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Advancing standards to support development of compost markets

Advancing standards to support development of compost markets

A standard objection in the advancement of organics recycling and composting has always been, “there won’t be enough uses for the compost products that are produced.” And our standard response has always been “produce good quality compost and the markets will be found.”

To complement this perspective, our Council has developed the Compost Quality Alliance (CQA). Designed to not only comply with federal and provincial regulatory requirements, CQA testing and promotion also focuses on the agronomic attributes of the compost product. Soil dynamics and the performance demanded of the compost used have been taken into consideration in the creation of the testing regime exacted by the CQA program. This is helping to support user confidence in the integrity of the compost product and its appropriateness for the intended use.

To further support market advances, the existing national compost quality standard will undergo a full review, supported by a partnership between The Compost Council of Canada, Recyc-Québec, the City of Montreal and the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. A national stakeholder committee will be convened this summer through the Standards Council of Canada’s BNQ (Bureau de normalisation du Québec).

The committee will be tasked to review every aspect of the existing quality standard. A number of suggested amendments will be discussed, including the introduction of additional categories for maturity for specific market uses. Also to be discussed: modifying minimum organic matter content; foreign matter content to reflect best available practices; adjustments to microbiological characteristics to incorporate improved testing parameters; and trace element content levels, to continue to support soil integrity.

The review will involve representation from across Canada and is expected to be less than two years in duration. Future modifications of the Standards Council of Canada’s Compost Quality Criteria will then need to be considered for incorporation in provincial and federal regulations.

To complement this review and support the further advancement of anaerobic digestion, The Council will be undertaking a national discussion on the establishment of a digestate standard. Supported through an international analysis of existing digestate regulations combined with the reality of current Canadian compost regulations, the intent is to ensure the close alignment and integration of digestate as an important feedstock in the composting process.

As the above internal-to-our-industry reviews take place, compost market outreach will be powerfully supported through the recent announcement by the Sustainable Sites Initiative of the SITES v2 Rating System. Acknowledged as a “beyond LEED” initiative, this system provides a set of best practices, performance benchmarks and tools for creating and evaluating sustainable landscapes, helping to enhance the health and sustainability of our soil, air and water. SITES v2 is an initiative of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Canadian input has been reflected through collaboration leading to the SITES v2 Rating System.

Landscapes are considered sustainable if they reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and/or increase outdoor recreation opportunities. As expected, to attain many of the above objectives, the use of compost is recognized throughout the guideline and across various criteria.

The Council will be working with our partners in the landscape industry and related building infrastructure industries to help advance awareness of the value of the Sustainable Sites Initiative and its relevance to supporting healthy ecosystems.

All of the above developments will factor prominently in discussions at the Council’s upcoming National Compost Conference, to be held in Halifax from September 22nd to 24th. Your attendance and participation is encouraged to collectively help drive markets and further advances in organics recycling across Canada.

Written by Susan Antler, Executive Director, Compost Council of Canada.

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