Industrial composting - also known as commercial composting - is a large-scale composting facility built to handle large volumes of compostable materials and food waste and process it into compost. Usually industrial composting facilities handle food waste from restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial facilities that may handle food. They may also accept yard waste from nurseries and landscaping companies. In many cities they have started green waste collection bins for individual citizens and it works just the same as curbside garbage pickup.
The waste is collected in the same way that trash is, in trucks that can deliver the material to the facility. These facilities need large amounts of space to be able to manage the amount of compostable waste that accumulates. The well managed facilities should not have any odor and for this to be achieved, the compost has to be turned or rotated regularly until it is broken down into compost. It can also be amended with straw for example, to promote the faster breakdown of organic material, and this requires manual labor. Workers must be present to check the temperatures of the piles and the microbial activity taking place. Unfortunately, this whole process cannot be fully automated yet due to these aspects.
Usually, the compost produced at these facilities is high-grade and can be used in urban landscaping, farms, and private gardens to amend the soil.
There are three techniques that industrial composting facilities use: windrow, in-vessel, and aerated static pile composting. We’ll take a deeper look into what these mean and how they work.
The windrow composting technique - also referred to as the aerated windrow comping method - is perfectly suitable for large volumes of food waste that can yield a significant amount of compost in a relatively short period of time. This method requires the organic waste to be formed into long rows called windrows and aerated regularly. Usually, these piles are about 1.5 meters - 2 meters tall and 4 meters - 5 meters wide. These piles are big enough to generate high temperatures and small enough to allow oxygen to effectively flow throw the pile’s core. It is an open-air process but animal byproducts are also able to be composted in this method. This method requires lots of space, sturdy equipment, and constant labor ignorer to maintain the piles.
In-vessel composting can take place in a smaller space than the windrow method and can process large amounts of waste, be that meat, animal manure, biosolids, and more. In this method, the organic waste is filled into a large vessel that is concrete-lined where the environmental factors can easily be controlled such as temperature, moisture levels, and airflow. The material is regularly turned to promote even breakdown. Very little odor and leachate is produced through this method, and the compost is ready to use in about a month. This method also uses much less land and manual labor compared to the window method.
Lastly, the aerated static pile composting method also produces compost quite fast and is mainly used for a relatively homogenous mix of organic materials, and is not typically used for the composting of animal byproducts or grease. For this method, the compost is piled onto loosely piled bulking agents, such as wood chips, shredded paper, or even pipes, to ensure airflow in and out of the pile. Turning is not required in this method so careful monitoring has to take place to make sure the outside of the pile heats up as much as the inside. Odors may also occur during this method and a way to alleviate this issue is just by putting a thick layer of finished compost on top of the pile. This method requires high costs and technical assistance due to the equipment needed.
Industrial compost not only provides us with high-quality compost for soil remediation, it also produces jobs, creates a greener environment, healthier soils, enhances food security, and helps reduce waste in landfills. Definitely check out your local computing facilities if you have any and take advantage of curbside pickup for green waste if that is available to you!