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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Central FL: Ripe with Options for Food Waste

The Magic of Compost was evident during the U.S. Composting Council's 2013 pre-conference Tour of Central Florida Composting Facilities.  A bus filled with enthusiastic conference attendees spent the day touring C & C Peat Co and the Vista Park Organics Recycling sites. Common ground for the two facilities included: 1> the Walmart pre-consumer food waste intake and 2> ample permitted food waste capacity.

Steve @ entrance to his 30+ yr
family-owned business
C & C Peat Co., a family-run business co-founded in 1981 by Stephen Cook, was the first tour stop.  As a horticulture company, C & C Peat produces USDA Bio-Preferred Certified products sold in bulk to nurseries and operations with significant grounds maintenance, such as Sea World.

For C & C Peat the main intake for the compost operations is horse bedding from Central Florida thoroughbred racing stables, typically pine shavings. In addition to the horse bedding, C & C adds pre-consumer food waste and slurry (2% bio-solids)  from the adjacent water treatment plant.  Due to concern over herbicides and pesticides, C & C Peat does not accept yard trimmings as a carbon source for their compost recipe.

on-site assembled blender, shredder
and screener
Sand, pine bark sent through a 7/8 inch screen, Canadian Sphagnum peat and time-release fertilizer pellets are added to the compost to produce the C & C Peat end product. During production, each 5 yard mix increment must be consistent when it goes into the blender, shredder, and screener to ensure a consistent load after processing the entire batch.  Loads may be as large as 80 cubic yards.

Simplicity is one of C & C Peat's key ingredients to producing their high quality product.  Even without the technology bells and whistles, C & C Peat has an impressive equipment capital investment required to convert manure, food waste and bio-solid slurry into a valuable horticulture product.

During the tour, Steve confirmed C & C Peat would accept post-consumer food waste including certified compostable packaging, as long as the feedstock is reasonably contaminant-free.  For a pictorial recap of the tour, visit the Elemental Impact FB album, 01-28-13 C & C Peat Tour.

The WM Team 
In time for lunch provided by Publix, the tour group traveled to Waste Management's Vista Park Organics Recycling located at their Apopka landfill.  As a response to Walmart's food waste composting commitment, WM invested in a 12-acre, 30,000 yard capacity aerated static pile system.  Feedstock includes pre-consumer food waste and woody yard debris. Garick oversees operations and end product sales.

After mixing the intake into the proper recipe ratios, the food and woody debris are transferred to concrete bunkers with negative air filter slabs.  The filter system keeps the piles aerated, which prevents methane gas production during decomposition, and pulls air filled with "smelly" microbial activity into a cedar bio-filter. Every 15 days the piles are moved to the next bunker until the compost is finished in 60 days.

Food waste & yard debris in
concrete aerated bunker
Garick sells the compost in bulk under the Organic Valley Compost brand.  Local residents may purchase the bulk product Monday through Friday at the facility.  For a pictorial recap of the Vista Park site tour, see the Ei FB album, 01-28-13 WM Composting Site Tour.

While many communities lack food waste composting destination sites, Central Florida is blessed with two open, permitted facilities operating well under their food waste intake capacity.  With Orlando close-by, it is perplexing to know food waste travels to landfills with available local alternatives.

The USCC | National Restaurant Association partnership is designed to equate the supply and demand challenges inherent within mobilizing the foodservice industry to source-separate food waste for composting collection.  Central Florida is ripe for equating the ample food waste supply available with the composting site destination demand.  For details on the USCC | NRA partnership, see the ZWA Blog, Collaboration is Key to Success.

To experience the magic inherent within the 2013 USCC Conference, read the ZWA Blog post, Compost, A Magical Experience.  It is empowering to witness an ancient industry rediscovering its identity within modern times and innovative technologies..


  1. "...facilities operating well under their food waste intake capacity, with Orlando close-by....", I am shocked. Holly, thank you for your inquisitive and incisive posts.

    1. Thanks Rajesh! You know my brain is spinning on how we can equalize this supply | demand out of balance scenario!

    2. Holly, are there any tangible incentives for food service operators to put in the effort to separate food waste? May be high hauling fees that are reduced, or state/local tax rebates, or simply the option to sell their "waste"?