A Hanover firm that collects organic garbage from Upper Valley households without the space or time to do composting will be expanding to Concord next month, using the Concord Food Co-op on Main Street as a drop-off point while it considers whether to start curbside compost pickup in the area.
The founder said the expansion shows that picking up organic garbage isn’t just a trendy environmental move but is an actual business.
“We’ve been profitable for a while now. We hired our first employee and we’ve been in business less than a year,” said Jessica Saturley-Hall, founder of Upper Valley Compost, which will be changing its name to New Hampshire Compost Co. as it makes the shift. “We’re diverting 1,300 pounds per week from around 200 households in the Upper Valley” from seven towns in New Hampshire and four towns in Vermont.
“We’ve found there are a ton of people interested in this,” she said.
Customers include people who have downsized and no longer have a yard with room to maintain a compost pile, people living in rental units – “even families that just don’t have the time.”
A subscription is $12.99 a month, with the first month discounted to $9.99. For that price you can drop off up to one five-gallon bucket of organic material at the Co-op per week, getting an empty bucket in exchange.
“You pick up the bucket, take it home, put all your compostable material in it,” Saturley-Hall said.
The company does some curbside compost pickup in the Upper Valley, but plans for Concord have yet to be worked out.
The company does a little bit of vermicomposting – composting with worms – but mostly takes the material to commercial composting facilities in Vermont – where composting is mandated and the infrastructure is more advanced – and a little in New Hampshire.
If the Concord business takes off, it may set up a pilot project to compost at a Concord-area farm, Saturley-Hall said.
Advice for backyard composting says to avoid materials that don’t rot well, such as citrus, nut shells or meat, which attracts animals. Those limits don’t apply here.
“We’ll take shellfish shells, bones, we’ll take lobsters – anything. If it grows, it goes,” Saturley-Hall said. “All of that stuff breaks down perfectly well – after all, if an animal dies in the middle of the woods, it’s going to break down.”
The different materials just need “a little more attention and expertise,” according to Saturley-Hall.
“When you’re talking about managed composting in commercial facilities, that’s hot composting. Temperatures reach up to … 160 degrees, and that does a really great job of breaking down all that material.”
The environmental advantages of composting are several. For one thing, it removes material from landfills – 20 percent of what goes into U.S. landfills is food waste, according to the EPA.
For another, it reduces the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Inside a tightly compacted landfill, organic material undergoes anaerobic decomposition – basically, rotting without oxygen – which produces methane. Compost piles are turned or otherwise aerated, often by the action of worms, and the presence of oxygen changes the chemical reaction so that carbon dioxide rather than methane is released.
Finally, compost produces material that can be returned to the land as a natural fertilizer or stabilizer, whereas food in a landfill will never be reused.
For more information, check the website: uppervalleycompost.com.