October 25, 2007 | General

Editorial: Finding A Composter

BioCycle October 2007, Vol. 48, No. 10, p. 4

IT’S time to get the word out. In April 2007, BioCycle and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) launched, a publicly searchable database of composting facilities in North America. To our knowledge, it is the first of its kind. And we believe the time is now to find a composter.
Why? Let’s start with climate change. There appears to be little dispute that organics disposed in a landfill generate methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. While a number of landfills have methane gas capture systems, a lot of them do not. And even those landfills that do, don’t capture 100 percent of the methane. Research conducted by Sally Brown of the University of Washington, as well as elsewhere in the world, shows that when managed properly, emissions from composting organics can be controlled effectively.
Next, there is the matter of soils. Again, there is little dispute that soils are starving for organic matter. Furthermore, there is little dispute that amending soils with quality compost builds soil organic matter. In addition, compost contains microorganisms that suppress plant diseases, reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides that are produced from fossil fuels.
Third, and directly related to soils, is water. Healthy soils are one of the primary tools in improving water quality. They are our best defense to minimize runoff of storm water to surface waters, to replenish groundwater, and to retain moisture in soils (especially with droughts caused by climate volatility).
Finally, there is public perception. Over and over, we hear that composting is a great idea, and yes, it can save the world, but 1) It’s so much more expensive than landfilling; 2) Facilities make bad neighbors; 3) Sites are too far from where the organics are generated; 4) Composters are just a disparate bunch of folks creating dirt; and 5) They are hard to find. Those are all valid perceptions but increasingly, three of the five are the exception rather than the rule. Numbers 2 and 3 may be the case in some locations, but most sites make fine neighbors (and if they don’t they aren’t composting correctly) and you don’t have to travel too far to take organics to a composting facility. Number 4 is a perception held by some organics generator sectors and the financial community. In fact, composting is a manufacturing sector with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in equipment, property, high-value inventory and employees.
What are accurate perceptions are Numbers 1 and 5. Yes, composting is more expensive than landfilling. From a gate fee perspective, that is the case in many states and provinces. But let’s save that discussion for another day. As for Number 5, it isn’t that easy to find a composting facility. Let me explain. Many states list permitted composting facilities on their websites. But only a few provide details and easy access to contact the site. The goal of is to provide those details and access. But BioCycle and BPI can’t do this alone. We need composting sites to register. There is no fee, and BioCycle editors qualify facilities before accepting them into the database.
Right now, covers North America. We envision the database to be global in the near future. Years ago, I wanted to write a book titled, “Saving The World, One Compost Pile At A Time.” Composting alone can’t save the world, but it sure can help make a difference. So if you run a composting site and aren’t on, take five minutes and BioCycle will put your facility on the map.

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