Thursday, May 10, 2012

Biodegradable business

Composting company develops Corridor presence

By Pat Shaver
Corridor Business Journal

If it can be composted, it should be.

That’s one of the goals of GreenRU, a composting company that started in Des Moines about a year ago.

The business has been gaining a presence in the Corridor over that last several months, said Demetrios Hadjis, marketing and sales representative from GreenRU. They provide full composting services; including education, training, collection containers and services.

GreenRU offers businesses a workplace composting program that collects and diverts food scraps, paper products and other organic materials from being taken to a landfill.

“The opportunity for the company was to say, ‘Is anybody in a position right now to collect and provide education, training and the platform necessary for small-business restraints, colleges, schools, institutions to have organic waste collected and most importantly establish a method to have that done,” Mr. Hadjis said.

GreenRU has programs with about 30 businesses statewide, he added.

“If you consider that almost 60 plus percent of current waste flow going to the landfill can be composted,” he said, “this is just another way of taking care of the ecological footprint.”

Along with kitchen and cafeteria composting of food scraps, Mr. Hadjis said they also work with industries where during their process, part of the product is used and the other part is wasted.

For example, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in Cedar Rapids produces large quantities of corn stalks that come off corn dryers. They use the kernels to make ethanol blends, but are not using the cobs and stalks. Those can be composted.

“This is a rich cultural area from a agricultural production perspective, there are a lot of organic waste streams being manufactured. Industry alone is one thing,” he said.

Another example, he said, Hubbard Feeds in Iowa City can compost grain dust produced during its process.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels recently started a GreenRU program where the club can compost pre-consumer concession waste.

There is a lot of opportunity to have similar programs in restaurants and kitchens.

“Casinos, look at the opportunity there with buffets. By the time you’re done, you have half-full tray of food waste. It’s really sad because that could easily be diverted from the landfill,” Mr. Hadjis said. “Colleges, schools, institutions, casinos, the list keeps going on and on. That’s a tremendous amount of waste that could be diverted.”

“Most people are used to throwing things in the trash. Learning the separation process takes a little time and it takes a shift in the cultural paradigm,” Mr. Hadjis said. “We’re hoping through education, posters and information that shift occurs.”

“In most cases people are aware of it, and in some cases they are already doing it,” he added.

Mr. Hadjis said they recently did an audit at a hotel. They took a random sample of a few trash bags and found that almost 80 percent of the trash could have been separated and composted.

“In most employee environments, there’s a blue container for recycling paper, another for cans and plastic, this is another bin for them to direct compostable waste as opposed to landfill waste,” Mr. Hadjis said.

The company has also started programs for Red Star Yeast and Nordstrom Direct in Cedar Rapids.

Landfills worldwide are expected to reach capacity by 2030.

More than 34 million tons of food waste is thrown away by U.S. homes and businesses and food waste is now the fastest-growing food waste stream sent to landfills, according to a GreenRU press release.

GreenRU will do a waste audit and measure the amount of organic waste that the business is generating. With the audit information, they will determine a frequency that works best for the volume.

GreenRU representatives will be on site when the program starts and will provide signage, training and information to get the company going.

To be designated as compostable, a material has to biodegrade and disintegrate in a composting system under standard test methods. Criteria has been established by the Institute for Standards Research under ASTM D 6400 Specifications for Compostable Plastics.

Organic materials, when re-purposed into compost, make a nutrient rich soil amendment and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. GreenRU’s composted material will be put back onto Iowa land.

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