Handling Food Waste With Commercial Composting

Thursday, October 10th, 2019
Composting food waste

Food waste can be a big issue in cities across the country. Commercial composting is an efficient method for handling food waste that benefits more than just producers. The following details the benefits of composting and how the industry uses food waste to produce a quality product.

What happens when food waste is not composted

When food waste is not composted, it is sent directly to landfills where it can cause many issues. Toxic leachate can be created and if the waste is put into an airtight location, it can stop the natural decomposition process. When food waste mixes with other types of refuse, it creates an unhealthy environment in and around the landfill. Landfills are being filled and closed across the country at surprising rates, which causes waste disposal fees to increase rapidly as well. This hurts businesses and food producers.

The benefits of composting food waste

The benefits of commercial composting reach across industries and include the environment as well. Waste stream managers will be able to decrease the amount of food products disposed of in landfills. Farmers, landscapers, gardens, and other producers can create better products with high-quality compost. Here are some other benefits of commercial composting.

  • Water pollution can be reduced.
  • Soil and water can be conserved.
  • The need for pesticides is decreased.
  • Food producers can choose natural compost over chemical fertilizers.
  • Reforestation, land, and wildlife restoration can benefit by compost altering contaminated, compacted and marginal soils.
  • For those in the agriculture industry, compost can be used as a stable organic source of fertilizer.
  • Some crop yields can be increased.
  • Businesses can become part of a growing community of environmentally friendly people.
  • Raw ingredients that aren’t needed anymore can be recycled.

What can be composted?

Food waste that can be used in commercial compost includes some dairy products, fruits, vegetables, breads, grains, eggshells, coffee grounds, and some meats. You can also compost coffee filters and unbleached paper napkins. Some food producers, like vineyards, can use their own organic waste to create compost that can be reused onsite.

Grease, glass, plastics, metals, and chemicals should not be composted. Small amounts of red meat, bones, and paper products can be used in strongly controlled environments.

Pre-consumer food waste

This material is the easiest to compost because it is already raw and never touched by consumers. Because of this, it is often separated from food that has come into contact with contaminants.

Post-consumer food waste

This type of food waste can be more challenging to use because it must be separated. It is refuse from foods that have already been consumed by people. Both the commercial food industry and individuals can be sources of post-consumer food waste.

Methods for commercial composting

If commercial composting is something you are interested in doing, you have a few options. Here are just some of the choices you can use for your operation.

Passive composting

This method is simple. All you need to do is create piles and let the food waste decompose on its own. Keep in mind that this is time-consuming and can produce odors.

In-vessel composting

Another simple method for composting food waste is using a perforated vessel like a drum or barrel. These are easy to turn and can be used in urban areas. They can’t make as much compost though.

Composting with aerated static piles

Using piles placed on top of perforated pipes and blowers, you can easily create a large amount of compost. You do not have to turn the piles, but this can result in an inconsistent mixture and is weather sensitive.

Windrow composting

For medium to large-scale operations, windrow composting can be the most efficient method, especially if you have space outdoors. It is known for producing high-quality compost because it keeps the mixture uniform throughout the entire process. Windrows have specific temperature and oxygen requirements, which means they must be turned to maintain optimal quality.

Tips for making high-quality compost

Using food waste to make compost creates a unique situation. This material has a high moisture content, so a bulking agent must be used. Sawdust and yard waste are good choices because they have a high C:N ratio.

Keep in mind that food waste is prone to odor and leachate production. To help prevent odor build up, it is important to rotate your piles or windrows. This keeps them aerated and free of standing water. Some leachate and odor are normal and you can even reuse leachate to keep the right moisture content in your compost.

Using compost windrow turners

If you choose to use windrows for your composting operation, you will need to know how to maintain them. Besides creating the windrows with the right contents, you must also keep the moisture, air, temperature, and pH levels regulated. Compost turners can help you do all of this.

  1. Moisture levels: A level of 60% moisture allows microorganisms to work within the compost naturally. If the windrows reach a moisture level of 70%, the composting will slow down and there will be a foul odor. You will need to know exactly what materials you are using so you can calculate and monitor the moisture levels.
  2. Aeration: Oxygen is important for keeping your compost in good shape. The best way to mix air into your windrows is to use a compost turner. These machines come in a variety of sizes depending on your needs. Compost windrow turners are available from many dealers, but you shouldn’t pick the first one you see or the cheapest. Do some research and make sure that getting a used or refurbished turner is an option if that is better for your budget.
  3. PH levels: Getting the best pH levels can be done by regulating the C:N ratios in your windrows. You can do this by starting with a neutral pH, which will encourage a balance of microorganisms.
  4. Temperatures: Composting in windrows is usually done outdoors, which means the piles can be affected by the weather. Colder temperatures slow down the decomposition process while warmer weather will speed the process up.

Compost windrow turners from SCARAB International

If you are looking for high-quality, versatile compost turners, SCARAB International has a variety of options available. Our compost turners are made for small, medium, and larger operations. We offer New, Refurbished, and Used machines, as well as custom turners, made to your exact specifications. To find out more about our Products and Services, including Leasing, give us a call at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email.