I started a new job this month at Chesapeake Compost Works, a new company in Baltimore started by my friend Vinnie. Adjusting to a new schedule has been hard, I am officially now a commuter, driving from DC to Baltimore everyday has given me a whole new perspective on the ball and chain of driving. I’m hoping I can relocate to Bmore in the coming months to be closer to work, not to mention I think it may be good for my soul to be a little further from the partisan hellhole that is DC.
As many of you may know, soil has been an interest of mine for some time, see previous posts, Peak Soil & Geeking out about soil. I am excited to wrap my head around the logistics of turning food waste, high in nutrients, into high quality living soils. We accept source separated organics from haulers who pickup daily from restaurants, hospitals, caiterers, universities and others and pay tipping fees for dropping it at our site. After a relatively short turnaround period this organic material is broken down into rich humus, a valuable soil amendment for landscapers, farmers, gardeners and restoration projects. If you want to learn more and see it for yourself, we are having a Grand Opening Celebration on November 9th from 3:30 to 5:00pm. There will be a tour the facility, speeches from local business owners, farmers, and community leaders including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake.
Right now we are still building out the facility, an approx 3 acre site of indoor warehouse and outdoor yard space in a heavy industrial part of Baltimore’s southern port. We are installing a series of aerated bays that pull air from within the warehouse through the compost piles and outside into a biofilter. The biofilter pushes the air through a woodchip and compost media that uses activated microorganisms to scrub odors. In the coming months as we reach full operation we will be processing 30 tons of food scraps per day.
Climate Chaos/ Soil Alchemy
So far it has been exciting to be part of a new venture, and one that I can truly get behind in, as I believe that composting is on the verge of nationwide adoption just as recycling took hold some 30 years ago. Topsoil on earth has twice as much carbon as the atmosphere and all living vegetation combined. In the past 20 years we have lost nearly 50% of soil carbon in our most productive agricultural soils due to industrial ag. Thus any solution to the climate crisis must address closing the loop in our soil fertility. On the other side of the equation One ton of food waste in a landfill generates 0.25 tons of methane (or 6 tons of CO2) as it decomposes anaerobically. Composting instead turns this into stable form of organic carbon and by applying it to the soil, is one of the most effective ways to reduce CO2 into the atmosphere.
One thing I love about composting is its close association with the cycle of life and death. I am reminded how we are composed of the same elements which compose all other life on earth. How the earth passes in and out of our bodies just as we pass in and out of the earth. Everything that was once living goes into the compost pile, wood, apple cores, meat, even bones, and after the decomposer communities of microorganisms are done, out comes one uniform consistency. It really brings the “everything is connected” idea to the level of a daily mantra.