by Alex Vipond
Last year, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) passed a regulation to drastically decrease the amount of food waste going to landfills, where it usually emits potent greenhouse gases. Instead, the DEP wants this food waste to be composted.
However, the DEP reports that composting plants in Massachusetts only have enough capacity for about half of the newly diverted food waste. They are hoping more composters will step up to the plate and take in more waste.
To solve this problem, we—Harrison Ackerman (SEI alum), Eli Brown (undergraduate civil engineer), and Alex Vipond (SEI undergraduate)—are starting The Compost Project. The Compost Project will turn this food waste into rich, high quality compost, which can be sold to large farmers, small farmers, conventional farmers, organic farmers – you name it. In our startup stage, we will be targeting local farms near Boston and urban gardeners.
We will be different from current competitors in two key ways. First, we will be using worms to do the composting, whereas most compost plants use heavy machinery to turn massive piles of waste. An extra benefit is that the worms can be sold alongside the compost as animal feed, fish bait, or for small-scale composting.
Second, applying what we have learned from the Social Enterprise Institute, we will incorporate social impact into our business model. The Compost Project will collect food waste from schools, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. in low-income areas of Boston, and sell or donate some compost to urban farmers in those same areas. This can lead to sustainable economic growth and a stronger food system. Also, we will engage with the community to ensure that people, especially children, can learn about food systems, waste management, and how to increase urban resilience and sustainability.
Our exit strategy is to hand off company ownership to members of those low-income communities as we expand The Compost Project to disadvantaged areas of other cities or even countries.
Major benefits of The Compost Project include healthier soil, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and economic opportunities for the people that need them the most.