Question: What's better than compost?

Answer: Compost made from food waste! Sure, as gardeners we routinely save kitchen scraps and add them to our compost piles (you are doing this, right?) and if we're a little bit more motivated might even find a local business or two that can collect buckets of scraps for us.


If you've been reading INWIG for a while, you may remember that my wife is a baker and would often bring home heaps of banana peels and other nutrient-rich organics that were destined for the dumpster. How can this procedure be expanded though, as most bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores don't have employees willing to cart buckets of scraps home?


***

Recently I learned that my favorite local composting operation had teamed up with a Utah-based company to do just that in the Midwest!

St. Louis Composting and Ecoscraps have partnered... well, here's the opening of the recent press release:
Salt Lake City (March 18, 2014) ­ Ecoscraps, a provider of organic, chemical- and manure-free lawn and garden products, today announced its partnership with St. Louis Composting to make Ecoscraps¹ organic, OMRI-listed compost soils and fertilizers available to retail nurseries and garden centers. Through the partnership, Ecoscraps is expanding the company¹s sustainable, closed-loop business model to the lawn & garden market in the Midwestern United States.
After reading the entire release, I was left with questions. Will St. Louis Composting actually produce the compost made from food waste, or just sell Ecoscraps products? Will the area's food waste collection program increase because of this announcement?


I had a conversation with Ecoscraps co-founder and CEO Dan Blake to get some answers.

(Similar to my recent "interview" with St. Louis-based SeedGeeks, I'm going to summarize what I learned rather than present Dan's answers verbatim.)

So what exactly does this partnership mean? It means that St. Louis Composting will become the "manufacturing facility" of sorts for the Ecoscraps products -- most of which are sold as bagged composts and soils -- in what Dan calls the "upper Midwest" region. (I don't typically think of St. Louis as "upper", but I suppose it's pretty much borderline between where upper and lower meet, and "middle Midwest" just sounds silly.)

This means that if I go to a local Target -- listed as one of retailers that carry Ecoscraps products -- I will be getting locally-produced product, not something that was created in California and shipped out here. Dan assured me that they keep the products as local as possible not only for "green" reasons, but because it makes business sense: soil is very heavy and therefore expensive to transport!

On the question of this partnership increasing the food waste collection in the area, the answer is yes, but by what amount is not yet known. Ecoscraps coordinates with food waste collection companies who already operate locally, with the goal being a continual increase in the number of businesses participating. Dan mentioned that a typical large supermarket produces X tons of food waste a week. (I've forgotten the number so left it as "X" -- but even if the amount is just 1 ton a week -- that's alarming!)

Since I'm not a big fan of bagged products -- preferring to skip the plastic bag waste and buy in bulk -- I asked Dan if St. Louis Composting would be carrying Ecoscraps products in bulk, or if they'd just be producing. His answer was that they don't have immediate plans for bulk products, and need to get the operation up and running before they can consider moving in that area. It sounded like some of their facilities in other parts of the country offer bulk products, so I'm hoping that happens sooner rather than later in St. Louis!

If you visit the Ecoscraps website, you'll see that their goal is not just to turn food waste into product, but to actually reduce the shocking amount of food waste in the US. My final question to Dan was along the lines of "what happens when you're successful at alleviating the food waste problem -- your business goes away, doesn't it?"

Dan's answer: He'd be overjoyed to have to shut down Ecoscraps because there wasn't enough food waste to support it!

I'll try to talk to somebody at St. Louis Composting about this on my next trip over there. I'm hoping that it's a productive partnership!

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Anonymous –   – (April 5, 2014 at 7:52 AM)  

This is exciting. As for bagged products, they're great for me, whose garden isn't the size of yours.

Alan  – (April 5, 2014 at 10:40 AM)  

I agree it's exciting! I also didn't mean to disparage bagged products -- they're important for so many gardeners, myself included. I buy bulk when I can, but sometimes a few bags is all I need. :)

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