Q&A with Nick Skeadas, Founder of Curbside Compost
What was the genesis of Curbside Compost?
I founded Curbside Compost five years ago, knowing that I had to start building the infrastructure and process to take food scraps out of the trash. Twenty-two percent of our waste stream is food scraps. I saw a gap in the market and I wanted to get in front of the issue. We started with households and began running residential collection out of Ridgefield. Word spread and I kept on going and now work with towns across Fairfield county. I engage schools, supermarkets and offices and am continually looking to new sources [of food scraps]. We keep reinvesting, growing the routes and building infrastructure and awareness.
Why is waste reduction so important?
We are at a cross roads around waste and how to address it. Incinerators in Connecticut are aging and need significant capital investment. It doesn’t make sense to invest in antiquated technology that fixed waste issues 30 years ago. But if we don’t solve the problem now we will start shipping more waste out of state. That’s an expensive, polluting and inefficient solution. We need to focus on waste reduction. The single largest component of our trash is food waste. Connecticut incinerates 400,000 tons of food waste per year. Removing food scraps is the low hanging fruit and easy answer to reducing waste.
What happens to the food scraps once they are removed from the waste stream?
Food scraps should be thought of as a resource rather than waste. They are loaded with organic nutrients and can easily be mixed with carbon to produce nutrient rich compost. Composting is the the oldest system of recycling on our planet. Compost can be put back into the earth to improve the health of our soil and plants. It increases soil moisture, combats erosion, supports essential soil bacteria, controls for weeds, stabilizes soil ph and reduces water needs.
How does Curbside Compost work?
We offer residential and commercial services and also work with municipalities. Our residential service is really easy. You take your food scraps and put them in your compost bucket, provided by Curbside Compost. You don’t need an outside set up. We collect the bucket from your home weekly and we clean it. You can put all and any food scraps in the bucket. We take meat, bones, dairy, cut flowers and even small house plants. In New Canaan, we will start a drop-off program on November 10th. Residents can bring their food waste to the New Canaan Transfer Station and we will collect it there. Food scraps can be dumped directly, or dropped off in compostable BPI certified bags.
Where do you take food scraps you collect?
We work with three processing plants, all permitted by Connecticut’s Department of Energy an Environmental Protection (DEEP): New England Compost, New Milford Farms and Quantum Biopower. Different processors have different requirements but generally speaking all food scraps should be very clean with zero packaging. The majority of our food scraps go to New Milford Farms. They were the first state-permitted composting facility in Connecticut and participate in the US Composting Council Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) program, which ensures high-quality compost. We sell and deliver compost, garden soil and mulch into Fairfield county by the bag and by the yard. You don’t have to be a member of the collection service to buy our compost.
What’s the uptake of composting been since Curbside Compost’s inception?
Uptake has been great. People love the program. It’s well aligned with the widely held belief that we should be thoughtful about how we handle our trash. The more people who join, the more people who compost the bigger and better environmental impact we can make. Our customers are awesome. It’s been a wonderful experience.
What’s the biggest barrier you encounter in your business?
We are focused on awareness building and making composting easy and attractive. We want to make it something anyone can do, like recycling. But people need to want to do it. We want to help Connecticut get ahead of the curve. For example, Vermont recently banned food scraps from the trash. It would be great to lay the groundwork for food scraps removal here in Connecticut, well ahead of regulation.
What’s your big goal for composting?
For Connecticut to take all food scraps out of the waste stream, just get all out. If we do that we can reduce our overall waste production by 22%. That’s significant.