Local Businessmen To Build State’s First Industrial-Scale Composting Plant

Jan 27, 2014

For a pair of Rhode Island businessmen, sending food waste to the landfill doesn’t make any sense. So they’re raising money to build a composting plant. It would be the state’s first industrial-scale composting facility.

Decayed food waste breaks down into soil. Composting is a natural way to recycle food waste that would otherwise make its way to the landfill.
Credit Kessner Photography via Creative Commons

The Central Landfill is expected to reach full capacity in about 25 years. Leo Pollock and Nat Harris said their composting facility is not going to solve the state’s landfill problem, but it will help. 

“We really need to see a much more robust network of composting businesses as well as farms that are doing composting to really get food waste out of the waste stream and help preserve the life of the landfill,” said Pollock.

Pollock and Harris plan to build the composting plant in an enclosed facility.

“So that would not only minimize the possibility of any odor issues,” said Pollock. “But it also then means that it would prevent dealing with what are normally called vectors, so things like seagulls or rats or, if you’re in a rural area, coyotes.”

Pollock said he and his business partner are still scouting industrial sites for the composting plant in the greater Providence area, but the plant would serve the Providence metropolitan area.

“We feel there is a high volume of food waste in particular from commercial businesses, [such as] restaurants, food processors, schools, and other institutions,” said Pollock.

Pollock and Harris have already secured a collection truck. They’ll start their pilot program in March, collecting food scraps from a few participating schools and restaurants. Earth Care Farm, which has been composting since 1979, will help out until Pollock and Harris have their own facility.

Because composting in the state is an underdeveloped sector, Pollock and Harris see their first business opportunity with large volume waste producers. Pollock says with some education, large businesses can separate their food waste properly, so that the compost has very little plastic, metal, and glass.

“And that’s a huge priority for Earth Care Farm, as well as for us, because we really want the end product [the soil] that we are looking to make to be a high quality, high value compost product,” said Pollock.

Pollock and Harris see this composting endeavor not only as an opportunity to re-direct some of the waste stream going to the Central Landfill, but also as an opportunity to support a thriving and growing interest in local food production, by producing soil. Harris says it’s time to take advantage of wasted food that’s great at breaking down into soil.

“So instead of using fertilizers, which are created through the use of petroleum, we can use a natural product, compost, to grow plants and foods,” said Harris.

The two businessmen hope to sell soil from the composted food waste at farmer’s markets and through local retailers, such as nurseries, beginning next year.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we’d like to hear from you. news@ripr.org