Go Local: Compost

Today’s post features guest contributor Eric Walter, who runs Black Bear Composting, an organics recycling company located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Black Bear Composting helps local business shrink their waste stream by recycling their food scraps via composting.

With all of the benefits of composting commonly given, I have yet to see a story on how composting is a great way to keep things local. Going local—eating local foods, or supporting local businesses—reduces environmental impact by cutting down on transportation. Composting tends to happen locally by its very nature, because the materials being collected for composting are very heavy and can’t be transported long distances economically.

Our clients are taking the densest, heaviest materials (typically food scraps) out of their waste stream and setting them aside for a direct trip to our compost windrows—less than 40 miles away from most customers. The rest of the waste takes an initial trip to a local transfer station about 18 miles away. From there the food scraps we recycled would have otherwise had an additional 70 miles to travel beyond the transfer station for final disposal.

Separating the densest, heaviest part out of the waste stream also cuts the transportation costs of remaining materials. With wet, heavy food out of the mix, dumpsters are lighter to move, thus burning less fuel. Use a compactor on the (now lighter) remaining waste, and you can even collect less often—reducing the transportation footprint even more.

By giving us their food scraps, one of our clients—a 600-student middle school—has reduced its waste by 1,300 pounds per week. That’s 1,300 pounds not traveling an extra 50 miles, for just one school. Imagine that environmental impact multiplied by all schools, business, and households.

By reducing transportation, composting is a great way to shrink your environmental footprint. It deserves to be part of the conversation about ways to go local.

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