TNCC: Eureka, A Composter

IMG_2921 Last year, in 2008, Telluride's The New Community Coalition applied for and received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment for $145,000 for two pieces of equipment to further our Zero Waste goals and promote recycling in the region. One request was for a baler (a compacter for recyclable materials), the other was for an in-vessel composting system. After much research and some logistical delays, Eureka! the composter is now operating with a little help from a technician from Green Mountain Technologies.

Working with SUNRISE, Inc. TNCC will help develop a pilot program working (we hope) with the school and definitely with La Cocina de Luz. Once we get more familiar with the process, timing, and materials mix we hope to expand our composting into a regional service, likely starting with restaurants and evolving into a residential program over time.

What are the challenges?
 
Lots of people do and/or would like to compost. The trick here is that it is cold and snowy for long periods of time, and when it is not cold and snowy, we have major bear issues. There are other small-scale ways to compost and there should be some up and coming workshops by CSU Extension in January. But on a larger scale we needed something that would compost fairly quickly, be contained, easy to use, and able to take in a continuous stream of materials.

Why is this important?
 
The amount of organic or compostable material that goes into the landfill generally runs between 40-60% of an average waste stream. In a landfill these materials break down anaerobically and produce methane gas. Methane gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So having those organics in the landfill is not good for our already challenged environment. In contrast, when organics are composted there is some carbon dioxide given off, but very little if any methane. Plus we get a valuable by-product – the compost – out of the process. Compost is a highly beneficial soil amendment that feeds plants and soil micro-organisms.

How does our composter work?

Telluride's new composter works by having a mix of organic materials in the right ratios dumped into the bin. The auger then mixes the materials and can be adjusted. (It is currently on one cycle every 12 hours.) It also has an automatic moisture control and it is enclosed with polycarbonate (basically a mini-greenhouse) so temperatures remain higher and composting (done by microbes) happens quicker.

For further information, contact TNCC, 970-728-1340.

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