Garbage Gone Green
Solutions Story: Cedar Grove Composting
How did a family owned composting business transform the NW garbage industry, capture carbon and change consumer behavior, all while operating a sustainable business model and creating green jobs?
"Our program has really significantly impacted this community in developing a great carbon reduction story."
-Steve Banchero, President, Cedar Grove Composting
Cedar Grove Composting, a local and family- owned business, has rescued recoverable and reusable organics from the garbage pile and changed the face of the solid waste industry in the Northwest. With an innovative life-cycle management process, they collect lawn clippings, leaves, and food waste to process into high quality compost. Through collaboration with local governments and businesses, Cedar Grove has grown from 12 employees to 104, and has become one of the largest urban commercial composters in the United States.
The Underlying Problems: Food waste is estimated to account for 50% of the total waste stream. When food or organic scraps are thrown into the trash, they unnecessarily increase garbage quantities, landfill size, and methane gas releases. Starting over 17 years ago, the City of Seattle, WA contracted with Cedar Grove and started encouraging their customers to compost their food and yard waste. This collaboration of government encouragement, customer involvement and business investment has made composting in the NW a huge success. As a result, Cedar Grove has made it’s business by recycling over 5 million tons of organic waste, and turning it into a successful line of quality, earth-friendly compost and soil products.
Changing Consumer Behavior: One of the biggest challenges that Cedar Grove faced when public area food waste programs were put into place was ensuring that the right food service packaging ended up in bins destined for its composting piles. To address this, they successfully worked with the country’s top compostable packaging manufacturers on a color-marked, easy to sort suite of products that would be easily identified by consumers. Today, those manufacturers have collaborated with Cedar Grove to create a widely recognized line of compostable products such as plates, cups and cutlery with a distinctive brown marking.
The Carbon Math: The carbon advantages of composting are not limited to the organic waste recycling process. For each US ton of organic material composted, 93% of a metric tonnes of carbon equivalent greenhouse gases are not released. Through the process, the carbon in the food and yard waste is maintained and incorporated into the compost soil providing a nutrient rich base for gardening or agriculture. By increasing carbon levels and building a healthy microbial community in soils, compost is helping to reduce erosion and flooding, regulate temperatures, feed existing organisms to make nutrients available to plants.
Featured in video: Steve Banchero, Jerry Bartlett, Susan Thoman and Jami Burke
Cedar Grove Composting is part of a family-owned, 500-employee enterprise with roots in the waste management business going back to 1938. As the Pacific Northwest's leading organic recycling company, Cedar Grove transforms grass, leaves, yard trimmings, food waste and wood waste into the finest nutrient-rich compost. From a humble beginning, Cedar Grove has developed a full line of healthy soils with a loyal following and has grown to become the largest single dedicated yard waste composting facility in the United States.
Featured in video: Lisa Taylor
Seattle Tilth is a local organization that inspires and educates people to grow food organically, conserve natural resources and support local food systems in order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community. Seattle Tilth encourages compost use, is a customer of Cedar Grove Composting, and teaches classes on the importance of composting and the different methods available.