New guidelines and standards for commercial compost and composting in Ontario have been warmly welcomed by the Compost Council of Canada, municipalities and the waste management industry.
The guidelines and standards are supported by amendments to the General — Waste Management Regulation (R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 347) under the Environmental Protection Act and to the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03) under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002.
“They are a great start for our future,” says Susan Antler, executive director of the Compost Council of Canada.
Until now, Ontario’s composting industry has laboured under the Interim Guidelines for the Production and Use of Aerobic Compost in Ontario, developed in 1991 and updated in 2004.
The interim guidelines were a source of frustration for the industry, says Antler. They listed only one category of compost and set a high standard. Product that failed to meet that high standard was deemed waste.
Meanwhile, the nine other provinces had based updated guidelines and regulations on recommendations from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), allowing for at least two grades of commercial compost. Composting operations in those jurisdictions could bring much more of their product to market.
It’s taken Ontario quite some time to get here. The new guidelines first came out as draft in 2009. (See also the December, 2009 issue of EHScompliance.ca newsletter under “Ont revising compost framework to divert waste from landfill”.)
Commercial composting is a politically-charged subject in Ontario, Antler concedes. “There have been a lot of restrictions [on the industry] that have been based more on politics than on science,” she says.
Ontario’s new guidelines are in fact two documents: the Ontario Compost Quality Standards prescribe quality standards for three classifications of commercial compost in Ontario; and the Guideline for the Production of Compost in Ontario lists siting and operational parameters for composting plants.
Commercial compost in Ontario will be classed AA, A or B. Categories AA and A together correspond to the CCME’s Category A definition, the distinction in Ontario being that Category AA compost will be allowed unrestricted land application. Ontario’s Category B compost corresponds to CCME’s Category B.
Category AA compost is similar to the high standard required in the former interim guidelines. It may not contain sewage biosolids, pulp and paper biosolids or septage as feedstock. Category AA compost may be used without restriction and without the need for approvals both on- and off-farm.
Category A compost is distinguished from Category AA because up to 25 per cent of its total feedstock may be biosolids. It may also contain slightly higher concentrations of zinc and copper than Category AA.
Category A compost may be used both on- and off-farm without approval, but is subject to maximum application rates, which must be disclosed on product labels. Labels must also identify any biosolids or septage used as feedstock, and warn that the product should not be used on soils with elevated concentrations of copper or zinc.
Category B compost has less restrictive metal and foreign matter standards than Category A, and no restriction on biosolids and septage as feedstock. However, Category B compost is not an exempt waste. It will require approval for use and transportation, and typically would not be permitted on land with regular human contact, such as residential land and public parks.
Antler expects the new guidelines to feed the evident appetite for composting in Ontario. Organics represent the largest single element of the residential waste stream, yet the organics processing industry in Ontario lags the rest of the country. Still, it has managed to grow despite labouring under archaic interim guidelines.
Some 90 municipalities have organics diversion programs, she says. That’s a good number, but there is plenty of room for growth. There are more than twice as many municipalities with Blue Box programs for paper and containers, she says.
Some of that growth will come from the introduction of new programs, and some will come from the addition of biosolids to Category A and B compost.
The addition of biosolids — mainly sewage sludge — to compost has been a source of controversy, but according to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, current science supports the land application of biosolids, particularly when it is composted.
New programs will also lead to new composting facilities. The new Guideline for the Production of Compost in Ontario gives the composting industry a measure of certainty on such politically-charged issues as site location, design and process.
The Guideline for the Production of Compost in Ontario includes best practices guidance for composting facilities in the following areas:
• land use planning and site selection
• site and facility design considerations
• operating procedures during each stage of material handling
• feedstock management
• operational flexibility and optimization
• operational controls such as compost recipe development and composting process monitoring
• prevention and control of potential adverse effects, such as odour.
The Ontario Compost Quality Standards, dated July 25, 2012 but in effect on January 1, 2013, may be viewed at: http://www.downloads.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/er/documents/2012/010-6658.pdf
The Guideline for the Production of Compost in Ontario, dated July 25, 2012 but in effect on September 25, 2012, may be viewed at: http://www.downloads.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/er/documents/2012/010-6658%202.pdf
The General — Waste Management Amendment Regulation (O. Reg. 283/12) and the General Amendment Regulation (O. Reg. 284/12) under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 take effect on January 1, 2013.
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