A Winlaw business owner is hoping to offer door-to-door compost pick-up for West Kootenay homes and businesses starting in 2015.
For the last four years, Todd Veri of MyCrobz Bacteria Solutions has cultured microorganisms for Bokashi composting and provided services to local festivals. Now he wants to help prevent an estimated 350 tonnes of food waste generated in this area each week from going to the landfill.
“When I started Bokashi, I saw the benefits it could bring to not just backyard composting but the municipal level eventually,” he says. “But I had to do a lot of testing before I could push it to a commercial level.”
The proposed business, called Compost Bandit, would see customers each supplied with two or more air-tight containers, ranging from 13-litre buckets for apartments and single-family homes to 210-litre drums for restaurants.
Microbial inoculant is sprinkled on the compost as the containers fill up. Once full, they’re collected and replaced with clean ones, while the waste is processed into solid and liquid fertilizers.
“It offers a number of advantages,” Veri says. “It can be stored indoors, it doesn’t have to be picked up every week, it starts fermentation immediately, it doesn’t smell, and you can add anything you create in the kitchen.”
It also avoids one of the greatest hurdles discouraging people from backyard composting: bears. And unlike most municipal composting, it’s equally applicable to single family households and high-density dwellings.
Bokashi — a Japanese word for “fermented organic matter” — is also known as anaerobic fermentation. Waste decomposes into humus once mixed back into soil, in a process that can take less than a month. It preserves nutrients, particularly nitrogen, that are burned off in other composting methods.
Veri estimates about 100 local households plus a few schools and businesses already use the method to deal with their waste on-site.
He’s shooting for a summer launch, but figures he’ll need about $500,000 to pay for capital, start-up, and operations. At the moment, he’s the lone employee, but envisions it could provide work for seven to ten people.
He expects to have six collection routes and visit each at least every two weeks, targeting homes, multi-unit residential complexes, schools, businesses, and large-volume operations like restaurants, grocery stores, and hospitals. Bigger communities and commercial operations could see more frequent pick-up.
However, the market for the end product isn’t as clearly defined. While the fertilizer will be nutrient-rich and valuable, Vari says he’s doing some further testing to get a handle on what it would best be used for. “The idea is that what we’re left with is worth more than what it costs to collect and process,” he says.
Although a few businesses around the world offer compost pick-up, nearly all take their product to community gardens.
Veri expects his production facility to be somewhere between Nelson and Castlegar — potentially at a regional district landfill site such as Ootischenia — although the pick-up service would also cover Trail, Rossland, Creston, Nakusp, Kaslo, and places in between.
While he could serve entire municipalities, Veri says it’s not a requirement for start up, and he doesn’t anticipate any local government contracts at first. Nelson is looking at an “in vessel” system for institutional composting, while the Regional District of Central Kootenay is considering residential composting as part of its resource recovery plan.
While he’s uncertain of the exact number of customers he’ll need to make a go of the business, Veri figures “it’s in the hundreds.”
He says his rates will be comparable to or better than what commercial kitchens already pay haulers to remove organic waste, while the competition for residential customers is the status quo — sending food scraps to the landfill.
He can be reached at todd[at]mycrobz.com.