Compost 2016, for members of the U.S. Composting Council, who work in commercial composting.

tamft compost
Illustration by Carmen Segovia.

Compost2016 was held Jan. 25–28, 2016  at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in Jacksonville, Florida and had 1,050 attendees and 103 exhibitors.

For the average person, if they know the word ‘compost’ at all, they’ll think of it as a gardening activity,” said Cary Oshins, director of education and annual conference for the U.S. Composting Council (USCC). “They may put out their leaves or their grass on the curb when they’re told to, and it goes away. Where it goes to are our members” — who attend Compost, USCC’s annual conference and trade show.

ORGANIC GROWTH The commercial-composting industry grew in the 1990s as landfills closed, then leveled off in the 2000s — only to surge again in the last few years, Oshins said, “with the recognition of food being wasted, being put in landfills, and also the impact of landfills on climate change.”

TAKE IT OUTSIDE In addition to a standard exhibit hall at its venue, Compost features an outdoor equipment show requiring acres of land where suppliers demonstrate huge pieces of composting and mulching machinery. This year, USCC staged that at a landfill and recycling center about 40 minutes from downtown Jacksonville, with shuttle buses running from the Hyatt Regency. 

LOCALLY SOURCED The “community composting” movement “operates at a very local scale, but at an in-between space,” Oshins said, “between the backyard composter and a commercial, municipal-wide or industry-wide composter.” This year, USCC offered scholarships to 56 community composters, funded by a grant from the 11th Hour Project, as part of a conference-wide Cultivating Community Composting program. Workshops helped them “improve their own practices,” Oshins said, and they could also attend sessions designed to increase their interaction with commercial composters.

COMPOST THYSELF USCC uses Austin-based Green Fern Events for a variety of conference-management services, including event sustainability. “We would like to walk the walk as well as talk the talk,” Oshins said. “We try and make sure that we collect all the compostable leftover food, soiled paper, as well as recycling — but really emphasize the compost collection. A lot of these hotels don’t do that yet. We help them organize to collect all their food and get that to a composting company.” 

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.