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For this reason, organic matter content in compost was adopted as a quality criterion by the standardization committee. For Types AA, A and B compost, the minimum total requirements for organic matter are 50, 40 and 30 percent, respectively.

7.1.2 Water Compost water content is a criterion that was adopted by the standardization committee for the following reasons. By not establishing a critical limit for water content in compost, it is possible that Type AA compost, for example, would be sold containing high levels of water. This, in turn, would lead to a deterioration of the image of superior quality compost and thus appears undesirable from a standardization viewpoint. Moreover, it is desirable to limit the water content so the consumer does not buy (by weight) more water than dry matter (compost).

Therefore, for Types AA, A and B compost, the maximum acceptable water content - expressed as a percentage of the compost's humid mass - must not exceed 60 percent.

7.1.3 Excluded Parameters The following characteristics were taken into consideration by the standardization committee, but were not adopted as indicators of compost agronomic value. pH Compost is primarily an organic soil conditioner and should be used with this in mind. The use of pure compost is not recommended. As a result, even if the pH analysis of compost provides useful information, it cannot be considered as a criterion for absolute quality when developing a compost standard. The standardization committee did not think it was relevant to include this Support Document for Compost Quality Criteria 33

criterion in the standard. Electrical Conductivity Electrical conductivity in compost provides interesting information on the presence of soluble salts. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium cations particularly come to mind, as do anions, such as chlorides and sulphates. Some of these ions are essential to plant growth (K, Ca, Mg) while others are often undesirable (Na). Even if the electrical conductivity of a compost has a tendency to increase as its fertilizing value increases, this parameter does not provide information as to the nature of the ions in play. For this reason, the standardization committee decided not to use electrical conductivity as a quality criterion for compost. N, P205 and K20 Concentrations The concentration of major fertilizing elements in compost is also a criterion to be taken into consideration when evaluating the agronomic value of compost. However, it is extremely difficult and arbitrary to establish reference values for N, P205 and K20 for each compost type, since the fertilizing role of compost, although not negligible, seems of secondary importance.

Therefore, a compost with 0.5 percent N, P205 and K20 is not as rich as a compost with 1 percent, but on the basis of these values, it would be difficult to justify the exclusion of a compost type for this reason. As a result, this criterion is excluded from the standard. Water Retention Capability Compost water retention capability is an interesting element to consider when evaluating the quality of compost. This criterion was briefly addressed during discussions and could be taken into consideration within the scope of possible future standardization efforts.


Given the currency of the subject dealt with in this support document, and given the urgency of receiving an indication of how the current standard should be used, the BNQ agreed to put the standard to the test by applying it for a period of two years. The benefits derived from experience could guide the BNQ in eventually confirming the validity of the trials and in specifying requirements. At the end of this period, the standardization document will be revised, if necessary, taking into consideration the suggestions and comments received.

The BNQ is relying on the users to bring to its attention all comments and suggestions that could improve the standard.


Agriculture Canada. "Metal Concentrations in Processed Sewage and By-products", Trade Memorandum T-4-93. January 2, 1991. P.3.

Agriculture Canada and Environment Canada. "Proceedings of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting on Compost and Sludge Regulations". Ottawa, Canada: 1993. P.23.

Alberta Environmental Protection. "Trace Element Concentrations in Alberta Agriculture Soils".

Summarized File Data, Soil Protection Branch. 1994.

Association of Municipal Recycling Co-ordinators. "AMRC Leaf and Yard Waste Composting Study,. Part 1: A Review of Composting Principles and Municipal Programs". April 1993. P.


Bureau de normalisation du Quebec. "Amendments organiques - Compost". P 0413-200. 15 mai

1995. P.7.

British Columbia, "Waste Management Act: Production and Use of Compost Regulation".

British Columbia Regulation 334/93. November 19, 1993. P.15.

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. "Guidelines for Compost Quality", part 1.


Environment Canada. "Revue et recommandations pour les criteres provisoires canadiens de qualite' environnementale pour les lieux contamines". Etude no.197, Se rie scientifique, Direction generale des eaux interieures, Direction de la qualite' des eaux. Ottawa, Ontario. P.


Folliet, N., S. Fortin and D. Lefebvre. "National Compost Standards", in Composting 1994, The Composting Council of Canada. Toronto, Ontario: October 13 and 14, 1994. P.1-8.

Giroux, M. et al. "Caracterisation de la teneur en metaux lourds totaux et disponibles des sols du Quebec". Agrosol V (2), Service de recherche en sols, Ministere de l'Agriculture des Pecheries et de l'Alimentation, 1992. P.46-55.

Ontario, Ministry of the Environment «Upper Limit of Normal» Contaminant Guidelines for Phytotoxicology Samples. Phytotoxicology Section, Air Resources Branch ARB- 1 38-88-Phyto.

March 1989. P.7.

Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Health.

"Guidelines for Sewage Sludge Utilization on Agricultural Lands". April 1978. Revised January

1986. P.29.

Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of the Environment. "Guidelines for Sewage Sludge Utilization on Agricultural Lands". Prepared by the Sludge and Waste Utilization Committee. October 1992. P.32.

United States, Environmental Protection Agency. "Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge". Regulation no.503. Final. November 25, 1992.

