The term “persistent herbicides” should make any composter shudder. Compost can actually break down a lot of herbicides and dangerous chemicals with the right mix of bacteria and the best conditions. This is not the case for persistent herbicides, though. These remain in the compost and can destroy gardens and crops.

How can these herbicides be so bad?

If you haven’t experienced the effects of persistent herbicides, it is important to know them anyway. Here is an example of the terrible outcomes of having these herbicides in your compost.

Green Mountain Compost, part of a waste program of the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) in Williston, Vermont, experienced first-hand the effects of persistent herbicides in 2012. The operation suffered major losses and found that the cause was Aminopyralid, a potent herbicide used widely in the agricultural industry.

The company actually sold the compost with this herbicide in it, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. They had to respond to and compensate more than 500 customers. Were it not for the municipality, the operation would likely have shut down.

Learning from the past

After the disaster Green Mountain Compost suffered from because of persistent herbicides, improvements had to be made. The product is not marketed in the Northeast but can be purchased online. Also, its patent goes out in 2021. This means that it will likely be more available to consumers and less controlled by manufacturers. Here are some ideas for preventing future losses associated with Aminopyralid contamination in your commercial compost.
    • Use more testing within your facility.
    • The industry needs to focus on increasing the availability of testing as well because it is currently limited.
    • Make sure your waste suppliers know what is in their material. The entire composting process should be secure.
    • Incidents are actually underreported due to the stigma surrounding this issue. This should change so that progress can be made.
    • The EPA needs to understand how big the problem is for the commercial composting industry. The ag industry makes millions of dollars off of herbicides and pesticides, so composters may not be on their radar as much.

Know what you can put in a compost pile

It is essential for every commercial composting operation to know what can and cannot go in a compost pile. Unlike home composters, professionals will be held accountable for what goes into the products they sell. The basics of what CAN go into your compost are green and brown wastes. These include things like dry leaves, garden waste, certain foods, sawdust, fireplace ashes, and shredded newspapers. There is a long list of what shouldn’t go onto your piles, which includes bones, meat, dairy products, treated wood, diseased plants, and anything with herbicides.

Commercial compost turners for sale

If you run a commercial composting operation or would like to start one, it is important to understand the ingredients and processes. In order to turn your product and create optimal conditions, you will need a piece of machinery. At SCARAB International, we create custom compost turners to meet the needs of composting facilities around the world. We provide New, Used, and Refurbished machines as well as our Leasing options. You can call us at (806) 883-7621 to learn more.