By: Ingrid Sjostrand
AS COMPOSTING BECOMES A MORE POPULAR AND NECESSARY TOPIC, FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO SEE NATURE GIVE THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE PROCESS.
“Composting is earth’s natural way of recycling organic materials into soil. It is happening 24-7,” Tim Campbell of Midtown Composting explains. “If you go in the woods in the fall, the leaves drop, they compost over winter and spring, and in the summer vegetation grows. The leaves that were dropping, nature turned that back into soil, it’s a cycle that repeats forever.”
A good reason to start considering composting your own waste is that Midtown Composting is expanding to more homes and businesses in Ferndale and Royal Oak. Started in Detroit’s West Village in September 2017 as a part of an EcoWorks Youth Energy Squad Project, a year later Midtown Composting is now working with 45 businesses and 60 residences.
“The Youth Energy Squad takes Detroit youth through projects related to community, some related to sustainability,” Campbell, a member of the project, says. Once the summer program ended, there was still an interest in the community but no one to manage it so Campbell took on the task.
“It started with five restaurants in West Village, and now we are across this whole city of Detroit and southern Oakland County,” he says. “It’s grown like a wildfire and is still growing. We just added another driver and another vehicle.”
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS COMPOSTING?“ Instead of hauling something away as trash, such as fruit and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds – composting uses nature’s process to turn it back into soil so it can be grown into more food, and the cycle continues.”
Midtown has helped one restaurant completely eliminate dumpster services, and created a composting culture in the Detroit neighborhoods of the West Village and Corktown. They’ve added coffee grounds and brewery waste to their pickup, as well. Campbell says other cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and New York, have been composting for years, and Detroit is missing out.
“Our goal is to create a culture of zero waste by managing waste in a sustainable, responsible way that here in Detroit we are so behind in,” he says.
“It’s to help facilitate the growth of urban farmers, sourcing up locally grown produce, helping businesses save money in waste disposal. Our main goal is to provide the service that is missing. A lot of people want to compost but there is no one there to do it, so we are here to do that.”
They have relationships with urban farms in Detroit and Pontiac, where they deliver the composted materials, and are experimenting with produce delivery from the farms to local residences, similar to programs like Shipt that big box stores are doing.
“People can actually order fresh, organic, Detroit-grown produce, and have it delivered to their front door during compost pickups,” Campbell says. “It keeps the money closer to home, supports the community, less wear and tear on the roads, less fuel. The average piece of food travels 1500 miles from where it’s produced to where it’s eaten.”
WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD on plans for the future, Midtown Composting has experienced some challenges in their first year – like the side effects of composting including smell and bugs. Campbell isn’t concerned and considers these typical of the growing pains of any new business and solvable through education.
“When you implant composting in a place where it’s a foreign concept, people don’t know what it is,” he says. “There has to be an educational component –what this is and why there is a need for it.”
“What we need is for the whole community to help expand the culture. We need to educate each other, tell your friends, tell your neighbors,” he says. “We’re saying this is a problem – for the earth, for our community, for society – and this is a practical solution to address it. If you’re not interested at least you’re aware. We can’t ask for anything more.”
If you are interested in composting at your home or business, email email@example.com. For $12 per month, they’ll deliver a resealable bin and compostable bag to your home and schedule regular pickups.