Going Green: Commercial composting
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Everyday institutions like Upstate Medical University Hospital generate tons of food waste but now a lot of that waste is being recycled into a useful product.
Greg Gelewski, OCCRA recycling operations manager said, “We are a commercial composter, where we are composting commercial, institutional and industrial food waste, that’s food waste from the universities, from SU to OCC to LeMoyne, taking those food scraps, combining them with our locally generated yard waste from residents and municipalities.”
Here at the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency’s composting operation they use a recipe of three to one, that’s three parts yard waste to one part food waste and then aerate the mixture.
Gelewski said, “We inject air into the system giving it the oxygen that it needs, we achieve temperatures in excess of 150 degrees and we monitor that for 30 days before we take it off to prepare it for screening and within 90 days it’s (compost) prepared for distribution for the public.
You hear that going in the background right now, that is a one and a half horsepower blower that is cycled to come on for 3 to 5 minutes every 15 to 18 minutes.
If you were creating compost by turning the waste pile to move air through it, it would take about 12 months.
Gelewski said, “Here with us injecting air and our material movement we’re able to take that process down to 60 to 90 days for distribution. We’re testing the product and making sure the nutrient content is there, making sure we don’t have any elevated metals and testing for pathogens such as fecal coliform and salmonella.”
And why would institutions and businesses want to ship food waste here?
“Large generators like LeMoyne and University Hospital, Syracuse University and Paul DeLima Coffee have a financial incentive to compost. Composting is less than half the cost of traditional trash disposal,” said Gelewski.