SWANA, USCC Announce Compost Certification Program

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., soon will add another certification to its long list of programs for waste management professionals.

SWANA is teaming with the U.S. Composting Council (USCC), Hauppauge, N.Y., to jointly develop and administer compost certification programs. At press time, both associations were close to signing a memorandum of agreement. “We're just crossing our t's and dotting our i's,” says Stuart Buckner, USCC's executive director.

“We have been discussing the exam with the [USCC] for years,” says John Skinner, SWANA's executive director and CEO. “It makes sense to have one certification by both associations that [we] both can endorse, and SWANA always has been interested in a USCC partnership because it represents composters throughout the country.”

Both organizations will work together on certification, but each has its own training course, which covers topics included in the exam. Professionals taking the exams don't necessarily have to take SWANA's training sessions to be successful, Skinner says. “If you have experience and are qualified, you can take it.”

The Compost Advisory Council of the Recycling Coalition of Texas (RCT), Austin, will develop the training course manual for SWANA and the certification exam for both associations. This group was chosen through SWANA's request for proposals (RFP).

“We had been researching the latest compost technology in the field and have a 12-member steering committee to discuss composting issues, so I guess we seemed to be a good fit,” says Karen Overgaard, a Council member and the project's coordinator.

Overgaard also has experience writing composting manuals for schoolchildren and nonprofit organizations to help them develop “green” classrooms and educate others on composting issues.

“Because we had the experience of developing educational materials and curriculum … we are writing the manual,” Overgaard says. “It is based on everyone [at the Council's] expertise, which is what really counts.”

After the Compost Advisory Council finishes writing the exam, SWANA and the USCC will review it. When the final exam is accepted, it will be issued on behalf of both associations.

SWANA's training course and the certification exam will cover the composting of organic materials typically found in municipal solid waste (MSW) including leaves, lawn and garden wastes, food wastes, paper wastes, and wastewater biosolids. It also will cover composting these wastes with other agricultural and industrial wastes, such as animal manure and food processing wastes.

SWANA's course will provide an overview of composting technologies including open-air, static pile, windrow, small and large in-vessel systems, and composting systems for MSW. Compost managers can expect to learn every aspect of composting, Skinner says — how to train employees, use the equipment, handle quality control, and administer compost testing and safety procedures.

The first exam will focus on management-level employees, Skinner says. And based on the compost program's success, SWANA may include future sessions for operators.

SWANA will offer the first certification and exam at the SWANA Waste Reduction, Recycling and Composting Symposium in Houston, Feb. 27 to March 1, 2002. Skinner expects that the exams will take place at least three times per year after that. “We will definitely hold it at WASTECON next year in Long Beach because there is a lot of interest in composting in California.”

There are anywhere from 125 to 150 questions on the exam, which Skinner says will be updated approximately every 18 months to keep up with the latest composting technologies.