The 26th annual US Composting Council Compost Council was held in Atlanta from January 22-25 and, as always, proved to be a spectacular meeting of minds and a center of ideas, industry updates, and passion for the organics collection and composting industry.
The exhibit hall was a bustling locale of conversations, industry and municipality updates, and potential partnerships being formed but the key portion of the conference was the schedule of sessions and roundtables throughout the week.
Though there were a number of standout sessions and workshops, we'll touch on a couple with more information on the rest being able to be found on USCC's website.
Tuesday's Commercial and Residential Organics Diversion Program Development featured speakers Dana D'Souza (Skumatz Economic Research Associates SERA, Superior, CO), Robert Weatherbe (Recycling Alternative, Vancouver, BC), Noah Marsh (Food FWD, Durham, NC), and Conor Miller (Black Earth Compost, Gloucester, MA).
Key takeaways included:
- The Environmental Protection Agency states that food waste makes up 12% of the waste stream while only 3% is recovered
- The Chinook Center Mall in Vancouver collects an impressive 550,000lbs of compostable waste
- Successful composting programs require a step-by-step process of planning, design, rollout, expansion, and regular maintenance and analysis
- The Massachusetts’ Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban has been in effect in the state for the last three years that states if you produce one ton of food waste in a week or more, you must compost it or anaerobic digest it
A second session on Tuesday, Collecting Organics at Venues and Events, featured speakers Randall Penn (University of Florida IFAS Extension, Sarasota, FL), Jessica Loding (Schupan Events Recycling, Wixom, MI), and Charlotte Dreizen (Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Charlottesville, VA).
The following were key points at this session:
- The World Rowing Championship in Sarasota County saw 40,000 attendees with 585lbs of food waste collected in 42 composting bins
- Knowing your surroundings and being able to "speak the language" is key as an event organizer
- Schupan managed two events since the last USCC conference, the LPGA Volvik Championship where 428lbs of food waste and compostables were collected, and the Lakeshore Art Festival where 100lbs were collected and the value of communication and education was stressed
- Americans generate 65 million tons of food waste per year
Looking at the Big Picture: Perspectives on Where Organics Management is Heading, a session on Thursday, featured Ron Alexander (R. Alexander Associates, Inc., Apex, NC), Rachel Oster (Diversion Strategies, Sacramento, CA), and Brenda Platt (Institute for Local Self Reliance, Washington, DC).
- "The environment has to be a purple issue" as politicizing it won't help anyone
- By 2030 we'll have to feed 8.5 billion people
- Manufacturing costs are going up but final product costs are not at the same level
- Composting creates more jobs and at a faster rate than incineration and landfills
Finally, Wednesday closed out with a Legislative and Policy Update and Roundtable featuring Marcus Zbinden (Carver Co, MN), Neal Edgar (CA Compost Coalition), Nicole Chardoul (Resource Recycling Systems, MI ), Kayla Walsh (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency), and Angel Arroyo-Rodriguez (Ohio EPA).
- "Policy drives action!"
- California has set a target of 75% reduction of organics in landfills by 2025
- Michigan currently has the lowest recycling rate in the midwest/Great Lakes region (15%) but is looking to implement new legislation to help address that including a goal to double that rate by 2025
- 25% of Minnesota residents have a dropoff site in their county
Throughout the conference, tours of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) were provided where staff went into detail about the fantastic efforts taking place at the stadium to provide for a sustainable experience both for the fans, as well as behind the scenes.
MBS is the first professional sports stadium to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating thanks to its use of storm water and water conservation, renewable energy practices, alternative transportation offerings, local food production and more. Truly a fantastic commitment to build a venue committed to both the fan experience and sustainability!
A fantastic conference as usual, USCC will be holding the annual event in sunny Arizona next year and we hope to see you there! We'd like to thank the show organizers, fellow sponsors, and all who attended in making the composting community such a vibrant, thriving melding pot of ideas!