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Organics Management photo identifier

Organics Management

Compost Facility Operator Training
Photo Courtesy of Dan Corum

Organic materials management includes composting and many other energy recovery technologies. "Organics" refers to carbon-based materials that include food, yard debris, manures, and other agricultural residues. Washington's State Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan promotes a close-loop organics management system where markets for organic-based products are robust, and businesses thrive by creating new products from wasted organic materials.

Organics continue to be what is disposed the most: 43% in the residential sector according to 2015-16 state data. And it's nearly 30 percent of overall disposed waste stream.

Ecology's Waste 2 Resources (W2R) Program is working to reach goals outlined in the Organics Initiative of the State Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan (Washington's strategy for managing hazardous and solid waste). This 30 year plan has a clear and simple objective: eliminate wastes and toxics whenever we can and use the remaining waste as resources.

Organics Pyramid Explained

Ecology created an organics management hierarchy to help Washingtonians manage food scraps and yard trimmings in the most beneficial way possible.

W2R supports waste prevention projects by providing technical and financial assistance (W2R Grants and Financial Assistance). Methods for managing organics beneficially include composting, anaerobic digestion and biochar.

Biochar. According to the International Biochar Initiative, biochar is a "2,000 year-old practice that converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation." Biochar manufacturing can incorporate energy recovery and the production of synthetic fuel as part of the process. Biosolids are another type of organic material. Visit Ecology's Biosolids page for more information.

Herbicides: Some herbicides do not break down during the composting process. If contaminated compost is used, the herbicide may still be active and could impact growth of some sensitive plants. If you apply herbicides to your lawn, it's important to check the label to see if you can compost the grass clippings.

Persistent herbicides do not break down easily and some can remain in soil, plants, and animals for years. They are used to kill broad leaf weeds in range crops. Manure from animals that eat treated hay will have herbicide residues, and should not be composted. See the USCC's Persistent Herbicide FAQ page.

Training Opportunities

State Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan

Information Clearinghouse