By Carina Olivetti

NRC Program Directors, Carina Olivetti and Maddie Ferber had the opportunity to attend the USCC Compost Conference in February 2024. The conference was called Making Waves and took place in Daytona Beach, Florida, from February 6th-9th. The USCC holds the compost conference in a different location every year. Next year it is slated to be held in Arizona. The USCC annual compost conference is the place to be if you are a Compost Producer, Operator, Equipment Manufacturer, Compost Marketer, Recycling Organization, State Chapter Member, or at all interested in compost. The lineup of presenters, keynote speakers, vendors, tours, and events are impressive! 

There were 4 main tracks offered this year: Operations, Business, Research, and Advocacy. Session topics included contamination, EPR, compostable products, soil health, operation safety, state permitting, food waste, vermicomposting, carbon markets, climate resilience, PFAS, biochar, and state chapter specific topics. Since there were two of us at the conference we got to split up and learn more in one day. 

Day 1: Carina took the half day workshop on Community Composting Systems while Maddie learned about the Compost Carbon Connection. At the opening reception we walked through the Exhibit Hall, networked with vendors, and learned about new technologies and equipment. Takeaways of the day were learning that the carbon credit world is complex and requires focused management. Community composting can utilize municipality mechanisms that already exist and will probably look different in every community. The presenters emphasized data tracking and seeking out public/private partnerships. They also shared what bin systems and different small-scale equipment they used.

Day 2: Carina attended Managing Contamination at Composting Facilities, EPR, SB54 and other infrastructure strategies, and Compost and Soil Health. Maddie attended Compost and PFAS, Update on microplastic degradation, remote sensing of compostable packaging, and PFAS, Compost Impact on Crops and Soil. During our sessions we heard composters express their views and experience with compostable packaging and other contamination, the complexities of PFAS and EPR, and how compost increases soil health. The Keynote Speaker was Didi Pershouse of the Land and Leadership Initiative. Didi emphasized the importance of land use and atmospheric changes while linking everything with soil health, specifically the soil sponge. Her presentation was simple, thoughtful, and playful. Didi stressed the importance of plant and tree cover for offsetting global temperature increase. Networking throughout the conference we found that the crowd had a mixed response to her presentation but we both loved it and talked to her several times in the exhibit hall.

Day 3: This was our chapter day filled with chapter specific topics like legality, advocacy, best practices, compost operators training course information, and networking with other state chapters. In attendance were state chapters like; Minnesota and North Carolina that have been around for years, our younger Nebraska Chapter still trying to build membership engagement, and Florida who just became a state chapter and awarded the rookie chapter of the year. Main takeaways were learning how to engage with state legislation, seeing how other states promote their chapter, learning opportunities to bring a Compost Operators Training Course to our state again or ways to send interested people to nearby states. The Closing Keynote, Awards Ceremony and Vermeer reception were fantastic ways to end the bulk of the conference. We clapped, we ate, we laughed, and we said goodbye to some of our new friends.

Day 4: We traveled to the Tomoka Landfill for Demo Day. It was nice to get outside and see how compost equipment works in person. There were grinders, shredders, windrow turners, and spreaders. Most of the equipment was larger in size, but they did show a few smaller and more portable implements. We also learned from demo vendors how their equipment helps improve compost operations. Not everyone chooses to participate in Demo Day, but we thought it was worth it. In addition to seeing the equipment in action we also had the unique experience of a catered lunch at the landfill. It was lovely and felt like a celebration.  

By becoming a member of USCC you get discounts for attending the annual compost conference and there are lots of learning opportunities throughout the year via webinars and newsletters. As a USCC member you are automatically a NECC member too. As the Nebraska Chapter grows, we hope to have more Nebraskans at the conference. Feel free to reach out with questions on any of the topics we covered at the conference. We’d be happy to share more or lead you in the right direction. Interested in joining the Nebraska Composting Council? Contact Carina at [email protected]