Zero waste offers big benefits through composting

Fred Michel sees less food getting dumped into landfills in the future, or even none at all, and he’s working to make it happen in a big way, literally.

A scientist with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Michel studies large-scale composting, such as by farms, cities and industry, and is a co-organizer of the upcoming Ohio Compost Operator Education Course.

“There’s a growing ‘zero-waste’ movement around the country and in Ohio,” said Michel, an associate professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “Composting is an integral part of that movement since it can efficiently recycle organic wastes, such as food waste, into soil nutrients and soil amendments.”

Now in its 13th year, the course takes place March 25-26 at the college’s research arm, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster. The program is for people who work at or with commercial-scale composting facilities, he said — places that handle tons of waste and compost, rather than bushels, at a time.

Michel, other Ohio State composting scientists, including co-organizer Harold Keener, and experienced compost facility operators will teach the course in OARDC’s Shisler Conference Center, 1680 Madison Ave. Hours are 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the first day and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. the second.

“Composting and compost utilization require multidisciplinary knowledge of microbiology, process engineering, plant science, soil science, chemistry, thermodynamics and more,” Michel said. “We aim to expand the knowledge of compost operators in all of these areas so they can operate more efficiently and avoid costly mistakes.”

The course’s topics will include composting methods, mixing, site design, odor control, economics, marketing, and value-added products and uses. Hands-on lab sessions will focus on measuring compost properties and on detailed monitoring of the composting process, including for moisture, oxygen and temperature.

The complete course agenda and a registration form can be downloaded at

Registration costs $175 for members of the Organics Recycling Association of Ohio (ORAO) and $225 for non-members. The registration cost includes all materials and continental breakfast and lunch both days. Registration is limited to 30 and is due by March 17.

For more information, contact Mary Wicks of the college’s Ohio Composting and Manure Management Program (OCAMM) at 330-202-3533 or

Participants can email Linda Robertson at to join ORAO and get the discount registration rate.

By recycling and other methods, the zero-waste movement aims to end landfill use, Michel said. The goal is to switch from using raw materials once, then throwing them away, to using them over and over in a cycle.

“As Ohio moves from a linear, unsustainable way of using raw materials to a more cyclical, sustainable path focused on recycling and reuse,” Michel said, “composting will play a central role in organics recycling.”

Co-hosting the course are ORAO and OCAMM. Funding support to develop the course came from Ohio EPA’s Ohio Environmental Education Fund.

Attendees are eligible for continuing education credits of 13.0 hours for Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) wastewater certification and 11.0 hours for registered sanitarians.

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