Compost Uses and Markets
Compost Uses and Markets: Critical Info for Customers
Composting in the United States has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Numerous municipal and private operations have sprung up in every region and often have been supported with rapid expansion of diversion programs, favorable legislation, and collection infrastructure. Though the science of composting hasn’t appreciably changed in millennia, our ability to create and detect potentially harmful chemical compounds has advanced significantly in just the last few decades. The significant waste reduction gains being realized by the burgeoning compost movement is threatened by the presence of some particularly problematic chemicals including a family of compounds known as Persistent Herbicides.
Over the last two decades, there has been an ebb and flow of reports of composters being affected by the presence of Persistent Herbicides at their facilities. In 2012 Green Mountain Compost (GMC) of Williston, Vermont suffered the biggest setback in its 25 year history when it was discovered that over 500 customer garden’s had been negatively impacted by the presence of Persistent Herbicides in their compost. GMC had just undergone a full rebranding effort that Spring and was on track to reach a record number of customers when the discovery was made. The next year and half required GMC and the Chittenden Solid Waste District to expend substantial resources to respond to and recover from the incident. Despite extensive media coverage depicting the damage caused by the affected compost widely distributed throughout the community, GMC was able to fully recover its customer base and product reach within two years.
The incident at GMC sparked a wave of action that resulted in extensive educational efforts, lobbying of elected officials in Washington DC, participation in the EPA’s reregistration process for some of the Persistent Herbicides, collaborative efforts to improve testing ability nationally, and label changes partially protecting the Northeastern US from further incidents involving the specific compound Aminopyralid.
Six years later, more is known about the use and prevalence of persistent herbicides in popular compost feedstocks across the country – from food scraps to manures and bedding, hay, and even wood products. In the absence of affordable and reliable lab testing, increased regulation, or substantive federal oversight, composters have been forced to create the tools required to protect themselves and their end customers from the damage of Persistent Herbicides. The presentation will cover which tools can be employed to prevent Persistent Herbicide contamination, and more importantly, how to recover when contamination happens.