generated.  The US EPA and USDA worked together to develop the concept of ‘PFRP’ – the Process to Further Reduce Pathogens – which identified the time and temperature relationship necessary to kill human pathogens. Of course, today, the PFRP research is used to regulate pathogen destruction in all feedstocks of compost.

The US EPA and USDA collaboration also led to in-depth heavy metal (and pollutant) research and the related risk assessment completed in large part by Dr. Rufus Chaney. This research is also used today to govern the pollutant limits allowable in most feedstocks of compost marketed in the US.

The pathogen and heavy metal research were key elements in the US EPA’s CFR, Part 503 regulations, better known by some as the Clean Sludge regulations.  The US EPA funding and collaboration with the USDA, brought together an incredible group of researchers (e.g., Drs. Chaney, Millner, Epstein, Gouin and others) and it funded excellent product quality and large volumes of end use research.

Finally, the implementation of large-scale biosolids composting programs, which had to deal with feedstock related stigma, forced the early adopters to take market development seriously, as well as encourage a technical understanding of compost and its interaction with soil and plant systems. Those of us old enough to remember, know that the early advent of biosolids composting helped to jump start the US composting industry.

Ron Alexander, R. Alexander Associates, Inc. ( a compost product and market development consulting company (and early biosolids compost marketer).