From trash to cash: Seattle's new composting law is big business for Cedar Grove
Friday, February 27, 2015
Posted by: Anne Piacentino
Source: Puget Sound Business Journal
Feb 26, 2015
Cedar Grove said it's concerned businesses that aren't used to composting could cause sorting headaches.
Seattle's new composting requirements have driven a 30 percent increase in new customers for the local company in charge of dealing with all those food scraps.
But the company says some of that new business – it flat-out stinks.
Cedar Grove has been processing the vast majority of Seattle's compost from those who signed up on voluntary basis since 1988. But when laws went into effect in January requiring the entire city to do it, the company said it got a little worried about reluctant sorters.
"When we heard about the ban, it was definitely a concern," said Cedar Grove Vice President Stephan Banchero."If people are forced to do this, what are they actually putting in those containers? It defeats the purpose if it's not the right material."
Banchero said there haven't been any drastic issues so far, but it's still too early to say exactly what effect the new rules will have.
Most businesses that produce a lot of compostable material, such as restaurants, have been doing this for years, Banchero said. But others that have never thought about it before, like gas stations and banks, are just now getting their shiny new composting bins.
Soon, they'll start putting them to use. And that's when Cedar Grove needs to be on the lookout.
The company is about to start taking in a lot more material – which it processes and then sells to be used for things like gardening. On the other hand, it's about to work a lot harder to make sure that fertilizer isn't tainted by plastics and other inorganic materials.
"Our goal has always been to create a good partnership with the City of Seattle. We'll support their initiatives," Banchero said. "I would say it's been positive so far, but we're working around the clock to ensure that we're continuing on that positive path."
Cedar Grove is a third generation family business dating back to 1938.
Several different companies pick up the food and yard waste throughout Seattle, but — for the most part — it all eventually ends up at one of Cedar Grove's two processing facilities.
Recology, a California company that handles some of the collection here, says it too has seen about 30 percent increase in new customer signups since the rules went into affect.
It has spent the past few months putting out more containers, redoing routes to handle the extra loads and educating composting newbies about what does — and doesn't — go in.
But inevitably, some of the wrong stuff is going to slip through.
The first line of defense is the collector, who can tag trouble containers while out on a route.
The material that does make it into Cedar Grove's facility also runs through a sorting machine that uses puffs of air pull out certain materials.
But Banchero said all these things take time. "We know there's always going to be a certain level of issue. You can't control what everyone does at every moment. So we try to do our best to mitigate it," he said. "We're not scrambling or running around in circles. We're able to maintain, but there's definitely more work with the increased amount."