June 9, 2016

What is composting?

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OK, I’m in a better mood today. But still posting pictures of trash. Sorry, we’ll get back to edible food soon. But I think part of this effort is sharing the raw reality of building a business, and I think this topic is super important to share with everybody.

So many folks have been reaching out regarding the compost issue and it’s amazing. I thought I’d share some of the progress with you all.

First, regarding Save That Stuff. It’s like this giant mystery for us. I still don’t know when they first sent a load of compost to landfill, I think it might have been in December. But I don’t have facts. In any case, I know enough to believe that some of our compost is not being composted. No, “waste to energy” is not composting.

I saw one of their drivers the other day picking up at the HUB and asked where he was going with the truck. He said different locations different days. That day he was headed to Saugus. It would be fun to follow one of their compost trucks around someday to see what is in Saugus. Maybe this? Or maybe it’s a farm in Saugus? I don’t know.

In the meantime the folks at Savethatstuff were found dumpster diving at multiple Clover locations the other day. They thought they hit the jackpot when they found trash in the compost. Even posted it on their website. I investigated at that location (CloverBLV) and they said that after reading my post they thought why not put trash in the compost since it’s all going to landfill. Oops. Sorry all, I didn’t meant to say that. We are working on a new solution but it’s not there yet.

But there is a real issue with contamination in waste. There’s a reason recycling has moved to single stream. You and I aren’t good at sorting, so somebody downstream has to do the job for us. And those issues are bigger for compost because too much non-compostable stuff will totally screw up the composting process.

Hence the funny picture above. That is our HFI location. Obviously that speaker didn’t come from us. But honestly it is hard to police this sort of thing. It speaks to our society’s attitudes about trash. Which have been shaped by our trash systems, which put everything out of sight and out of mind. And I have no doubt our employees have accidentally put a plastic glove (one of the few non-compostable things in our kitchen) in the wrong can in the heat of the battle, or that a customer who didn’t know better (or didn’t care) put a non-compostable product from somewhere else (e.g., McDonald’s cup I found the other day) in the bin we label compost.

We need to find somebody to work with that has the same goals we do, which is to get nutrients back to the earth. I’m having conversations with a bunch of folks and some possible solutions are surfacing:

Cooperative Energy, Recycling, & Organics (CERO)

Bootstrap Compost (I think food scraps only, but we’re reaching out to them)

Republic Services (Harvard is using these guys for full commercial recycling – which means packaging)

I’ll report back on what we learn. Would be amazing if we can find a way to continue composting. Last time I researched options in depth it was after our 3rd vendor in 3 years went out of business and STS was the only option that could service us. But maybe that’s changing. Would be so exciting if we could find something that works better and actually gets our compost composted.

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