US Composting Council

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

The US Composting Council (USCC) is a front group for dumping sewage sludge onto gardens and farms. It sponsors the ironically titled International Compost Awareness Week; the irony is that the buyer of compost is not "aware" that USCC puts their seal on sewage sludge-derived "compost." It describes itself as a national trade and professional organization with over 600 members including Synagro, compost manufacturers, local government, equipment suppliers and others. It promotes "compost" manufactured with sewage sludge.[1] As a promoter of "biosolids," the sludge industry PR term for sewage sludge dumped on farms and gardens, it works closely with BioCycle magazine, Water Environment Federation, Kellogg Garden Products, and other promoters of growing food in sewage sludge. In March 2013, it announced that it had adopted BioCycle Magazine as its official publication.[2]

Donating Sewage Sludge Products to Community Gardens

In 2013, the USCC began a PR campaign it called the "Million Tomato Compost Campaign," which it said "connects community gardens, compost producers, chefs and food banks to grow healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy communities."[3]

According to the campaign website, "USCC's STA certified compost producer members will donate STA-certified compost to participating community gardens who sign on to the Million Tomato Compost Campaign. Community gardens will use their compost to grow one million tomatoes, either for their own use or for donation to local food banks. Chefs will work with the community gardeners, schools and nonprofits to teach people about using sustainably grown local food in recipes that even kids will love!"[4]

Of the dozens of producers in almost all 50 states that participate in the USCC's STA program, at least six are known to use industrial and residential sewage sludge in their products: A-1 Organics, EKO Systems (one of whose plants was producing 3,090 dry tons of sewage sludge product a year as of 2010), Synagro (the largest processor of sewage sludge in the United States), WeCare Organics, the Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority (the Los Angeles area sewage treatment facility, sewage sludge from which is also used in products like those from Kellogg Garden Products), and Engel & Gray, Inc.'s Harvest Blend Compost.

These products are some of the sewage sludge products known to be sold by corporations and municipalities. To dispose of sewage sludge produced by wastewater treatment plants, the industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have renamed them "biosolids" and dubbed them as "green" examples of recycling, beneficial reuse, and organic fertilizer and compost products. In many cases, the sewage sludge is then packaged as compost or fertilizer and sold to unsuspecting gardeners or farmers.

Sludge contaminants can include flame retardants (which California recently listed as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent), antibacterial agents like triclosan, phthalates (the solvent that gives vinyl plastic the nickname "Poison Plastic") and other industrial solvents, nanosilver and other nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical residues, resistant pathogens, and perfluorinated compounds. Some of these contaminants can "bioaccumulate" in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil and remain as residue on vegetables in contact with the soil. These plants can then eaten by children and adults.

USCC Behind "Compost Awareness Week

The Truth about Kellogg "Organics" Amend

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is a yearly PR campaign by the US Composting Councilto promote dumping sewage sludge on gardens and farms. Jeff Ziegenbein of the giant Los Angeles, CA, Inland Empire Utility Agency (IEUA) coordinates the program for the USCC. IEUA supplies the sewage sludge "compost" that is resold by the Kellogg Garden Products company.

Sludge Industry Gives an 'Award' to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse Foundation

The USCC gave celebrity chef Alice Waters and her Chez Panisse Foundation an 'award' in January, 2011. "The H. Clark Gregory Award to Promote Grassroots Efforts in Composting" was awarded to Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Foundation and their Edible Schoolyard program which promotes children growing food from their own gardens. The award is given each year to an individual who has displayed outstanding service." [5]

Involvement in San Francisco Sludge Controversy

In April 2010, the U.S. Composting Council sent a letter of support to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in favor of its sewage sludge compost giveaway program.[6] In the letter, the U.S. Composting Council says sewage sludge composts "provide many benefits while being safe for use."

Seal of Testing Assurance (STA)

One of USCC's main programs is its Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) for compost products.[7] The STA program, developed in 2000, requires regular testing of compost products by "certified" labs. The testing is relatively minimal and the standards are designed to allow for certification of products containing sewage sludge. For more information, see the article on the Seal of Testing Assurance.

About USCC

History

According to its website:[8]

"Established in 1990, the US Composting Council (USCC) is the only national organization in the United States dedicated to the development, expansion and promotion of the composting industry. The USCC achieves this mission by encouraging, supporting and performing compost related research, promoting best management practices, establishing standards, educating professionals and the public about the benefits of composting and compost utilization, enhancing compost product quality, and developing training materials for composters and markets for compost products. USCC members include compost producers, marketers, equipment manufacturers, product suppliers, academic institutions, public agencies, nonprofit groups and consulting/engineering firms.
"The USCC is a non-profit 501(c) (6) organization that also directs the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF), a 501(c) (3) charitable foundation, which administers public and private research and education activities."

Board and Staff

The leadership of the U.S. Composting Council is as follows:

Officers:[11]

Former Officers:

Board of Directors:[11]

Former Directors:[10]

Members

"USCC members include compost producers, marketers, generators of organic residues, policy makers, regulators, equipment manufacturers, product suppliers, academic institutions, public agencies, nonprofit groups and consulting/engineering firms."[12]

Members include:[13]

Compost Producers:

In addition to the list below, please see the USCC's Seal of Testing Assurance participating products.

Compost Industry Affiliates:

Consultants:

Equipment Manufacturer/Product Suppliers:

Compost Testing Laboratories:

Industry Publications:

Public Agencies:

Academic and Research:

Non-Profit Organizations:

Steven Mojo

Charles Jolly

Contact Information

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources

External Articles

References

  1. "USCC - Letter of Support for SFPUC's Biosolids Compost Program"
  2. Michael Virga, U.S. Composting Council, US Composting Council & BioCycle Magazine Form Publication Partnership, organizational press release, March 13, 2013.
  3. Leanne Spaulding, U.S. Composting Council, RE: Happy ICAW 2013!, organizational email to members, May 7, 2013.
  4. U.S. Composting Council, Buy-Compost.com, Million Tomato Compost Campaign website, accessed May 2013.
  5. USCC Website Accessed 4/17/11
  6. "USCC - Letter of Support for SFPUC's Biosolids Compost Program"
  7. Seal of Testing Assurance, Accessed May 3, 2011.
  8. Mission, US Composting Council, Accessed April 25, 2011.
  9. U.S. Composting Council, USCC announces Lori Scozzafava as New Executive Director, organizational press release, May 2, 2013.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 U.S. Composting Council, Governance, organizational website, accessed April 22, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 U.S. Composting Council, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed May 2, 2013.
  12. About, US Composting Council, Accessed April 25, 2011.
  13. 2010 Member List