Composting Roundup

BioCycle March 2013, Vol. 54, No. 3, p. 12

Atlanta, Georgia: City Adopts Green Infrastructure Policies

In mid-February, the Atlanta City Council unanimously adopted a Post-Development Stormwater Management Ordinance that promotes use of green infrastructure practices in new and redevelopment projects in the city. Drafted by the Department of Watershed Management, the ordinance offers the option of using a menu of green infrastructure techniques and measures that mimic natural conditions — techniques that both reduce the volume of runoff (eliminating the need for detention ponds) and pollutants. “Green infrastructure policies and systems have emerged as best practices for governments that are committed to fostering economic development and healthy communities,” says Duriya Farooqui, Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer. “This new ordinance gives the City a set of tools to reduce drainage problems and storm water pollution, which are serious problems for urban areas and waterways.”

The ordinance requires use of the Green Infrastructure Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Georgia Coastal Supplement of the State Stormwater Manual. The soil restoration BMP requires 8 to 12 percent organic matter, and discusses the process of “tilling and adding compost and other amendments to soils to restore them to their pre-development conditions.”

Fort Lewis, Washington: Military Base Wins With Composting

In 2005, a solid waste characterization survey at the Fort Lewis Army Base showed that approximately 41 percent of the waste stream was organic in nature and could be collected and composted on the base. Materials included leaves, grass, landscaping and land clearing debris, stable manure and bedding, food waste and biosolids. The Earthworks composting facility was built in 2006 to process these feedstocks; finished compost has been used on the base for landscaping and sold as soil amendment in the local community. Food service operations on the diversion program include dining facilities, restaurants, child-care centers and fast food chains. In 2010, Fort Lewis and the U.S. Airforce Base McChord merged, creating Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). About a year ago, the United States Army’s official website (www.army.mil) reported that in February 2012, JBLM sold at auction about 1,000 cubic yards (cy) of compost through the government’s surplus lqiuidation site. The value of the sale was about $9,000.

About 4,000 cy of organics are composted annually. Any profits are redirected to the base’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Overall savings to JBLM in 2012 were $300,000 in avoided disposal costs. About 670 tons of food waste were diverted, according to the The Northwest Guardian, the base’s newspaper.

Williston, Vermont: Persistent Herbicide Update

The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) owns and operates Green Mountain Compost (GMC) near its offices in Williston. Last summer, it was discovered that compost produced and sold at the facility contained persistent herbicides that caused damage to some sensitive garden plants. At the time, materials being composted at GMC — a new aerated static pile composting facility — included yard trimmings, source separated food waste and horse manure. Sale of compost was suspended. After confirming plant damage, CSWD compensated the compost users. Between the compensation for damages, testing fees, legal consultations and loss of product sales, CSWD estimates its total losses at about $792,000. “A very frustrating aspect of this issue is that there is no ‘standard method’ to test for persistent herbicides in complex matrices such as compost and manures down to the low part per billion levels where sensitive garden plants display an impact,” explains Tom Moreau, General Manager of CSWD in a summary document prepared for a presentation and meetings at the US Composting Council’s conference in Orlando in late January. “This lack of testing capability has prolonged CSWD’s period of uncertainty and contributed to our loss of value added sales.”

After much analysis, data pointed to the horse manure in the compost recipe as the source of the persistent herbicide. Further analysis narrowed it down to the presence of Dow AgroSciences’ aminopyralid in the horse manure and bedding. When it first became aware that horse manure could be the source, GMC stopped adding it to their recipe. “In December 2012, Dow AgroSciences analyzed 68 samples that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture had provided to a lab for testing,” continues Moreau. “Dow also agreed to test a limited number of new samples from CSWD. Only a portion of the results were available ….but they indicate that the concentration of aminopyralid in the GMC compost has dropped down to just above the threshold that can cause impacts, following the removal of horse manure and bedding as a main ingredient in the compost recipe.”

The summary document concludes with some suggestions for next steps for the composting industry, as well as the manufacturers of the persistent herbicides. These include establishment of a universal testing method, stronger label requirements on the danger to compost, with assurance those warnings are passed to downstream users, and creating a cradle to grave product use documentation for persistent herbicides. Once CSWD has completed its final analysis and next steps are determined, BioCycle will prepare a more detailed article.

Bethesda, Maryland: Buy-Compost.Com

The US Composting Council (USCC) recently launched a new website, www.buy-compost.com, to provide more direct access to information on how to use compost, as well as sources of compost for consumer and professional uses. Professional users are categorized as “prosumers” — landscapers, soil blenders, nurseries, landscape architects and “all industry pros.” A calculator for determining how much compost to apply can be downloaded from the website.

The Buy-Compost homepage also announces the launch of the USCC’s Million Tomato Campaign, which has a goal of growing one million tomatoes using donated compost. A “celebrity chef,” Nathan Lyon, is the spokesperson for the Million Tomato Campaign. Certified compost manufacturers enrolled in the Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance Program (STA) will donate compost to community gardens that have signed up to participate in the campaign. The gardens will apply the compost to grow tomatoes for their own use and/or to donate to local food banks. Local chefs will work with the community gardeners, schools and nonprofits to teach people about using sustainably grown local food in recipes — some provided by Lyon. More details about the Million Tomato Campaign can be found at www.buy-compost.com.

Bainbridge Island, Washington: In-Vessel Composting At Equine Facility

Green Mountain Technologies’ Earthflow-22 in-vessel composting unit at the IOS Ranch of Bainbridge Island.

Green Mountain Technologies’ Earthflow-22 in-vessel composting unit at the IOS Ranch of Bainbridge Island.


The IOS Ranch of Bainbridge Island is an 8-acre private equine farm. With an average of 15 to 20 horses on site, the facility produces 2 to 4 cubic yards (cy)/day of manure and bedding. IOS Ranch owners Philippe and Juliet Le Dorze were taking the stable waste to local farms, but felt vulnerable given the pace of farmland on the Island being sold for development. As a result, the Le Dorzes purchased an Earthflow-22 in-vessel composting unit from Green Mountain Technologies (GMT). The IOS ranch already had a covered 24-foot by 24-foot concrete manure retention pad where stable waste was stored prior to being transported to the farms. A 20-foot by 20-foot concrete pad was added adjacent to the existing retention pad; the 22-foot by 8.5-foot vessel unloads composted material onto the new pad.

Stall waste is collected daily and brought to the covered retention pad. A tractor with a small bucket attachment loads the manure and bedding into the Earthflow. An auger moves the material through the composter over the course of 10 to 14 days; temperatures are high enough to kill most weed seeds and harmful pathogens, says Mollie Bogardus of GMT. Much of the compost is applied to the ranch’s jumping field, pastures and hay fields as a soil amendment. Some is sold to local landscapers. And a portion is being used as stable bedding, mixed in a 50:50 ratio with new shavings. The compost passed laboratory pathogen tests, adds Bogardus, enabling its use as bedding.

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