Program Work Team - Managing Wastes: Composting and Land Application

Minutes - August 22, 2001

Sherwood Inn, Skaneateles, NY


I. Introductions & Confirm PWT Vision

Brief introductions were made, then Kevin Mathers and Jean Bonhotal explained the purpose and goals of thecommittee.

II. Research/Extension Needs

Steve Hammond identified the overall research/extension needs as falling under three broad categories. There seemed to be a consensus among team members that this was a useful and accurate way to summarize the needs. The categories are:

1. Traditional research needs (such as compost quality)

2. Management needs (such as compost process control and management, collection standards)

3. Communication needs (keep current on the knowledge base and effectively disseminate information/education at all levels interstate, intrastate, and among organizations/institutions).

Below is a list of the more specific research/education needs identified by the participants.

1. Persistent herbicides in compost. Testing, tracking, and management is needed to prevent contamination and consumer confidence problems.

2. Pathogens in compost.

a) Compost from mortalities and meat processing by-products. Monitoring for mad cow

3. On-farm composting issues.

4. Biosolids composting/land application.

5. Compost maturity. Improving producer/consumer education about the importance of

curing compost prior to distribution/use (including promotion of the use of simple tests such as using the Solvita test kit). Perhaps the development of a "bio diagnostic" test kit (presence/absence of end products).

6. "Custom" compost production and use. Need to identify criteria (both composting process and physical/bio indicators in compost) so product recommendations can be developed for specific needs (turf, container mixes, disease suppression). Need improved understanding and better education about compost fertilizer value, soluble salt issues, and other compost quality factors.

7. Consumer safety issues. Need better understanding of risks associated with pathogens, fungal spores, metals, and other substances including ones that are not currently regulated. Risks should be put risks in perspective (e.g., compared to environmental background levels).

8. Nitrogen retention in composting systems. Optimizing N retention, identifying forms of N and their fates (e.g., to prevent groundwater contamination and greenhouse gas problems). Research feasibility of collecting and mineralizing lost N.

9. Compost labeling and or certification programs. (Work with NYS Assoc. for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR), and monitor national efforts).

10. Broader benefits of composting and compost use. A better understanding of the more

global benefits of composting such as erosion control, watershed protection, and greenhouse gas impacts is needed. Qualifying and quantifying these benefits could help increase support/funding for composting.

11. A better understanding of the benefits and limitations of improved enforcement and refinement of regulations is needed. There is a concern that more regulation may not yield the desired results (especially in light of limited enforcement resources). Can "market place" specifications for quality compost accomplish some of the same ends?

12. Occupational exposure issues associated with compost production and use. More research is needed so worker safety recommendations can be made. Concerns include pathogens and allergens. (As per 7 above, risks should be put in perspective).

13. Compost feedstock collection and transportation. There is a need to learn how to improve capture rates, improve economics, and minimize nuisances (odors, vectors).

14. Research is needed to improve the understanding of opportunities and challenges associated with paper sludge composting.

15. Composting recipes. A method for determining what ratios of various waste materials will compost effectively. The waste types must be detailed, for example, it should include secondary recycled paper mill sludge instead of just "paper mill sludge" due to the variability that exists within waste categories.

III. PWT Member Reports on Current Research/Extension Efforts

Dave Allee - Study of public management of private septic systems. Concerns: nitrites, ground water contamination. Composting toilets & potential impacts of use of this compost.

Linda Hoskins — Finance/matching grant program. They are financing capital equipment, technical assistance, composting. Financing composting systems, i.e., Kreher’s. Currently doing a survey of completed projects and others (producers, academic folk) to see where to put their money. She’ll share the information with this PWT.

Steve Hammond - Sees a need to increase the communication network between researchers, producers, users, and regulators. Interface with Northeast Recycling Council. Outreach assistance.

Monica Hargraves — Runs compost education program in Tompkins Co. Offer technical support. See handout. Participating in cold composting research regarding potential pathogens. Conducting a telephone household survey in Tompkins Co. to determine home composting participation and diversion rates.

