Compost Katie Makes a Business Turning Garbage into Garden Gold

By Jane Whitttington on August 1st, 2015 / Comments

Statistics tell a sad story of how much food in this country goes to waste and just how much damage it does to our environment. Landfills are the largest man-made source of methane gas, which contributes to climate change. And 20-25 percent of trash in landfills is food waste. Because the organic nutrients in food waste are dumped in landfills, gardeners and farmers rely on chemical fertilizers to grow their crops, in turn leading to agricultural runoff which not only creates algae blooms in our waterways but also contaminates ground water. Not only that, but Michigan is running out of space in landfills. Talk about a no-win situation!

Woody Campbell is working to change that, at least in his corner of the world. As the founder, owner and operator of Compost Katie, Campbell says he is “taking recycling to the next level”. For a mere 40 cents a day, Compost Katie will collect all vegetable scraps, breads, napkins, cooked meats, cheeses, fruit pits and all fruit, pizza boxes, newspapers, coffee grounds and coffee filters and lawn debris such as leaves and bundled twigs. What they can’t collect are raw meats and oils, plastics, Styrofoam and grass clippings.

And what happens next? Compost Katie transfers the waste to its own facility where it is fed to thousands of red wigglers (worms) and turned into vermicompost which is , according to dictionary, “the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.”

Vermicast is the polite term for worm manure, and, while it doesn’t sound that appealing, it combines with composted material to form a fertilizer that works like magic on crops.  And it works without any chemical fertilizers that can harm the environment.

According to Campbell, “I was visiting my brother who lives in Chicago. He was telling me about a service that picks up his organic waste and converts it to compost. The more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded. I worked for years in restaurants which are very careful about not wasting food. But I knew that grocery stores, schools and private homes waste an incredible amount of food which ends up in the landfill. It’s a waste of resources, harms the environment, and could be put to better use.”

He continues, “I spent about four or five months researching and reading everything I could find about large-scale composting. I owned another business in the area, a cab company, which I sold to start my new business. I purchased a 2,500 square foot warehouse (and 5,000 worms) and went to work. We’ve been in the business for only a few months, and we have 48 residential customers, one restaurant and a mosque. About 20 percent of the compost is returned to individual customers, and the rest is donated to The Garden Project/Land Bank that works with about 70 community gardens in Central Michigan.”

The service area for Compost Katie includes Lansing, East Lansing, Okemos, Holt, Haslett, Mason, and Williamston.

For more information visit the website at www.compostkatie.com

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.