Friday December 17th 2021

The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) has been named Small-Scale Compost Manufacturer of the Year by the US Composting Council.

Operations staff George Boundy and Willie Whittaker, Environmental Compliance Officer Larry Ricci, Director of Operations Charles Whittaker, Director of Sustainability Angelina Brandt, and Executive Director Tim DeGraff stand before a pile of compost made at UCRRA.

About the US Composting Council

Since 1990, the US Composting Council has been advancing compost manufacturing, compost utilization, and organics recycling to benefit its members, society, and the environment. The US Composting Council is made up of more than 800 members, about 500 of whom are compost manufacturers, and about one third of the membership is local, state, and federal government agencies. Other members include compost researchers, scientists, consultants, compostable product manufacturers, and other advocates working to advance organics recycling in the US. The US Composting Council’s mission is focused primarily on commercial compost manufacturing and marketing, and includes training, certification and education of compost facility operators; certification programs for compost testing; and lobbying and advocacy campaigns at the state and federal level.

About the Small Scale Compost Manufacturer of the Year Award

Each year, USCC recognizes the Best of the Best in the compost manufacturing and organics recycling industries. On their website, USCC describes the prestige of the awardees as “these winners have given generously of their time and talent to further the compost industry and to protect the environment for future generations.” The Small-Scale Compost Manufacturer of the Year Award is awarded to a small-scale composting facility in the US (< 10,000 tons per year throughout), public or private sector, which has displayed excellence in both compost production and marketing/distribution. The nominated facility must be in operation for a minimum of three years and in regulatory compliance. Past awardees in the Small Scale Compost Facility category include: 2020 The Big Reuse NYC Compost Project in 2020, Rust Belt Riders in 2019, and Compost Company of Nashville, TN in 2018. The awards will be presented at COMPOST2022, the Annual Conference and Trade Show in Austin, TX January 24-27, 2022.

UCRRA Distinguished Accomplishments

The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency launched a small scale composting pilot project in 2012 to demonstrate the environmental benefits and feasibility of municipal composting. Nearly ten years later, the Agency has become a model program for organics recycling project across the North East and routinely shares its experiential knowledge with dozens of other municipalities looking to launch similar programs.

Since the implementation of the program in 2012, the UCRRA Organics Recovery Facility has managed more than 19,000 tons of source separated organics that, if landfilled, would have traveled a cumulative 266,481 miles for disposal. These long haul trips avoided are the equivalent of driving 10.6 trips around the surface of the Earth and represent more than 32,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) avoided, equivalent to the CO2 emissions from burning 35,492,543 pounds of coal, or consuming 74,345 barrels of oil, or the carbon sequestered by 39,343 acres of U.S. forests in one year (EPA).

Compost aids in the stewardship of New York’s natural resources. It’s estimated that it takes 100-500 years to create an inch of topsoil (USDA) while the Agency’s process can create compost in 90 days. Compost has the unique ability to bind plant nutrients in the soil, which reduces erosion, nutrient leaching and runoff. Compost can be used to plant trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, used on turfs, sown directly into fields and garden beds, in greenhouses, or for container gardening. Compost aids in storm water management, moisture retention, improves soil structure, adds beneficial soil organisms that suppress plant disease pathogens, and reduces the need for harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides. UCRRA sells its compost to farmers, landscapers, home gardeners, and the general public. Since the implementation of the composting program in 2012, the Agency has manufactured and sold over 10,000 tons of finished compost.

UCRRA is a proud member of the United States Composting Council, and our Grow Ulster Green compost product is an STA certified compost. The STA program is a compost testing, labeling, and information disclosure program and is regarded as “the consensus of many of the leading compost research scientists in the United States” (USCC, 2019). The Agency’s finished compost is sampled and tested four times per year at a certified agronomy laboratory. Compost Technical Data Sheets are available on the Agency’s website.

During the past two years, the Agency has invested more than $1.3 million in its Organics Recovery Facility, including the purchase of new equipment, an expanded concrete pad, a new compost bagging facility and Sustainable Living classroom, and other facility improvements. The Agency continues to look to the future with hopes of expanding local capacity for organics recycling programs by businesses, schools, and municipalities alongside the implementation of the Ulster County Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act and the New York State Food Scrap Reduction and Recycling Act.

The Agency believes that the program also has measurable social impacts and has created an increased community awareness about food loss, food donation programs, how to reduce wasted food, and local food insecurity issues. UCRRA’s Recycling Outreach Team is dedicated to developing programs that inform and educate the public about the solid waste management system and the benefits of composting. UCRRA conducts educational facility tours, free workshops, and programs for youth in schools, libraries, and community centers. UCRRA provides free resources and technical support for any group or organization looking to learn about composting. The Agency believes these efforts encourage a more engaged and informed community that has high ecological literacy and is more adaptable and capable to act on the environmental challenges of the future.

UCRRA is a proud and engaged member of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), the New York State Association of Solid Waste Management (NYSASWM), the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (NYSAR3), National Recycling Coalition (NRC), and the U.S. Composting Council (USCC). The Agency has collaborated on projects with the Northeast Recycling Council, the Cornell Waste Management Institute, the NYS Organics Summit, and many others. These organizations provide access to the best knowledge available related to materials management issues, following the Agency’s commitment to achieve and maintain innovative solutions to environmental and economic challenges.

Other award accomplishments include: the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association, in pursuit of our dedication to fiscal responsibility and excellence (2018-2019).