BioCycle March/April 2016
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Ninja Food Scraps Collection Service
Compost Ninja, an Iowa-based organics collection business founded by Aaron Hanson, started service on November 1, 2015. The Compost Ninja provides customers a 5-gallon bucket, which are set out weekly. The business currently has 39 residential and small business accounts in Iowa County, Linn County and Johnson County, Iowa. Each residential account generates about 9.2 pounds/week of organics. Interested customers can start with a free 30-day trial, and pay $25/month or a $250/year afterwards. Hanson’s goal is to accept 100 new accounts per year, but if the current trend continues, that may be closer to 175 to 200 new customers annually. Cargo bikes are used for most residential pick ups; a truck and trailer are used in winter months. Hanson would like to convert a diesel engine to run on vegetable oil to reduce the service’s carbon footprint and overhead. He plans to collect vegetable oil from small companies at no cost. Currently, composting is done in a static pile in Hanson’s backyard.
All organic material, including meat, bones, dairy, soiled paper and certified bioplastics, are accepted. The Compost Ninja’s point system sets the service apart from similar programs in other communities, he explains: “Buckets are weighed when they are collected. Customers receive one point per pound of organics. During the summer, they can redeem their points for fresh compost or fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown with compost they helped generate.”
Arthur, Ontario: Transition At All-Treat Farms
One of Canada’s oldest composting companies has been purchased by another with an even longer operating history. Walker Industries, based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, bought All-Treat Farms, a major supplier of bagged compost products and soil amendments (see “Ontario Composter Expands With Digestate Processing,” August 2015). The acquisition is a good fit for Walker from both a business and values perspective, explains Mike Watt, executive vice-president of Walker Environment Group, one of the company’s three corporate divisions, which will include All-Treat. He adds that Walker’s composting operation was entirely devoted to bulk sales to farms and soil blenders. The company wanted to get involved in retail sales of higher value bagged products, which have been All-Treat’s mainstay. In addition, both operations use Gore Cover composting technology.
Farmers LaVerne and Freda White started All-Treat about 60 years ago in the village of Arthur, initially selling dehydrated and bagged manure. With their son George and his wife Lynda (who have retired), it gradually expanded into a composting operation that processed an ever-increasing range of feedstocks, marketing and producing a wide variety of soil amendments. The Walker family began its business five generations ago, in 1887, as stonecutters. Walker Environmental Group is involved in both waste management and composting, operating a landfill in Thorold, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, where one of its 8 composting sites is located. With the acquisition of All-Treat, Walker’s composting facilities will process more than 330,000 tons of feedstock annually, according to Watt, who adds that All-Treat’s 70 employees will bring Walker’s total to about 700. Operations will continue largely unchanged, but plans call for eventually expanding the facility. All-Treat “wanted to do a lot of improvements,” says Watt, such as more automation of the bagging process. Walker views composting as a production, rather than waste management, business. “I think the industry suffers from viewing it the other way around,” notes Watt. “You need to start with a quality product, and then work backwards through optimizing the feedstock and how it’s processed.”