Mike Berkal - on farm mortality composting with a future workshop planned. Small project on composting preconsumer food waste in an elementary school.

Jana Lamboy- Research demonstration funded through IPM program. Test applications of compost to turf. Looking at quality assessments.

Michelle Benjamin - Home composting demo site. Education/promotion of composting. School education (worm composting). Coordinating workshops with other Cornell Cooperative Extension agricultural educators (mortality composting).

Keith Severson - Brewery waste composting. Developed relationship w/contractor in biosolids and able to market with farmers. Research - taking a look at laws, science, and working with others.

Kevin Mathers - Conducting homeowner education, composting newsletter. "Just mow it" program - reintroducing. School programs. Wood and bark mulch challenges (phytotoxic problems - production & use issues).

Kirby Selkirk - Assistance for farms on manure spreading; composting. Lobbying policy/regulatory changes related to composting and manure management.

Jean Bonhotal/Lance Dennis — Jean referred to the summary of CWMI composting projects that was circulated. It describes a number of projects dealing with on-farm composting including development of a model to compare costs and site requirements for various on-farm composting systems (upcoming training on Nov. 9); testing of compost quality on farms; creating educational materials and demonstrations of composting of animal mortalities; testing ability of composting to control Johne’s bacteria in manure.

Jim Gillett — Role of developing biotechnology with risk analysis; food web aquatic/terrestrial risk analysis modeling.

Joann Gruttadaurio — Same information as Jana Lamboy.

Jim Marion — On-site food scrap composting at 37 prison sites in NY. NYCHAPs (cattle health assurance program) programs in place (pertinent to composting of mortalities and potential pathogens). AEM (Agriculture Environmental Management). Carcass composting. NYS prison system is/can provide an excellent resource for research and education.

Joe Regenstein - Pathogens in cold composting systems (home-style systems). Compostable serviceware being tested at Cornell composting site. Did composting system study in NYC. Solvita test- compost maturity. Joe referred members to his handout for further information.

Nellie Brown - Will help us with occupational issues. She can help with technical assistance & training. What can ILR do for us, we’ll need to let her know.

Dave Bouldin - No research. Assists CWMI with biosolids issues.

IV. Connecting to Stakeholders

Who we need to connect with:

Team would benefit from a connection with agencies that work closely with the farmers such as NYS Soil and Water Committee, and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Input from NYS Department of Health would be valuable. Nancy Kim was suggested as a contact.

Environmental groups (environmental advocacy) could be solicited.

Producers of compost (or a representative of producers) should be contacted. Mark Darling at Ithaca College was suggested as a contact.

Horticultural users of compost (golf courses, landscapers, etc.)

How do we connect with stakeholders:

PWT members who are members of other organizations who are doing composting work can provide input.

-Jim Marion will make sure we have input from NYSAR

Communication/education may need to be incorporated into discussions of all sub-groups. Michelle Benjamin offered assistance with communication/education and home composting groups if established.

Suggestion was made to hold "testimony sessions" for key stakeholder groups to identify their concerns and needs for research/education.

Suggestion was made to "connect" with Will Brinton from Woods End Research Lab for input.

PWT can post a summary of activities on the web (Cornell Waste Management Institute site?), and use this to solicit input.

Sub-groups should meet/communicate within the next 4 months so we can report back to PWT Program Council in January:

Horticulture compost use group (Jana Lamboy & Joann Gruttadaurio)

Farm mortalities & slaughterhouse composting (Jean Bonhotal)

Cold compost (Joe Regenstein)

Large scale composting (Jean Bonhotal & Jim Marion)

V. Coordination with other Program Work Teams

It was agreed that we should clean up the list of research/extension needs we identified and circulate this to other PWTs that may have an interest in composting for their suggestions.

Some members of this PWT are also members of other PWTs that might have interest in these topics. These members can help foster communication between PWTs.


VI. How to work together as a PWT.

Use of subcommittees (see IV. above) will be important. E-mail and the web site can help keep members "tuned in" between meetings.