Last modified: March 22, 2019

More About the Problem...
The composting industry is threatened by the increasingly widespread use of herbicide products in turf and agricultural applications that are making compost products unmarketable due to their persistence. These relatively new herbicide products contain clopyralid (and related herbicide compounds) and are slow to break down during composting and are damaging to nontarget plants at very low concentrations.

The source of the clopyralid contamination in Spokane WA was traced specifically to the turf product, Confront, produced and marketed by Dow AgroSciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company). It is heavily applied there by commercial lawn care applicators whose services are widely used by homeowners and golf courses for control of such "noxious" weeds as dandelions and clover.
Plants grown in compost containing persistent herbicides can be damaged or killed by minute quantities of the herbicide.

Persistent herbicides pose grave threats to the entire compost industry, as well as to state and local government programs that promote both backyard and centralized composting as the best management method of dealing with yard trimmings. Composting facility operators in have invested millions of dollars in testing and marketing compost products to the public, nurseries and landscapers in order to improve regional soil quality, reduce water consumption demands and improve water quality. Many communities ban the disposal of yard trimmings with garbage and many states prohibit the disposal of yard trimmings in landfills.

The existence of a class of herbicides that can damage the marketability of compost products is totally contradictory to all of our goals for recycling, resource conservation and sustainability.

Dow AgroSciences claims to have fulfilled its labeling obligations with its product Confront since the label reads: "Do not use compost containing grass clippings from turf treated with Confront within the growing season of application." This label is totally inadequate since this message is only being delivered to the commercial applicator who applies the chemical to lawns and not to the homeowner or lawn maintenance company who collects the grass clippings.

Dow has proposed that the solution lies in educating composters and testing compost batches. Dow has also proposed developing an inoculant product that could be sold to composters in order to break down clopyralid.
But these approaches are unacceptable because they place the entire burden of testing through costly laboratory analytical work and disposing of unmarketable compost products on compost producers (local government or composting facility owners/operators). These burdens are the responsibility of the manufacturer of the herbicide product.

Dow must follow the Precautionary Principle and withdraw Confront immediately until Dow can prove that it is, or can be made, safe for recycling organics - or the product should be banned by local and state governments. Dow must take full financial responsibility for damage wrought by its product.

[adapted from Gabriella Uhlar-Heffner]

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