by Ben Parry, CEO
The Greater Washington D.C. region produces approximately 700,000 tons of food waste annually – more than the weight of every Boeing 747 ever built. Only a fraction of that gets composted or recycled in any way. The region has few composting facilities that accept food scraps, which over time could limit our ability to divert food waste from landfills and make enough compost to support local food production.
Fortunately, Free State Farms, in partnership with Prince William County, recently commissioned Phase 1 of its 100,000 ton per year facility in Manassas, VA. This state-of-the-art compost facility, coupled with the Prince George’s County Organics Recycling Facility, provides the DMV region with much-needed capacity that allows Compost Crew and other businesses to continue bringing food scrap collection services to homes and businesses throughout the area.
Composting can be deployed at various scales using different technologies. It’s important to complement these industrial facilities with on-farm and other small to medium decentralized compost facilities. Decentralized facilities can be established near a community garden, on the campus of an apartment or office building, or even in an unused corner of a school campus. Compost Crew has established an on-farm composting facility in Maryland, and plans to build more soon
These smaller facilities, located close to the point of waste generation, can help tighten the circular economy. Food that is ideally grown by local producers can be purchased at a farm market or distributed by a CSA. When this happens, nutrients are exported from the soil. Food scraps that would otherwise be landfilled or burnt can be collected and composted. When this compost is used on a local farm, the nutrients are imported back to the soil, helping to maintain soil health while increasing the nutritional value of the food grown there.
A tight circular economy has other benefits, including:
1) creating local collection, composting and farming jobs,
2) reducing truck traffic and
3) reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We applaud the work done by Free State Farms and look forward to collaborating with them and others to help local governments, businesses and neighborhoods build a lower-risk, more resilient food production and recycling system.