Ohio EPA Proposes Changes to the Regulations for Food Waste Composting

From the Ohio EPA:

During the last year, Ohio EPA released draft revisions to the composting rules and received comments from a diverse group of stakeholders.  Ohio EPA believes the comments received helped improve the rules in a manner that is protective of the environment while making easier for citizens to compost and for new composting businesses to get started. Other changes should provide existing facilities with increased flexibility for achieving compliance and innovate with alternative materials.

A very significant improvement resulting from stakeholder’s input is the proposal of a size-based exemption that would allow schools, community gardens, and any organization or person to compost yard wastes, food scraps, animal wastes and bulking agents, regardless of where the waste materials were generated, in an area no larger than 300 square feet. An exempted facility will not be required to have a registration, license, financial assurance, or follow the requirements of that registration including, but not limited to: daily logs, annual reports, inspections, and testing of the finished compost.

Another significant improvement is that for those facilities that are larger than 300 square feet and need to register as a Class II composting facility (taking food scraps) will not be required to set a financial assurance fund as long as the closure cost estimate is $3500 or less. This exemption should be beneficial for facilities that are starting at a smaller scale and reduce their startup costs (the amount of the fund plus the cost of setting the fund).

Updated definitions, better explanation of composting methods, updated testing standards are other examples of improvements that should benefit the industry in general.

These changes were officially proposed to the Joint Agency on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) on September 2011 and a public hearing was held on October 25, 2011. Given that the Agency did not receive any objections to the  changes, it was expected that JCARR will give consent for final approval at their November 4, 2011 hearing. However, due to some misinformation provided to some JCARR members that could have jeopardized the rules (and sent them into a one year waiting period), Ohio EPA decided to withdraw the rules and file again on November 11, 2011. Ohio EPA believes it has answered the questions and clarified the confusion. The current comment period ends on January 4, 2012 and the next JCARR hearing is on January 23, 2012.

For those that want to ensure that these changes to the rules are accepted and enforceable as soon as possible, it is encouraged that they take advantage of the stakeholder comment period and send comments supporting these changes to Ohio EPA.  Written comments should be sent to the attention of Michelle Braun at the Division of Materials and Waste Management P.O. Box 1049, Columbus Ohio 43216-1049 or to michelle [dot] braun [at] epa [dot] state [dot] oh [dot] us.  Also written comments and/or oral testimony may also be submitted to the Hearing Officer at the public hearing to be held on January 4, 2012. Written comments and or testimony may be also be submitted at the JCARR hearing on January 23, 2012.

To see the rules, responses to comments and information on the public hearing, please follow this link.