Green waste derived compost contamination

As some of you may be aware, ABC News shared a story on Sunday 14 February 2021, reporting that ‘hundreds of Victorian home gardeners are angry and out of pocket after using toxic compost allegedly from major recycler Suez’.

The ABC reported that;

-    more than 200 Victorian gardeners noticed they lost vegetable crops after composting
-    some of the affected claim that the commercial compost came from a Suez recycling facility 
-    the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) have investigated and passed the matter onto Consumer Affairs Victoria
-    Experts believe the green waste derived compost was contaminated with a herbicide that wasn't identified during the composting process.

It is worth noting that this case is referring to green waste derived compost products only, there is no concern surrounding premium pine bark compost. 

Nursery & Garden Industry Victoria (NGIV) makes no comment on the accuracy of the information in the story, but NGIV can provide generic guidance by advising garden centres;

-    to check any green waste derived compost products to ensure they are certified against AS4454 (Australian Standard for Compost, Soil Conditioners and Mulches) and that where required, their source is EPA licensed.  This sourcing/certification should reduce (although not necessarily eliminate) the possibility of compost products containing contaminants; and 

-    if you’re concerned about any compost products stocked, to request evidence from the supplier of testing against AS4454 (including evidence of a bioassay and a test specific for phenoxy-acid herbicides). 

NGIV further suggests that if a garden centre receives queries from consumers about this issue, and the garden centre has any concern that there’s an issue with its green waste derived compost;

-    that it contacts the supplier in the first instance to enquire whether their compost product is certified against AS4454, and for any relevant further advice; or 

-    alternatively, the garden centre can suggest that the consumer may wish to consider having their compost tested by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited soil laboratory (find accredited facilities)

This story reinforces the importance of ensuring that any product sourced is certified against industry standards where possible.