BioCycle Magazine

How to Successfully Manage a Compost Facility


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When a composting facility is at the edge of the cliff with regard to public acceptance or regulatory approval, it must decide to play or fold. Playing means adapting and moving up the evolutionary ladder. Folding means the perceived cost is too much to bear. When I was manager of the Cedar Grove Compost facility in Seattle, Washington (see preceding article, “Composter Bounces Back From The Brink”), we decided to play. The specific measures taken at our facility are described in that article; in this report, we’ll focus on the principles of the environmental formula we adopted.

There are over 3,500 working compost facilities in the United States today. The number grows by a few hundred every year. Each year, a certain number of facilities lose their public support or otherwise fall out of regulatory compliance. This is in spite of the fact that compost (or composting) is being discovered as a cure for excessive pesticide and fertilizer use, runoff volumes and pollutants, open burning, fugitive dust and soil loss. Even with the growing appreciation of the profound benefits of compost products, the industry still must see its way clear of becoming infamous for creating odors from these facilities. It is possible to manage the composting process on nearly any scale with minimal odors. Yet the balance between minimal odors and becoming a nuisance is extremely delicate. Only a slight change in practices can cause odors to increase dramatically. Frequently, odors will be associated with an increase in waste volume.

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