What the New Composting Council Chief Has in Mind

What the New Composting Council Chief Has in Mind

The U.S. Composting Council (USCC) has a new leader: Frank Franciosi took over as executive director of Bethesda, Md.-based organics association and its sister organization, the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CREF), Jan. 11.

Franciosi has been a past president of the USCC, and has been involved with its Professional Credentials Committee and Compost Operator Training Course. He also has been involved in the USCC Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) for 16 years and is a strong advocate.

He has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, operations management, residuals management, training, executive planning and administration.

“Frank has the unique experience of both sales and operations management in the compost manufacturing industry,” said Lorrie Loder, council president, and also with NuTerra Management, in a statement at the time of his appointment. “Frank’s long-standing involvement with the U.S. Composting Council as a board member and past president along with his extensive industry knowledge provides the organization and its membership with a strong leader who has the ability to meet the needs of the organization.”

Franciosi said at the time: “I look forward to serving the composting industry and its partner organizations in this new capacity. I am dedicated to this industry because it provides vital services and products for enrichment to our communities and soils.”

Among the USCC’s recent projects, it formed a partnership in early 2015 with the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) to address the connection between food waste and hunger among America’s seniors.

The group has had some change at the top in recent years. Michael Virga took over for Stu Buckner in September 2011. In May 2013 Lori Scozzafava was named to replace him, as he left to pursue other career opportunities, the association said at the time. Scozzafava left and Al Rattie served as interim director in 2015.

Franciosi sat down for a question-and-answer profile with Waste360. Here are some of his thoughts on the future of composting, organics and of the association.

Waste360: What are your top priorities as head of the Composting Council?

Frank Franciosi: My top priorities are as follows:

1.Complete the restructuring of the internal business functions of the organization. This means working with our association management company DMG to finish the updating of our new database and accounting systems. This will allow the council to track the individual needs of our membership by member profile. The data will be used to help us develop specific programs that meet the needs of a diverse member base.

2.Implementing our new Compost Operator Training and Certification Program.The council believes strongly in having “Certified Operators” at all compost manufacturing facilities, whether they are municipal yard trimmings facilities or private commercial facilities. We need to raise the bar on our industry by providing our members the best training and certification program in the world. Our Compost Operator Training Program is now in its seventh year and members can choose to be certified. Certified operators will run safe facilities that produce better quality compost product. We see the training and certification program evolving into a more diverse program for all levels of compost operations, marketing and business management.

3.Membership growth. With the new systems in place and the training and certification program up and running, we see new opportunities to expand our membership and our value proposition. We will expand our membership base by growing our state chapter and affiliate chapter program. Our North Carolina, California, Virginia and Minnesota chapters are good models to replicate across the United States. All of the issues with regulations and product marketing occur at the state level. The USCC provides state support in these key areas. State chapters will help provide more local training support and CEU’s (continuing education units) for the recertification of operators. Many states now require at least one trained and certified operator. We also see growth in the Gen-X , Gen-Y and Millennial members by expanding our Young Professionals Group. This program pairs experienced compost manufacturing professionals with our young professionals, sharing life experiences in our industry.

4.Expansion of our STA (Seal of Testing Assurance) Certified Compost Program.This program is now in its 16th year. The Council’s Market Development Committee has done an extraordinary job in promoting this program to both the consumer and the professional end user. USCC now has a national spokesperson for this program. Joe Lamp’l host of Growing a Greener World has been promoting the use of “Certified Compost” to the home garden and landscape. Growing a Greener World is broadcast on many of the PBS affiliates across the country. Also on the consumer side we have the Consumer Use Program and Strive for 5. Both these programs support the use of Certified Compost.    

 On the professional end user side we have Landscape Architect Specifications for Compost Use and new program called Compost the Sustainable Solution. This program details the use of compost in Green Infrastructure. All of these programs can be accessed on our website, certifiedcompost.comThe USCC has partnerships with the American Society of Landscape ArchitectsAmerican Hort andInternational Erosion Control Association. We promote the benefits of using Certified Compost within these organizations. If you’re a compost manufacturer you should take advantage of this long standing program. Consumers and professionals are now demanding Certified Compost!

5.Updating our Five-Year Strategic Plan. Our Five-Year Strategic Plan needs to be updated in 2016. The Board is planning a midyear planning retreat meeting to update and prioritize a new five-year plan. This document will help guide the council on key issues and objectives of the organization.

