Greeley composting company continues to grow | TheFencePost.com

Greeley composting company continues to grow

Bridgett Weaver

He's not a garbage man, and he's not homeless.

Schmidt and his wife, Brittany, own Common Good Compost, a compost collection and production company in Greeley.

Common Good is just over a year old, and now Schmidt says they're ready to expand into the second phase of the business — a lot sooner than originally expected.

In April, the business picked up a large contract with University of Northern Colorado's Holmes Dining Hall that pushed them into the expansion.

Although it's just one of three dining halls at UNC, the amount of compostable waste that comes out is substantial, Schmidt said.

He said part of the deal with Holmes Dining Hall is based on the weight they collect. So far, he estimates he collects about 30,000 pounds of food waste from the dining hall each month.

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"Even with their conservative approach to food, they're still making an absurd amount of waste," he said.

They will post signs each month with the amount collected the month before so students and other visitors know what they're diverting from the landfills by choosing to scrape the food off their plates rather than throw it all in the trash.

He said they will collect year-round. Even when school is out, there are camps and meetings that keep the dining hall busy.

That's why he had to expand the operation, which, with the residential sales, was previously a greenhouse in a backyard.

Now, they are operating at Wise Acres Greenhouse in Greeley, at 35th Avenue and O Street, a few miles north of the Safeway on 10th Street.

They split the land with the UNC Farm, which grows food for Holmes Dining Hall, and with Hoffman Farms, a private business.

Schmidt said it's kind of cool to work alongside the UNC farm because they grow food on the farm, which goes to Holmes and then back to him at Common Good.

"It's completing the circle," he said.

Now most of the business' profit comes from its 65 residential customers who pay to have their compost collected and turned into fertilizer, which they get back in bags.

"For now, we do collect the food waste but we do give it back to our customers so there's not a lot left to sell," he said. "It's a big part of our service. "

There have been a lot of changes over the year in business, but that's not one of them. Customers will always get first pick of the compost.

In fact, Schmidt just finished setting up an interactive website that helps residential customers control their service.

"Up until now, we'd just take phone calls or emails from customers and set up their accounts online," he said. "This software allows people to actually create their own accounts if they want to be new customers. It allows them to do everything."

They can even put in a request for a bag of compost on the website.

Schmidt graduated last year from UNC's sustainability program and it's important to him to be able to help in this way. But he fears it's adding to the problem.

"There's a huge problem existing and we're not providing a solution to it. This is a symptomatic approach," he said. "We're tackling a symptom. We are diverting it from a landfill, but the real problem is that it's being created in the first place."

He said often the waste comes from people taking too much on their plate or from inefficient harvesters that leave food in the ground.

"Eighty percent of this stuff could have been avoided," he said. He estimates about 20 percent of it is eggshells, tops of veggies and other things that can't be consumed, but too often people are wasting their food.

It's part of a larger problem plaguing America and the world.

"According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a third of the food that's produced or imported to the U.S. does not get consumed by people," he said. "And $1 trillion worth of food is wasted worldwide every year."

But he is glad they have the contract with Holmes Dining Hall. He said it allows him to opportunity to make something out of the waste.

Most people think that when they throw food away, it breaks down at the landfill, but that's not what happens.

"It's a pretty common misconception that food waste breaks down in a landfill but there's no oxygen and no water. They have to cover (the garbage) every time," he said. "If there's not oxygen and there's not water, it doesn't decompose."

He said by sending the food waste to them, they break it down with water and air and — boom — about four months later, it is food for the soil. It's important to do it right, or the compost won't smell good. And Schmidt loves the earthy smell of good compost.

He said they have just started the process with Holmes, so they don't know yet how much compost they'll make, but he expects there will be some extra to sell.

He also hopes to soon close a deal with Vestas, which will make even more compost available for sale.

He has a third phase of expansion in mind, but that's a while off, he said.

For now, he's focused on maintaining the customer service for both residential and commercial contracts.

And he likes turning people's food trash into food for the dirt. ❖

Common Good Compost

To learn more about Common Good Compost, go to http://www.commongoodcompost.org, or search on Facebook for Common Good Compost, LLC. Schmidt also can be reached by phone at (970) 308-7508.

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