Austin, Texas claims to be the live music capital of the world. Every year they host the South by Southwest music festival.

This week Austin has been hosting the 20th annual US Composting Council conference at the Renaissance Hotel. The conference features about 700 delegates that include about 130 exhibitors.

It is gratifying to see the energy of organic waste processors in another country. The passion is the same but the scale is different- not necessarily bigger than our own, although that is true in some cases, but with different emphases on certain sectors such as energy.

In the US there are an estimated 3,000-4,000 (two different presenters gave two different estimates) organic waste processing facilities, although interestingly by their own admission little work has been done to quantify the size of the industry and its economic impact.

Michael Virga, the USCC’s recently appointed Executive Director, indicated that upcoming initiatives will include an economic study and new efforts on market development (they have hired a communications firm).

They are moving their office closer to Washington DC to be closer to policy makers. The new efforts to quantify the economic output of the industry as well as elevating its profile through marketing will be used as tools to communicate with policy makers and continue to grow the industry. One key initiative will be trying to give composting its own NAICS Code (i.e. industrial classification previously called SIC Code).

It is clear that that the USCC has embraced the energy that can be derived from organic wastes. While the American Biogas Council represents the interests of that part of the industry Virgil made it clear that “having them working with us is a powerful tool” that can be used to attract more feedstocks.

An excellent afternoon session “Anaerobic Digestion and Integration with Composting” drove home the practicality of taking a world view to organic waste processing- one that transcends methods (composting is part of the solution) and location (farms are part of the solution).

While I would say that composting in Canada has progressed further (especially when looking at SSO) than it is in the United States it is clear that there is a real momentum building for both the diversion of SSO and in particular the integration of anaerobic digestion and the farm with conventional composting operations.

More to come…

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