How Does Compost Collection Work? | Compost Crew

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 14, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; image credit, Compost Crew

Composting home kitchen scraps is essential. It’s one of the most critical climate actions we can take as we rush to keep global warming below 1.5ºC and avoid the much feared tipping point (that threatens to trigger runaway warming). In fact, composting is so vital to our survival as a human species, that if you’re not already composting, it’s imperative that you begin today. 

In John Doerr’s new book Speed & Scale, An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, he explains that food waste is roughly 33% of all the food that’s produced, and is responsible for 2 billion tons (GtC) of CO2e each year, most of which is in the form of methane emitted from landfills. “Every pound of wasted food is a pound of wasted water and energy,” he asserts. In order to reach net-zero, Doerr outlined that we must decrease food waste from the current 33% of food produced to 10%.

In order to achieve this goal, composting should be mandatory in every state. But there’s more. Compost significantly increases soli health in the following ways:

  • boosts carbon drawdown substantially
  • increases soil water infiltration rate
  • keeps soil moist during high heat especially when dense biodiverse plants are grown on the surface to keep the soil protected
  • adds vital nutrients and microbes to the soil which increases the nutrient density of vegetables and fruits

“Compost is like a sponge that helps soil retail moisture.” 

Kiss the Ground, Netflix

Click here to learn more about what food scraps can and can’t be composted. 

There are 3 options for what to do with your compost each week once it’s collected:

1. Create your our own compost pile. Depending on what size yard you have, and how much time and patience you have are at your disposal, you may decide to set-up your own compost pile, or purchase and manage a compost bin. Bins are sold at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Amazon, and most big box stores. YouTube has a large number of “How To” videos that will guide you. Warning, there’s a bit of science and math involved. You’ll have to keep track of green and brown ratio, etc. And compost piles often attract wildlife that will have to be managed.

2. Compost Drop off. Most communities now have at least one compost drop-off location. Drop-off works well for a household of one, possibly two people, but families will likely prefer signing up for compost collection service.

3. Compost collection service. The Compost Crew provides weekly curbside pick-up throughout metro Washington DC. They are a great example of the evolution of the composting industry and a model for how the industry has taken off as millions of us rush to change our daily habits to minimize our impact on the environment and become more sustainable. Hopefully, laws will be passed soon requiring composting in all communities.

Below are the questions I asked Compost Crew’s Dan Israel, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing, in order to provide the public with insights into the how a composting collection service operates.

When did you start Compost Crew? Compost Crew was started in 2011.  Last year, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary and received proclamations from both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County.

In a few sentences can you explain how you got off the ground.  (How did you find funding?) The company was originally self-funded.  In 2018, Ben Parry purchased Compost Crew and became our CEO.  Last year, we raised additional funds for further expansion from several investors including Exelon’s Climate Change Investment Initiative (2c2i).

Who were your first customers? Compost Crew originally started by servicing homes in Montgomery County.  Over the years we have expanded geographically into the District of Columbia, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and much of the surrounding area.  We have also expanded to serve commercial customers like grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, senior living communities and property management firms.

How did the growth happen? We’re now in our 11th year.  There’s so much opportunity in front of us – the region produces 700,000 tons of food waste each year, and only a fraction of that is composted.  So, we expect to be able to keep growing.

Two states and DC are a unique arrangement. Different laws, different climate action plans, different levels of urgency. Which communities and which state have/has best existing legislation that supports composting?Maryland passed a law last year that will require large waste generators to compost their food waste, starting in 2023.  Ben (our CEO) spoke in front of both the House of Delegates and the Senate in support of this legislation.  Outside our region, California’s new composting bill requires all businesses and residents to compost their food waste – we want to work with DC, Maryland and Virginia to make that a reality in our region.

Do you plan to grow down to Fredericksburg and out to Gainesville or is your goal to have more customers sign up in your established area? We see plenty of opportunity to grow within our existing service area.  Many homes and businesses still throw their food waste in the trash, which is a missed opportunity to recycle these materials into nutrient-rich compost.  Having said that, we’re open to expanding into other communities, particularly in partnership with local governments.

Have you ever tried to win over Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill as a customer? While we generally don’t discuss the work we may do for specific customers, we have seen significant growth in the number of area office buildings and other businesses using our composting services over the past year.  And we’re always happy to speak to anyone about the benefits of composting at their workplace.

How much does the service cost? Our standard residential rate is $32 per month for weekly curbside collection.  Many neighborhoods have lower rates, based on large numbers of homes who have signed up for our service as a community.  Our rates for businesses depend on the amount of food waste and the frequency of collection.

What did I forget to ask, or what additional information would you like readers to know? Compost Crew has begun building distributed composting facilities in the region, including our first one at One Acre Farm.  We call them our Compost Outposts.  We’re aiming to put more of these Compost Outposts around the region, in partnership with farms, schools and local municipalities, to process the food scraps closer to where they are generated.  That will reduce the amount of resources spent hauling the food scraps and will make our communities more resilient.  

