Compost regulation in California

Posted below is a really excellent paper that James O’Claire did for the Environmental Studies class at UCLA in Winter 2013. James is a 2013 Asian Languages and Cultures grad currently living in Beijing. The paper captures what a class on experiential learning should be all about: toggling between “fieldwork”–in this case literally building and maintaining a garden–as well as research resources available through the course, and allied resources at UCLA, both textual and human.

Here is James’ basic research question and recommendation. You can download and read the paper below (scroll to the bottom of this post). He finds that, “The most striking aspect of the California compost regulations is that they are solely focused on keeping contaminants out and make no effort to regulate beneficial nutrients.” And he goes on to compare California’s state regulations to two other models, Minnesota and Oregon, and finds that these models both have strengths, including lists of specific definitions for the surprisingly ethereal stuff of compost.

If you find the research useful, it would be great if you could leave a note in the contact form below. It would help us demonstrate the real-world effect this course has, and help establish it permanently on the books. (At present it is a “topics” class, which means it has to be specially approved each year.) Please note that the paper is posted and shared under specific Creative Commons guidelines.

By examining other states’ requirements for composting I seek to understand how the California model compares and what possible ways it could be improved.  Currently, the standards which have been set have no legal consequences for those whose compost is mislabeled which misleads consumers on the quality and nutritional makeup of the composted soil.  California could most benefit from minimum nutrient requirements as well as a more specific ingredients list that includes percentages.