Food Waste Composting Program Opens To Public Following Pilot Program

Food Waste Composting Program Opens To Public Following Pilot Program

Food Waste Composting Program Opens To Public Following Pilot Program Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 03 July 2018 19:11

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - New Hanover County has opened their composting program to the public for disposal of food waste.

According to a release issued last week, "New Hanover County’s Food Waste Composting Program is now fully operational and open to the public, after over a year of pilot testing the composting system. This new program diverts food waste from the landfill and makes a meaningful step towards reducing the amount of waste the county generates."

There is no charge for the service and anyone in New Hanover County can bring unpackaged food waste to the composter including businesses such as restaurants.

“If you ever throw out leftovers, stale bread, or rotten fruit – this program is for you,” said the county’s Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman. “In New Hanover County, more than 50% of the waste delivered to our landfill is food waste or other material that can be easily composted,” says Suleyman. “The county’s recycling programs and operations are diverting nearly everything we can from the landfill, except for food. So this program is a new and important way that residents can help save landfill space and reduce the county’s environmental impact.”

The composting program consists of an innovative mechanical in-vessel system designed to eliminate odors and wastewater issues that are typically associated with composting operations. It creates nutrient-rich compost that helps plants retain moisture, encourages strong root growth, provides a slow, steady release of nutrients, and protects the soil against some common pests and diseases.

Residents can bring the following food waste materials to the composter:
• Fruit and vegetable scraps (remove plastic stickers)
• Meat, poultry, and fish
• Dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter
• Spoiled or uneaten food, cooked or raw
• Breads, crackers, cookies, and other baked products
• Eggs and egg shells
• Pet food
• Pasta, cereals, grains, and flours
• Herbs and spices
• Coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea bags
• Any bags, plates, flatware, straws or cups marked “BPI Certified Compostable”

There are a number of materials that will not be accepted including plastics, metals such as cans, grease and oils and clam and oyster shells.

The composter is located at the New Hanover County Landfill (5210 U.S. Highway 421 N.). Residents can bring food waste during normal business hours free of charge.

Accoerding to County officials, the county’s composting system is unique because it utilizes the “in vessel” method of composting - all of the material is composted in an enclosed vessel in which temperature, air flow, and turning are managed in a controlled environment.

The compost generated is a mixture of ground yard waste, ground untreated dimensional lumber and pallets, food waste, and animal bedding. The recipe was carefully selected to provide the right balance of nutrients and consistency. The compost is processed to eliminate potential pathogens and destroy weed seeds and fungus spores, and screened to remove any potential contaminants or oversize material.

Compost is a soil amendment that helps plants retain moisture, encourages strong root growth, provides a slow, steady release of nutrients, and inoculates the soil against some common pests and diseases. Soils amended with compost support healthier plants that can withstand longer periods of drought, while producing higher yields of fruits and vegetables. Using compost instead of fertilizers helps reduce pollutants found in storm water runoff that affect our natural wetlands, rivers, and streams.

Currently, the compost is used for New Hanover County Parks and Gardens, including Airlie Gardens and the New Hanover County Arboretum. The compost is not available for purchase or private use.

Community organizations and non-profits interested in using the compost for research, education, or community gardens can contact Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 910-798-4400.

The County approved the pilot program in January of 2017. The cost for the composting machine was $369,884 and partially funded by $15,000 in grant funds awarded by the State of North Carolina's Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service.

In January 2017, Suleyman told the Board of Commissioners, "From the time a farmer plants a seed until we scrape our plates into the trash can in the kitchen, 52% or half of the food that's generated in this country ends up in a landfill. So it's a big challenge to take on and quite frankly it's kind of sickening to see that kind of waste occurring in our society especially when there is so much food insecurity and need out there."

He explained, "Food waste in the landfill creates several issues for us. An obvious one is it takes up a lot of space. With the finite amount of space we at the landfill  and that being a resource, it's certainly... a waste of that space. Secondly, it directly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. As that food waste decomposes it creates methane gas which is a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. And lastly, it creates an odor issue. A public health and safety issue."

He explained, "You are all familiar with what compost is. It's not a soil, it's an amendment, a conditioner and helps improve the uptake from the plants. We wanted to set out, not in the normal ways where you have these big fields and these massive piles you have to turn over, for a couple of different reasons. One is there's not enough space. There's not enough space out at the landfill, there's not enough space in our County to commit acres upon acres for that kind of operation."

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