How Does Compost Collection Work? | Compost Crew

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 13, 2022 | Updated May 2, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; image credit, Compost Crew

Composting home kitchen scraps is essential. It’s one of the most critical climate actions we can take as we rush to keep global warming below 1.5ºC and avoid the much feared tipping point (that threatens to trigger runaway warming). In fact, composting is so vital to our survival as a human species, that if you’re not already composting, it’s imperative that you begin today. 

In John Doerr’s new book Speed & Scale, An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, he explains that food waste is roughly 33% of all the food that’s produced, and is responsible for 2 billion tons (GtC) of CO2e each year, most of which is in the form of methane emitted from landfills. “Every pound of wasted food is a pound of wasted water and energy,” Doerr asserts. In order to reach net-zero, Doerr outlined that we must decrease food waste from the current 33% of food produced to 10%.

In order to achieve this goal, composting should be mandatory in every state.

But there’s more. Compost significantly increases soil health in the following ways:

  • substantially boosts carbon drawdown
  • increases soil water infiltration rate
  • keeps soil moist during high heat especially when dense biodiverse plants are grown on the surface to keep the soil protected
  • adds vital nutrients and microbes to the soil which increases the nutrient density of vegetables and fruits

“Compost is like a sponge that helps soil retail moisture.” 

Kiss the Ground, Netflix

Click here to learn more about what food scraps can and can’t be composted. 

There are 3 options for what to do with your compost each week once it’s collected:

1. Create your our own compost pile. Depending on what size yard you have, and how much time and patience you have are at your disposal, you may decide to set-up your own compost pile, or purchase and manage a compost bin. Bins are sold at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Amazon, and most big box stores. YouTube has a large number of “How To” videos that will guide you. Warning, there’s a bit of science and math involved. You’ll have to keep track of green and brown ratio, etc. And compost piles often attract wildlife that will have to be managed.

2. Compost Drop off. Most communities now have at least one compost drop-off location. Drop-off works well for a household of one, possibly two people, but families will likely prefer signing up for compost collection service.

3. Compost collection service. The Compost Crew provides weekly curbside pick-up throughout metro Washington DC (DMV). They are a great example of the evolution of the composting industry and a model for how the industry has taken off as millions of us rush to change our daily habits in an effort to minimize our impact on the environment and become more sustainable. Hopefully, laws will be passed soon requiring composting in all communities.

Compost Crew’s rapid growth in 2021 resulted in remarkable data that will hopefully inspire more households to jump onboard this humanity-saving climate solution.

Compost Crew:

  • diverted 7.5 million pounds of organic waste in 2021 (cutting methane emissions from landfills)
  • surpassed 7,000 commercial and residential customers
  • doubled the number of commercial pick-ups
  • began composting programs with schools at a significant clip (Prince William County Public Schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Capitol Hill Day School and Holton-Arms School all joined in 2021)
  • earned the prestigious Green Business Innovator of the Year award by Montgomery County, MD
  • received the Organics Diversion Program of the Year from the US Composting Council
  • CEO Ben Parry named to Waste 360 40 Under 40 list for his contributions to the zero waste industry

“We are thrilled to be working with Compost Crew!” said the Greenheart business team. “Not only does this partnership allow us to easily and safely compost, but together we can educate more customers on the importance of composting as part of a sustainable lifestyle.”

On April 18, 2022, Compost Crew announced in a press release that it closed a $5.5 million round of investment funding “led by Lattice Impact Capital, a New York-based sustainable infrastructure fund that invests in companies, projects, and assets that will transition the world to a more environmentally sustainable future.” The press release went to to state that “additional investors in this round of funding include: the Tower Companies, which has been a Compost Crew customer since 2015; K Street Capital; and several local executives and long-time Compost Crew customers.”

Below are the questions I asked Compost Crew’s Dan Israel, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing, in January 2022 in the hopes that it would provide the public with insights into the how a composting collection service operates.

When did you start Compost Crew? Compost Crew was started in 2011.  Last year, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary and received proclamations from both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County.

In a few sentences can you explain how you got off the ground.  (How did you find funding?) The company was originally self-funded.  In 2018, Ben Parry purchased Compost Crew and became our CEO.  Last year, we raised additional funds for further expansion from several investors including Exelon’s Climate Change Investment Initiative (2c2i).

Who were your first customers? Compost Crew originally started by servicing homes in Montgomery County.  Over the years we have expanded geographically into the District of Columbia, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and much of the surrounding area.  We have also expanded to serve commercial customers like grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, senior living communities and property management firms.

How did the growth happen? We’re now in our 11th year.  There’s so much opportunity in front of us – the region produces 700,000 tons of food waste each year, and only a fraction of that is composted.  So, we expect to be able to keep growing.

Two states and DC are a unique arrangement. Different laws, different climate action plans, different levels of urgency. Which communities and which state have/has best existing legislation that supports composting? Maryland passed a law last year that will require large waste generators to compost their food waste, starting in 2023.  Ben (our CEO) spoke in front of both the House of Delegates and the Senate in support of this legislation.  Outside our region, California’s new composting bill requires all businesses and residents to compost their food waste – we want to work with DC, Maryland and Virginia to make that a reality in our region.

Do you plan to grow down to Fredericksburg and out to Gainesville or is your goal to have more customers sign up in your established area? We see plenty of opportunity to grow within our existing service area.  Many homes and businesses still throw their food waste in the trash, which is a missed opportunity to recycle these materials into nutrient-rich compost.  Having said that, we’re open to expanding into other communities, particularly in partnership with local governments.

Have you ever tried to win over Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill as a customer? While we generally don’t discuss the work we may do for specific customers, we have seen significant growth in the number of area office buildings and other businesses using our composting services over the past year.  And we’re always happy to speak to anyone about the benefits of composting at their workplace.

How much does the service cost? Our standard residential rate is $32 per month for weekly curbside collection.  Many neighborhoods have lower rates, based on large numbers of homes who have signed up for our service as a community.  Our rates for businesses depend on the amount of food waste and the frequency of collection.

What did I forget to ask, or what additional information would you like readers to know? Compost Crew has begun building distributed composting facilities in the region, including our first one at One Acre Farm.  We call them our Compost Outposts.  We’re aiming to put more of these Compost Outposts around the region, in partnership with farms, schools and local municipalities, to process the food scraps closer to where they are generated.  That will reduce the amount of resources spent hauling the food scraps and will make our communities more resilient.  

Twice a year, spring and fall, Compost Crew delivers a bag of finished compost to your doorstep to use in your yard, or for your house plants. You may decide to share with neighbors and encourage them to compost as well. Our future will become much brighter when everyone is composting.

Treehugger named Compost Crew the “Best Composting Service in DC, 2020.” Congratulations, Compost Crew! Keep up the great work.

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