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Composting startup aims to ease pressure on expanding landfills

Community Composting

Every Thursday, Luke Stodola goes out driving, filling the bed of his truck with, well, poop. Sometimes, buckets and buckets of it.

“We give them a bucket full of composted soil, their cats defecate into the soil and we re-compost that soil cat-poop mixture into more compost,” Stodola said.

He works with an alternative waste-management company in upstate New York. He and the co-owners of Community Composting provide door to door service collecting food scraps, and the occasional bucket of cat litter.

Once all is collected, they take the organic waste to a composting plant. It’s a process the team says could also ease pressure on local landfills.

According to Stodola, the compost program allows urban dwellers who maybe don’t have facilities in their own backyard, an opportunity to compost.

“They fill that bucket with food waste, we pick up that bucket, process it, and return them either a bucket full of fully-composted soil, kitchen plants, or they can donate that soil to a community garden,” he said.

On a sunny morning outside of Joe Bean Coffee, joined Stodola poured coffee grounds into a large basin in the back of his truck.

"They have a number of buckets full of delicious smelling espresso," Stodola described. “It smells pretty terrible usually."

That quickly became apparent along his route to various homes.

Joe Bean Coffee Roasters was one of the first companies to link up with the composting team before the composting business formally launched.

Joe Bean Co-owner Kathy Turiano says the partnership was formed when the would-be owners were working with Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.

“They were taking our compost just as part of looking for something for their farm and the CSA that they were working with,” she said.

That partnership sparked the plan for Community Compost.

“As we produced more and more composting they started recognizing that it was a whole separate business.”

Joe Bean is one of four commercial customers. Now, more than one hundred Rochester residents compost with the program, which started up last year.

Co-owner, Brent Arnold, says that a big part of the mission is to divert food waste from landfills.

“If we are able to divert a massive amount -- 40 to 60 percent -- of the material going into landfills that obviously extends the life of landfills and means that we don't need to build as many of them,” he explains.

Arnold says that this also benefits communities near landfills.

“Our service is actually doing a great thing for communities that have landfills because it means that they don't have to keep building or expanding upon them at as fast of a rate,” he said.

That hits close to home for many in the area. The Mill Seat Landfill announced last year that it would reach full capacity by 2018. That landfill services municipalities across the Rochester Area.

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