What is Commercial Composting?

Commercial or industrial composting is large-scale composting which is designed to handle a very high volume of organic waste, as opposed to private or home composting, which handles organic waste from one household or facility. The compost produced by a commercial composting facility can be sold to farms and nurseries, applied to municipal landscaping, or sold to individuals, depending on how the facility is organized. With a growing interest in composting, recycling, and reducing the environmental impact of doing business in the early 21st century, commercial composting operations expanded radically.

waste composting

A typical commercial composting operation collects waste from restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial facilities which handle food. It may also collect yard waste from nurseries and landscaping companies. Some commercial composters handle greenwaste bins from individual citizens, as well, with people putting yard and food waste into a separate container and setting that container out for regular collection along with garbage and recycling. Some commercial composting facilities work side by side with municipal garbage and recycling agencies to make it easy for people to take advantage of the services of the composter, while others are privatized.

Waste collection is accomplished with a fleet of trucks which deliver the material to a central facility for composting. Some commercial composting companies also allow people to drop off compost, usually in the form of large truckloads from farms and agricultural facilities. The sheer volume of waste requires a lot of space for composting, and it’s ideal for anaerobic composting, in which compost is broken down quickly by anaerobic organisms which generate tremendous heat as a waste product.

When well-managed, a commercial composting facility should not generate odor, whether it is anaerobic or aerobic. Staffers manage the compost, turning or rotating it as necessary and processing the finished compost for sale or distribution. Staff members can also amend the compost, adding materials like straw and chaff to the compost to promote rapid and even breakdown, and they keep an eye on the health of the compost piles with tools like temperature sensors and probes which can be used to pull samples of the bacteria inside the compost.

The compost produced at a commercial facility can be very high-grade, especially if the staff are conscientious about handling and sorting their compost. In the case of a municipal agency, the compost may be used on city landscaping, or distributed for free to citizens who ask for it. Privatized companies tend to sell their compost, or they engage in cooperative agreements with farms which supply raw organic waste and receive finished compost in return.

In some cities, commercial composting has started out as a volunteer-organized effort of citizens who want to promote composting. Over time, many of these free composting cooperatives have been turned into commercial operations, in response to growing demand for composting services.

compost

The right conditions and processes:

Humans have improved upon the natural composting process very little in the last few thousand years, and as such decomposing organic matter will usually need little human interference to perform at its optimal capacity if provided with the right ingredients and conditions. As such, if the right ingredients are used in the correct ratio, then the correct conditions for optimum compost rates will usually create themselves. The composting process will be efficient and effective, with minimal generation of offensive odours and/or environmental problems if the following conditions are maintained: „

Moisture must be kept at a level between 35 and 60%. The compost should have the feel of a squeezed out sponge. Moisture levels can be estimated by attempting to make a ball with a handful of composting material. Generally, a weak ball may be formed that will break apart when bounced in the hand. If the material is unable to hold any shape at all, the compost is likely to be too dry. If water is able to be squeezed from the ball, the material is likely to be too moist;

The acidity of the material needs to be kept at a pH level less than 7.5. This is best controlled by ensuring that a balanced input of materials is maintained (e.g. the addition of too much lime will increase the alkalinity of the compost); and „

Temperatures within the compost are required to be around 55°C. Digging into the heap should give off heat that warms the hand without discomfort. This rule, however, differs for vermiculture systems where the ideal temperature for optimal worm activity is around 20°C. Too high a temperature may result in worm migration out of the active feedstock layer and lead to a breakdown of the system. Optimum temperatures, moisture levels, aeration and mixtures of materials will generally provide good incidental control of flies and other insect pests. Rodents, birds and feral animals may be a little harder to control. However, good site hygiene and management will lessen the requirement for specific control measures. Pre-processing, to physically break larger-sized material down into smaller, more readily degraded fragments, can often improve the efficiency of the process by reducing the time taken to produce a suitable product. An example of this is through the preferential addition of sawdust as opposed to woodchips.

windrow composting process

Related Reading:

How to Compost Cow Dung?

Parameters Affecting Composting Process and Generated Compost Quality

Compostable Materials Around Us- What to Compost

Chicken Litter Composting Technology

Municipal Solid Waste Composting Process

How to Compost Winery Waste?

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