California Studies its Compost and Mulch

To increase California's use of municipal compost and mulch, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Sacramento, has hired an independent contractor to develop marketing strategies, and guide future organics diversion activities and programs.

Integrated Waste Management Consulting, Nevada City, Calif., which was hired in September 1999 to conduct surveys, telephone interviews and site visits with California compost and mulch producers, will gather data on:

* Number, size and type of processing facilities;

* Various market sectors (horticultural, agricultural, etc.);

* Quantities of organic products sold in California;

* Feedstock quality from various sources (residential, curbside, self-haul, etc.); and

* The overall organics marketplace and regional variations.

"We've been trying to get baseline data on the status of the industry for a long time, and this is a continuation of those efforts," says Howard Levenson, supervisor of the organic materials management section of the CIWMB.

In 1998, the board attempted its first survey with limited results because producers saw the CIWMB as a regulatory organization and hesitated to give information, he says.

With a third party collecting data, the CIWMB hopes to reduce conflicts of interest.

The CIWMB does have a vested interest in understanding the organics market, says Matt Cotton, Integrated Waste Management Consulting's project manager. Organics make up 30 percent of California's waste stream, and there are about 50 to 75 permitted compost facilities in the state.

According to Cotton, a total of approximately 300 facilities, including mulch producers, may be included, he says.

"We're mostly concerned with big producers, but mulch producing really is anyone with a grinder," Cotton says. "We knew we needed help figuring out the organics market, and now we need to know which programs [the CIWMB should] put money into."

Integrated Waste Management Consulting was one of two companies that submitted proposals for the study. According to the CIWMB's September 1999 meeting minutes, Integrated Waste Management Consulting's bid was to allocate $64,900 to fund the project, less than the original $75,000 earmarked for the project.

Cotton also created a steering committee of representatives from the organics materials management industry to ensure confidentiality, as well as provide suggestions and advice to the contractor and board. And once the survey is mailed to participants, Integrated Waste Management Consulting will follow up with a telephone call.

Levenson says the final report, "Assessment of California's Compost and Mulch-Producing Infrastructure," should be available by the summer of 2000.