Waste Conversion Inc. "An International Survey of Composting Criteria". An Internal Report for Environment Canada, Solid Waste Division, Contract no. KE 144-1-6173. Ottawa, Ontario.

August 1992. P.96.



Environment Canada. "CCME Discussion Paper on Regulations for Trace Element Concentrations in Compost". Draft no.2. Hull, Quebec: May 1994. (Original paper prepared by Nicole Folliet, Environment Canada, April 1993.) Environment Canada. "CCME Discussion Paper on Regulations for Pathogenic Organisms in Compost". Draft no.2. Hull, Quebec: May 1994. (Original paper prepared by Suzanne Fortin, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, April 1993.) Environment Canada. "CCME Discussion Paper on Regulations for Foreign Matter in Compost".

Draft no.2. Hull, Quebec: May 1994. (Original paper prepared by Dr. Sukhu Mathur, Compost and Peat Specialist Inc., Kanata, Ontario, for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, April 1993.) Environment Canada. "CCME Discussion Paper on Regulations for Compost Maturity". Draft no.2. Hull, Quebec: May 1994. (Original paper prepared by Dr. Sukhu Mathur, Compost and Peat Specialist Inc., Kanata, Ontario, for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, April 1993.) Environment Canada. "CCME Discussion Paper on Regulations for PCB Contaminants in Municipal Compost". Draft no.2. Hull, Quebec: May 1994. (Original paper prepared by Dr. Mel Webber, Waste Water Technology Centre, Burlington, Ontario, for Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, April 1993.) NOTE: The original papers were prepared with the objective of introducing the subjects for discussion and to stimulate communication within the CCME and BNQ task forces regarding quality parameters for compost. These papers were revised in 1993 and in 1994.



"Compost: A homogeneous and friable mixture of partially decomposed organic matter, with or without soil. According to the Act, compost, leaf mould and humus all have the same definition."

(Agriculture Canada 1986) "Compost: A homogeneous and friable mixture comprising essentially stabilized organic substances (that are no longer decomposing)." (Environmental Choice 1992) "Compost: The material produced by an aerobic composting process, which can be used as soil amendment, or for other similar uses. Simple exposure of solid organic waste under nonengineered conditions resulting in uncontrolled decay is not considered to be composting and will not be permitted." (Ontario, Ministry of the Environment) "Composting: An aerobic biological process, conducted under controlled, engineered conditions designed to decompose and stabilize the organic fraction of solid waste." (Ontario, Ministry of the Environment) "Compost: The product from the composting of organic components of municipal solid waste which is used or sold for use as a soil amendment, artificial topsoil, growing medium or other applications to land." (British Columbia, Ministry of Environment) "Composting: The biological decomposition of organic municipal solid waste under controlled circumstances to a condition sufficiently stable for a nuisance-free storage and for safe use in land application." (British Columbia, Ministry of Environment) "Composting: The aerobic thermophile degradation of organic matter to make compost." (United States, Solid Waste Composting Council) "Composting: An officially controlled method or operation whereby putrescible solid wastes are broken down through microbic action to a material offering no hazard or nuisance factors to public health or well-being." (Alabama) "Compost: Solid waste which has undergone biological decomposition of organic matter, and has been disinfected using composting or similar technologies, and has been stabilized to a degree which is potentially beneficial to plant growth and which is used or sold for use as a soil amendment, artificial topsoil, growing medium amendment or other similar uses." (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi) "Composting: The process by which biological decomposition of organic solid waste is carried out under controlled aerobic conditions, and which stabilizes the organic fraction into a material which can easily and safely be stored, handled and used in an environmentally acceptable manner. The presence of anaerobic zones within the composting material will not cause the process to be classified as other than composting. Simple exposure of solid waste under uncontrolled conditions resulting in a natural decay is not composting." (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi) "Composting: The biological decomposition of organic waste under controlled conditions."

(Idaho) "Composting: The process in which organic solid waste is biologically decomposed under controlled conditions to yield a nuisance-free humus-like product." (Maryland, Pennsylvania) "Composting: The controlled aerobic, thermophilic, microbial degradation of solid organic material such as raw or treated sewage sludge, animal manure, paunch manure, plant or food residue or their mixtures, to a stabilized, humus-like material." (Nebraska) "Compost: Stabilized and sanitized product of composting which is beneficial to plant growth. It has undergone an initial rapid stage of decomposition and is in the process of humification."

(Zucconi and de Bertoldi 1987) "Urban Compost: A mixture of predominantly household solid waste which has undergone, during the manufacturing process, a natural heating of its mass to a temperature of 600C or more during a period of at least four days and preceded or followed by certain mechanical operations (sorting, crushing, shredding, iron removal, sifting, etc.)." (France, Standard NF U 44-051, 1981) "Compost: All organic matter (animal or vegetable), with or without additives (organic or inorganic), having undergone, by means of aerobic micro-organism action, an increase in temperature (400C) and a more or less advanced organic matter stabilization (humification)."

(Potvin and Cloutier 1989) "Compost: Organic conditioner obtained by fermenting a mixture mostly comprising, initially, a variety of vegetable residues and, eventually, animal-based organic matter, and having limited mineral matter content." (ISO standard 8157-1984) "Compost: Organic soil conditioner obtained by decomposition of a mixture consisting mainly of various vegetable residues, occasionally with organic materials of animal origin, and having a limited mineral content." (ISO standard 8l57-l984)

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