US Composting Council
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
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. 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.
- 1 Donating Sewage Sludge Products to Community Gardens
- 2 USCC Behind "Compost Awareness Week
- 3 Sludge Industry Gives an 'Award' to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse Foundation
- 4 Involvement in San Francisco Sludge Controversy
- 5 Seal of Testing Assurance (STA)
- 6 About USCC
- 6.1 History
- 6.2 Board and Staff
- 6.3 Members
- 7 Contact Information
- 8 Articles and Resources
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."
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!"
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
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." 
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. 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. 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.
According to its website:
- "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:
- Executive Director: Lori Scozzafava (former Deputy Executive Director of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) from 2004 through 2012)
- Former Executive Director: Michael Virga
- President: Lorrie Loder, Synagro
- Vice President: Rodney Tyler, Filtrexx International LLC
- Secretary: Ron Alexander, R. Alexander Associates
- Treasurer: Patrick Geraty, St. Louis Composting
- Immediate Past President: Frank Franciosi, Novozymes North America
- Immediate Past Vice President: Andrew Kessler, Turning Earth
- Immediate Past Secretary: Lorrie Loder, Synagro
- Immediate Past Treasurer: Craig Coker, Coker Composting & Consulting
- Past President: Wayne King, ERTH Products
Board of Directors:
- Sally Brown, University of Washington
- Matt Cotton, Integrated Waste Management Consulting
- Brian Fleury, WeCare Organics
- Carrie Gregory, Pierce County Recycling
- Wayne King, ERTH Products
- Mike Manna, Organic Recycling Solutions
- Heidi Ringhofer, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District
- Paul Sellew, Harvest Power
- Chuck Wilson, A-1 Organics
- Jeff Ziegenbein, Inland Empire Utilities Agency
- Director Emeritus: Eliot Epstein, Epstein Environmental Consultants, LLC
- Ron Alexander, R. Alexander Associates, Inc.
- Sharon Barnes, Barnes Nursery
- Debra Darby, Mirel Bioplastics by Telles (Metabolix, Inc.)
- Scott Subler, Environmental Credit Corp
- Tom Kelley, Harvest Power
"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."
Compost Industry Affiliates:
Equipment Manufacturer/Product Suppliers:
Compost Testing Laboratories:
- A&L Great Lakes Laboratories
- CLC LABS
- Midwest Laboratories, Inc.
- Soil Control Lab
- Soiltest Farm Consultants
- Woods End Research Laboratory (Will Brinton)
- Composting News
- Forester Media, Inc.
- JG Press, Inc./BioCycle Magazine
- Portable Plants & Equipment
- Resource Recycling Magazine
- Waste Handling Equipment News
Academic and Research:
- California State University Fresno
- Cornell Waste Management Institute
- LSU AgCenter
- Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station
- North Carolina State University
- Ohio State University
- San Diego State University, College of Engineering
- University of Oregon, Campus Recycling Program
- University of Texas at Dallas
- Virginia Tech
- Duke Farms
- Eco-Cycle, Inc.
- Eureka Recycling
- Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
- Mulch & Soil Council
- North East Biosolids & Residuals Association (NEBRA)
- OMRI - The Organic Materials Review Institute
- Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania
- Recycle Florida Today
- South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District
- Southern California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works
- State of Texas Alliance for Recycling
- U.S. Composting Council
- 1 Comac Loop, Suite 1481
- Ronkonkoma, NY 11779
- Phone: (631) 737-4931
- Fax: (631) 737-4939
- Email: email@example.com
- Web: http://www.compostingcouncil.org
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Sewage sludge
- Food Rights Network
- Water Environment Federation
- Seal of Testing Assurance
- Sludge contaminants
- Scientific Studies of Sewage Sludge
Related PRWatch Articles
- Rebekah Wilce, Trade Group Offers Free Sewage Sludge "Compost" to Community Gardens in "Million Tomato Campaign" for Food Banks, PRWatch.org, May 9, 2013.
- "USCC - Letter of Support for SFPUC's Biosolids Compost Program"
- Michael Virga, U.S. Composting Council, US Composting Council & BioCycle Magazine Form Publication Partnership, organizational press release, March 13, 2013.
- Leanne Spaulding, U.S. Composting Council, RE: Happy ICAW 2013!, organizational email to members, May 7, 2013.
- U.S. Composting Council, Buy-Compost.com, Million Tomato Compost Campaign website, accessed May 2013.
- USCC Website Accessed 4/17/11
- "USCC - Letter of Support for SFPUC's Biosolids Compost Program"
- Seal of Testing Assurance, Accessed May 3, 2011.
- Mission, US Composting Council, Accessed April 25, 2011.
- U.S. Composting Council, USCC announces Lori Scozzafava as New Executive Director, organizational press release, May 2, 2013.
- U.S. Composting Council, Governance, organizational website, accessed April 22, 2011.
- U.S. Composting Council, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed May 2, 2013.
- About, US Composting Council, Accessed April 25, 2011.
- 2010 Member List