Recapping the 2017 USCC Conference & Tradeshow

Once again, the annual US Composting Council brought together some of the country's most prominent composting and zero waste minds to share success stories, local and national legislative efforts, and the latest in composting advances.

The 2017 conference was no different and we were proud to not only learn from some of the best industry minds, but also to exhibit and start numerous discussions on sustainability - not to mention enjoying the closing ceremonies which took a fun look at USCC's past, present and future!

Though the conference ran for four days, we're highlighting three sessions we sat in on Wendesday starting with The Future of Compostability Standards: The Compost Manufacturers' Perspective, with speakers Jeanette Hanna of BASF, Paul Gregory of Texas Disposal Systems, and Jeff West of Olympic Organics LLC. Exciting stuff!

A few points from the session:

  • Education is KEY when it comes to organics diversion, especially with school children;
  • Fighting contamination begins with educating customers at the outset and at the front end of a system;
  • "We're manufacturers of a product, not managers of waste. You are manufacturing a finished product to sell." - Paul Gregory;
  • The new Composting Manufacturers' Alliance (CMA) will feature approximately 20 facilities across the nation with the goals of developing data and regulations to build relations and support composters, manufacturers, and stakeholders'
  • If the CMA is successful, composters will have better information and confidence in what will work in their systems.

The second session we sat in on was From Curb to Compost: How the City of New York is Building an Organics Collection Program to serve 8.5 Million People with speakers Bridget Anderson, Shari Pardini, and Louise Bruce of the NT Department of Sanitation (DOS).

A few takeaways from this session:

  • Organics make up one third of New York City's waste stream, both residential and commercial
  • NYC has a goal of being zero waste by year 2030;
  • The NYC pilot started in 2013 and currently serves over 300,000 households and over one million residents;
  • Diversion rates in neighborhoods range from 6.5 percent to 29.6 percent;
  • Benefits of the program and collection bins include fewer rodents and odors, cleaners streets, and less waste in landfills;
  • The DOS employs an outreach team to excite and educate residents about organics collection while also incorporating direct mail and social media communications;
  • $3.5 million is invested each year in community composting projects.

We hope to see this program thrive in the coming years and look forward to more updates from New York in the future!

The third session, Policy - Barriers and Opportunities to Grow the Infrastructure, featured Jerry Bartlett of Bartlett Ventures, James Slaughter of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., Susan Robonison from Waste management, Inc., and Neil Edgar representing the California Compost Coalition.

Notes from the panel included:

  • The importance in investing in good data and science regarding composting and zero waste;
  • "Goals drive programs which drive actions" - Susan Robinson;
  • "The goal isn't to recycle large percentages of foodwaste, it is to reduce environmental impacts" - Susan Robinson;
  • For some, reduction is a better way to achieve goals than recycling;
  • Food waste  composting has the greatest emission reduction potential, grass having the second highest potential
  • It is important to work along the entire value chain to coordinate programs and messaging

Lastly, we’d like to congratulate our dear friends Ginny Black and Marcus Zbinden as the recipients of the Hi Kellogg and Rufus Chaney awards, respectively, for their many years of exemplary service to the composting industry. They were honored at the event-end gala which looked back on 25 years of USCC history along with a sneak peak of the upcoming film “A Composting Story” from the makers of “A Soil Story”.