( Courtesy US Composting Council )

In a different viewpoint not often considered in recalls and market advisories that send tons of fresh produce to landfills, the U.S. Composting Council is urging the industry to compost romaine linked to an E. coli outbreak.

The council asks members of the produce industry to divert Salinas, Calif., romaine to an industrial composter.

“Industrial-scale composting, whether private or municipal, achieves the temperatures and holding times to eliminate human pathogens," Frank Franciosi, the council’s executive director, said in a news release. "While you don't want to eat it, there is no reason to put it in a landfill, where it will generate methane, a significant greenhouse gas and cause of global climate change."

The U.S. Composting Council cites the Environmental Protecting Agency: temperatures of 131 degrees for three days will kill human pathogens, and large compost piles will exceed that in time and temperature, reaching 150 degrees over many weeks while the material is converted to compost.

The composting council on its website lists commercial and municipal composters on its website.

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Submitted by r henry on Mon, 11/25/2019 - 17:31

What about the carbon emissions required to get said product to an "industrial composter?" Who will pay the freight, how will it be invoiced?

Is there enough non-water content in the romaine to generate much worthwhile composted material?

Submitted by Cary Oshins on Tue, 11/26/2019 - 10:03

More and more stores and warehouses are already sending organics to composters (or anaerobic digesters). The financial arrangements are between them and their hauler. We wanted folks to be aware that the tainted lettuce does not have to be landfilled; that composting is an approved path.
In terms of carbon footprint, carbon emissions from trucking to landfills vs composters is likely comparable, and very location dependent. But in a landfill the romaine decomposes anaerobically, generating methane, a far stronger greenhouse gas that is avoided by composting.
You are correct that the high water and low lignin content means a ton of lettuce might only produce 100 lbs of compost! But many composters run dry and would welcome all that embodied water.
The main value here is the avoided methane generation.

In reply to by r henry (not verified)