6.Growing the Compost Research & Education Foundation (CCREF). We would like to expand on developing publications that benefit composting and compost use, including the updating of past publications with new data. We see increasing visibility of the organization by providing scholarships to students in the field of study and developing a project list for grant funding.   

Waste360: What’s the biggest challenge to increasing food waste diversion?

Frank Franciosi: There isn’t just one big challenge in increasing food waste diversion. There are many challenges. This first is having a national and state level focus on reducing, reusing and recycling organics. On a national level (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) EPA’s and (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) USDA’s “Food Waste Challenge” has put this issue on the national map, with the goal of 50-percent reduction by 2030. Many states will followed or already have in place programs and initiatives of their own. I see the states as educators to the consumers and the generators by providing outreach. Some states have gone further with landfill bans on large-volume generators of organics.

The second challenge is separation and collection. There’s educating the generator on how to implement a program and the benefits of the program. There’s added costs in the separation, collection and hauling of the organics. I would like to see states incentivize generators to help offset these added costs. From the compost manufacturer view point the big issue is contamination by non-compostable materials. Educating separation at the point of generation is the first line of defense to minimize this problem. Using  Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable products is another tool to help fix this issue. The CCREF has developed tool kits to help educate the public on these topics. We have theCompostable Plastics Tool Kit and  Curb to Compost Tool Kit. The USCC has just partnered with Kimberly Clark Professional to develop a new publication called “A Guide to Workplace Composting” (that we launched) at our conference (last) week.

Expanding composting infrastructure in a major hurdle to get over. (USCC) President Lorrie Loder (NuTerra Management) has seen the need to concentrate focus in this area. As a result she has formed a Compost Infrastructure Committee. This Committee will work with our Legislative & Environmental Affairs Committee and the Strategic Alliance Committee to help bring stakeholders together to overcome these challenges. We will work with the following stakeholders; BioCycle, EPA, BPI, state and municipal governments, Sustainable Packaging CoalitionFoodservice Packaging Institute and the GREENBLUE  organization. GREENBLUE is leading a Value Innovation Process (VIP) to help build a composting roadmap, a unique way of thinking that brings stakeholders together to analyze drivers, stakeholders, challenges and potential actions. GREENBLUE has used the VIP successfully for projects within its Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The USCC is excited about being an integral part of this group.

Waste360: How big a role can anaerobic digestion play in organic waste management?

Frank Franciosi: Anaerobic Digestion (AD) will play a big role in organic waste management. Where you have large concentration of organic residuals, high landfill tipping fees and high costs for electrical power it may make economic sense to go with AD. Economics are the driver in this case. Concentrated Animal Feed Operations may also decide to use this method of organic waste management. Where you have AD you need composting operations. The digestate that is produced from this process should be composted into a stable and beneficial compost product. This is the highest value for this byproduct. I believe that AD and composting can coexist and both be part of the solution. We will continue to work closely with the American Biogas Council on making this a reality.

Waste360: How important a role should legislation/regulation, such as landfill organics bans, play?

Frank Franciosi: Legislation and regulation play important roles in jumpstarting organics diversion. Landfill organic bans force the issue on to the generator. States need to rethink just having bans without including incentives. The ban is the stick but you also need a carrot to entice generators to jump in and participate. States and municipalities should offer rebates, tax incentives and grants that would help offset the cost of transition to source separation. States need to also look at updating their compost facility permitting rules. The USCC, BioCycle and Georgia DEP created the Model-Compost-Rule-Template. This well-vetted template can be used to assist state regulatory agencies in development and/or revision of their composting regulations. Model composting rules are based on science as well as experience. They are needed as a foundation for operators and regulators to help in the permitting process and aid in regulatory oversight.

Waste360: The organization has gone through several leaders recently. What’s important for the Composting Council as an organization going forward?

Frank Franciosi: I cannot speak to past leadership and only my leadership experience. I bring 20 years of composting industry experience to my role as executive director. I’ve been in the trenches designing, building, permitting, training and marketing compost facilities that produced certified compost product. I think that going forward it is important that the Composting Council build on its past strengths and successes. We need to continue to be the voice of the industry and develop sound partnerships with other supporting organizations that believe in organics recycling. We are the go-to organization when it comes to compost manufacturing and compost quality. We will use our knowledge base by offering training and certification programs to our membership.

We play an important role in reversing climate change by improving our nation’s soil quality. We can do this by increasing soil carbon, saving valuable water resources, improving plant health and relying less on petroleum-based pesticides. Compost is nature’s way to grow and has been for centuries.  

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