Create compost qualities for specific market uses

Compost is used for a variety of purposes, some of which are specific to a market sector.

Composting should be approached as the production of a revenue-generating organic material, rather than disposal of a waste. The shift in focus toward revenue generation can affect the quality of the finished product and the way customers view compost, resulting in higher demand for the product. Decisions regarding product quality, collection methods, processing and refining are dependent upon the uses planned for the compost. Compost operators must become familiar with the specific applications, needs and concerns of the market sectors they are targeting, so they can modify how they create compost accordingly. Compost qualities are a function of feedstock composition and effectiveness of the processing operation. By conducting market research to identify target markets, decisions regarding feedstock volumes, quality and processing will be based on the results of that research. Efforts spent in planning to produce a quality compost from the start will pay off in returning customers.

Specific applications, needs and concerns of market sectors may include:
https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/HowUseCompost

● Specifications currently in use by state Departments of Transportation asking for STA Certified Compost: https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/SpecifyCompost

● Case studies of compost use for state Departments of Transportation applications may be found here: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.compostingcouncil.org/resource/resmgr/documents/compost_use/Compost_Use_for_DOT.pdf

● Educate your customers how to buy quality compost. Using high-quality compost means making sure that the compost you purchase has the qualities you need for your purpose. Here are the resources to understand how to judge compost for yourself to choose what’s right for different uses. https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/BuyCompost
Compost qualities
Analytical testing is essential to verify your compost product attributes and also to ensure worker safety, avoid environmental degradation, and maintain a viable compost process. Producers often forego testing because it’s costly or they are uncertain as to what parameters to test and what those results mean. Testing is an important investment in the composting process, providing the end user with qualified information. The main purpose of testing compost is to determine the concentrations of components and characteristics of the compost so that an evaluation of its quality can be made. The chemical and physical characteristics of compost depends on which feedstocks are chosen. Since the characteristics of compost can vary greatly, tests have been developed to measure various important parameters of the compost. https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/UnderstandingCTDS
Feedstocks
Raw materials influence the physical and chemical properties of compost. Yard clippings alone tend to produce a compost with lower nutrient levels and higher Carbon:Nitrogen ratios compared to compost made with higher nitrogen feedstocks, such as food waste, animal manures, or biosolids. High-rate aerobic composting will prevent sour, low pH or odorous finished products. Organic materials that are composted can result in a variety of different compost product types because of different feedstocks and this is an important consideration for your target markets. Wood chips are a carbon source and will add structure to your blend, but in a less available form than when using leaves. Compost made from leaves only (leaf humus) differs from leaf/grass compost and from woody compost. High percentages of grass or food waste raises the pH of finished compost. The organic matter content of wood-based compost has longer durability due to the slow breakdown of lignin and cellulose. You may also want to consider what feedstock biases compost use customers in your area have.
Contamination
This should be a major focus when choosing feedstock sources, those collected
with high levels of contamination will need to be evaluated to determine if they are “clean” enough. https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/CompostContamination Contamination includes both obvious and invisible items:

● Manmade inerts (trash): Rejecting highly contaminated loads and pre-screening materials go a long way to reducing contamination before it is shredded into smaller pieces.

● Persistent Herbicides: Establishing proper feedstock testing protocols will help ensure feedstocks that can taint large volumes of finished compost are not used. https://www.compostingcouncil.org/page/PersistentHerbicides
Finishing activities to ensure a marketable product can include:
● Curing
● Complete curing requires storage space.
● Immature compost can retard seed germination and damage plants.
● Screening
● Removal of visible and sharp manmade inert contaminants is essential for utilization in most market segments, requiring the need to evaluate incoming feedstocks and utilize screening equipment. The purchase of specialized equipment, such as equipment to grind or shred incoming material or screen the final product, may be necessary in order to produce a finished product that is acceptable to the target market.
● Turf topdressing applications may require a finer screened compost to meet customer needs, requiring a smaller screen size or additional screening.
● Erosion control applications normally require a courser compost, so adjust screen size accordingly.
● Amending / Blending
● Creating topsoil and potting soil blends may require additional materials and should be blended per market needs.
● Some compost manufacturers offer customers the option to create specialized blends for their exact needs.
● Storing
● Proper storage consideration should be determined to allow for off and seasonal demands.
● If creating blended products, weather considerations should also be considered to not impact finished blends.
● Vehicle loading
● It is important that clean vehicles and clean skid-steer buckets which are used to transport finished compost, to reduce pathogen contamination.
● Packaging
● If offering bagged product, proper packing considerations will need to be made, including size and type of bags to be produced.
● Also will need to ensure proper wrapping and storage is considered for bagged material.
● Shipping
● If delivery will be offered, establishing subcontractors or using own trucks will need to be determined.
● If no delivery options are offered, ensuring proper and safe loading for customers should be determined.
How well-aligned can you make the product you create to the expectations and needs of your customers?
● Can you sieve it to different sizes?
● Can you reduce contamination at the source?
● Can you blend it with other products?
● What feedstock biases do your compost use customers have? Can you either educate your customers or change your feedstocks to fit your customers’ expectations?

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