Compost Marketing and Labeling Project

Final Report and Phase 2

Project Summary


Results of a survey conducted in 2000 by the Cornell Waste Management Institute with the goal to help insure that compost products made and sold meet user needs. The survey is part of a project partially supported by the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority and carried out by the Cornell Waste Management Institute, *Woods End Research Lab, and the NYS Organic Recycling and Compost Council (committee of the NYS Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling).

Survey of Compost Consumers
In order to determine the needs and wants of consumers of compost, surveys were conducted by the Cornell Waste Management Institute for both home gardeners and industry-users (mainly vegetable growers). (See Appendix A Figures 1-25 for survey results.) The survey questions were posted on the Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI) web site and also distributed at meetings and conferences. The survey respondents are compost users and not the general public since people were not interested in filling out the survey if they were unfamiliar with compost. The timing and limited funding did not allow for a statistically rigorous sampling protocol. However, valuable data were collected from 107 home gardeners and 47 industrial users. Results have been presented at a number of NYS and national conferences including Biocycle and the US Compost Council and were very well received by audiences.

The survey showed that both home gardeners and industry users would like either a label or some form of written material to obtain information about the composts that they are purchasing. Home gardeners also wanted to get information from sales personnel and from Cooperative Extension. Price and results were shown to be a determining factor for the selection of a compost product and ease of use was important to home gardeners. Weed seeds were the biggest concern for both groups, along with inconsistency of product for industry-users. Chemical contaminants and pathogens were also of interest to both groups, although the feedstock source was not a key determinant in product selection. Home gardeners and industry users responding to the survey showed a good knowledge of the potential benefits of compost use. Organic matter, use instructions, pH, N-P-K, and pathogens are the top items that home gardeners would like to see on a label, while pH and N-P-K were the industry users' top choices.


Bag Survey
An examination of bags in which composts are marketed in New York State was conducted to see what information was made available to consumers and how it related to the information which consumers want, as ascertained through the user surveys. (Figures 24 and 25). Several disconnects were found between what the consumer surveys indicated what consumers want in regard to compost qualities and what information was provided on the compost bags. While of interest to consumers, very few of the bags provided information on organic matter, weed seeds or pH. Only half of the bags provided information on N-P-K and none provided information on pathogens. One positive aspect was that almost all provided some form of use instructions.


*Compost Standards and Guidelines, by Woods End Research Laboratory, Inc.
Summary -[click here forFull Report]
The concept of establishing standards specific to compost and the promotion of quality criteria in order to bolster the compost industry and to aid growth of new markets has been slowly emerging over nearly two decades through-out the western world. Recently, several European countries have adopted specific standards.and many other countries are in the process of doing so. In the United States, efforts have been very scattered. The only existing quality guidelines specific to compost are presently promulgated by such specific agencies as state DOT's, which have an interest in large-scale compost usage. This report examines the history of compost appreciation, and particularly looks at the emerging awareness of the need to distinguish composts from other recycled wastes and common fertilizers. Without such distinguishing features, compost sales may lag. This report also examines potential conflicts in setting new standards.
Status of National Compost Standards
There is no simple way to give a summary concerning compost quality standards as they exist in the world, and how they arose. This document presents a variety of established and published standards. This study is based on gleaning conference proceedings, government reports, and private association guidelines. The period of time covered in this review is roughly the last 10 years.
Many countries are now beginning to routinely publish compost guidelines with implied stan-dards. Portions of these guidelines are required by certain laws; others are obscure. This makes it hard to distinguish legal as in the case of legislative from voluntary systems of standards. The purpose of this report is, however, not to determine standards purely on a statutory basis, but to present an overview of such standards. From this, we may hope to gain a better understanding of what common factors exist from which successful standards - whether mandatory or not - could be developed in America.
A quick comparison of compost standards of various countries shows Europe to be fairly well-developed, while the rest of the world, including the United States, lags significantly behind. Some of the causes of this difference are examined. One probable reason for the discrepancy seems to be political in nature. Also evident are differing scientific opinions regarding how tests on compost should be conducted, or what constitutes "critical levels" in regards to environmental cleanliness of compost.



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