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A Room Full of Organics People!

November 5, 2013

A room full of people interested in organics leads to a lot of talking and networking! NERC’s Fall Conference “Organics Management in the Northeast – Its Time has Come!” was certainly great timing. More than 125 people gathered in Northampton, Massachusetts last week to hear presentations on a wide range of organics management topics.

fall 2013 conference

Lori Scozzafava, the Executive Director of the US Composting Council (USCC) set the tone as the keynote speaker.  “The timing is perfect to position organics management into national prominence as a major contributor to achieving recycling goals and environmental sustainability," stated Ms. Scozzafava.

Next, Mark King, an Environmental Specialist with Maine Department of Environmental Protection and chief organics expert for Maine and Greg Gelewski, the Recycling Operations Manager of Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency spoke about “Successful Food Discards Management Programs in the Northeast.” More on “Successful Organics Management Programs” continued with Jan Ameen, Executive Director, Franklin County Solid Waste Management District (FCSWMD)and Geoff Kuter, President, Agresource, Inc.

It’s amazing what you can learn from successful programs in action and how these models can be adapted to meet the needs of other communities. Check out NERC’s organics management case study on Franklin County Solid Waste District. While organics programs need to meet the unique circumstances of each community, there is a lot that can be learned and adopted from successful programs already in place.

Leesa Stewart, General Manager, Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (CVSWMD) and Adam Mitchell, Partner, Save That Stuff, Inc. were on hand to discuss “Organics Management Education & Collection Programs that Work.” Both CVSWMD and Save That Stuff provide education and collection services—one a public sector model, the other private sector; one rural and small town, the other primarily urban and suburban. Both are very successful. A case study of CVSWMD is posted on the NERC website.

The day ended with a rousing discussion of the “Newest Technologies for Processing Organics & Financing Mechanisms.”  Experts included: Bob Spencer, Executive Director, Windham Solid Waste Management District; Wayne Davis, Co-Founder and Vice President, Community & Government Affairs, Harvest Power, Inc. & Chairman of the American Biogas Council; and, Jay Kilbourn, Vice President, Casella Organics. All three of these gentlemen have been organics professionals for a number of years and shared a wealth of information.

The next day began with a presentation on “Promoting Positive Images of Organics Management.” Not always an easy task!  Mark King, Environmental Specialist, Maine Department of Environmental Protection talked about positive images for handling food scraps, emphasizing the importance of managing food scraps in accordance with the organics management hierarchy—reduce, recover, compost. Unfortunately, Marianne Gallagher-Petronella, Director of Resource Management, Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities/Recycling Office could not join us, so I filled in to talk about the fabulous Love’ Em and Leave ‘Em campaign a program of the Town of Irvington and Westchester County.

“Identifying & Creating Opportunities for Increased Organics Management in the Northeast ~ A Call to Action” offered the perspective of haulers and state government on the strategies we can undertake to support organics management. Panel presenters included Steve Changaris, Northeast Regional Manager, National Solid Waste Management Association and Cathy Jamieson, Solid Waste Program Manager, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Both presenters gave short presentations, Mr. Changaris on the role that haulers play in organics collection and Ms. Jamieson on Vermont’s Act 148. Plenty of time was allotted for the questions and answer session that followed. A lively discussion ensued about the roles that haulers, state agencies, and others play in promoting organics programs.

The last session included a presentation on “Purchasing Specifications Available for Bio-Based Tableware” conducted by Marcia Deegler, Director of Environmental Purchasing for the Massachusetts Operation Services Division and “School Cafeteria Recycling – How Cartons & Food Scraps Work Together to Reduce Waste,” by Barbara Heineken with the Carton Council

Amend Organics provided food scrap collection services for the conference held at the Hotel Northampton. Approximately 50 pounds of food scraps were collected. The kitchen and catering staff did an excellent job of keeping materials clean. Additionally, the Hotel’s Chef uses most of the kitchen’s pre-consumer vegetable scraps for soup stock.

Exhibitors were NATH Sustainable Solutions; UNICOR; SCS Engineers; Signature Marketing; Bioferm Energy Systems; Marathon Recycling Solutions; Organic Waste Systems; ORBIS Corporation; Komptech/Simplicity Engineering; and Sure-Close, Inc.  Exhibitors were invited to make a brief presentation on both days of the conference to describe their company. Of course attendees took full advantage of speaking with exhibitors, presenters, and fellow attendees during the break periods!

NERC’s great appreciation goes to our sponsors. Platinum Sponsors included the Steel Recycling Institute and Komptech/Simplicity Engineering and our Gold Sponsors included BioCycle Magazine, Resource Recycling, New West Gypsum Recycling, Recycling Today, National Solid Waste Management Association, and Re-TRAC Connect. Without the support of our exhibitors and sponsors NERC would not be able to offer its conferences at an affordable rate.

NERC has been presenting conferences and workshops for close to two decades now and this Fall Conference had the largest attendance yet!   As people who read the NERC Blog know, I talk about organics a lot. It was great having such a diverse crowd of representatives from the compost industry, municipalities, state and regional governments, hauling companies, compost companies, consultants, nonprofits, in the room to talk organics, share current happenings in the field, and exchange ideas!

I see more blogs on organics coming….

By Athena Lee Bradley


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