Twice a year, spring and fall, Compost Crew delivers a bag of finished compost to your doorstep to use in your yard, or for your house plants. You may decide to share with neighbors and encourage them to compost as well. Our future will become much brighter when everyone is composting.

Treehugger named Compost Crew the “Best Composting Service in DC, 2020.” Congratulations, Compost Crew! Keep up the great work.

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Watermelons In the Desert | “From Sand to Hope”

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 7, 2021, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

For the millions of passionate and determined people across the globe who are championing nature-based climate solutions, boosting soil health to grow more crops, trees, and biodiversity, is of critical importance. The IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) warns that 75 percent of the Earth’s land is degraded. The 2020 documentary, Kiss the Ground, cautioned that unless we fix our soils, we only have 60 harvests left.

Join the conversation and receive regular climate action tips, and soil health and biodiversity advice by staying engaged at Act Now for the Earth Cafe. You’ll feel hopeful when you ask questions and interact with like-minded others about finding solutions that will help the earth recover from the damage of climate change. You’ll feel confident that we can succeed at staying below tipping points. It’s all about community. We’d greatly value you being part of our ecosystem. CLICK here today and join the conversation at  Earth Cafe!

In order to grow the vast majority of our food, as much as 95 percent say some, we need healthy topsoil. Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta and a team of soil health experts associated with Understanding Ag in Bismarck, North Dakota, know just how to solve the soil health crisis. These mavericks shunned conventional farming practices years ago. For Gabe, it all began in the mid-to-late 1990’s, after four intense years of complete crop destruction due to weather events, during which he made a stunning discovery. This led to no-till testing, crop rotations, and diverse cover crop mixes that create an armor that protects the soil and locks in carbon, boosts water infiltration, retains moisture, and keeps the soil temperature cool. These soil health experts travel the U.S. and the world, educating farmers on regenerative agriculture practices and helping farmers restore degraded farmland. Gabe Brown’s book, Dirt to Soil, outlines the six soil health principles that not only restore soil health, but also significantly increase carbon drawdown. 

Healthy soil is a massive carbon reservoir. “If we want to achieve drawdown, we have to go thank the earth, and start to farm and grow our plants and trees in an entirely different way.” (Kiss the Ground)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Arabian sun beats down with unforgiving force, there is another team of soil mavericks who’ve spent the better part of nearly two decades testing and experimenting innovative ways to bring the desert sands back to life. 

Fluid dynamics engineer, Kristian P Olesen with Desert Control in Norway, conducted endless experiments in search of a nanoclay formula that would increase the surface of the grains of sand in order for each to have the structure and ability to retain water and nutrients. The innovative clay infusion idea came from an analysis of the fertile Nile, more than a thousand miles away, and the realization that it was the clay from the East African drainage basin that feeds into the Nile that made the delta so productive. 

Fifteen years later, Kristian P Olesen had his ah-ha moment.

Growing watermelons on the desert sand, not only restores life to this massive stretch of unproductive desert, but it feeds the local community and provides jobs. The process is simple. Farmers spray the sand with the nanoclay treatment, and seven hours later, they can plant their watermelons. 

Liquid Nanoclay:

  • Soil recovery technology
  • The right amount of clay holds the desert sand together
  • Degraded sandy soil around world is different and needs a different nanoclay formula
  • Years of testing was conducted in China, Egypt, UAE, and Pakistan
  • Research and development was based on Cationic Exchange Capacity

Chief Executive of Desert Control, Ole Sivertsen (“hope maker and climate optimist”), explained Cationic Exchange Capacity to the BBC. “Clay particles have a negative charge due to their chemical make-up, while sand grains are positive. This natural polarity means that when they physically meet, they bind.”

  • Nanoclay formula creates a 200-300 nanometre layer around each grain of sand that generates a form similar to a snowflake
  • The larger surface area of the snowflake enables water and nutrients to stick to the sand instead of run off
  • Treatment lasts about five years and then farmers have to top up
  • Nanoclay only works with sandy soil

For non-sandy degraded soil in other regions, as mentioned, the solution is the soil health movement’s six principles for healthy soil which is often expedited by using biochar — burned compost that transforms into a carbon rich form similar to charcoal, with a large surface area that’s light and porous — added to nutrient rich compost and worked into the soil.

Desert Control emphasized to the BBC that their mission is to use nanoclay to take the degraded desert land “from sand to hope.”  

The next steps for Desert Control is to lower the cost by scaling up the production of nanoclay and distributing throughout the UAE. Desert Control plans to:

  • build small mobile factories
  • each mobile factory would produce 10,500 gallons of nanoclay an hour
  • the mobile factories would be used in UAE city parks
  • the nanoclay treatment would reduce watering by 47 percent 

“The very practices that heal our soil, will also heal our climate.” (Kiss the Ground)

Check back each week for new climate optimism articles featuring innovative ideas that will help solve the climate crisis.

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