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Adirondack nonprofit helps communities prepare for food composting law

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:11 PM EDT
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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (WCAX) - A new composting law takes effect in new york next year. Organizations that generate an average of two tons a week in food waste will have to donate it or compost the scraps. A nonprofit is working with some Adirondack communities to help them get on board.

For the last five years, students and staff at North Country School in Lake Placid have turned their food scraps into what John Culpepper calls pure, “black gold.”

“Essentially, we are just stewards of the microbes that do all the work,” said Culpepper with the group Compost for Good, a program run by ADK Action. The scraps are turned into a soil amendment for the school’s farm and gardens made by Culpepper’s community-scale composter “There is nothing special about this. You can buy it on the open market, but they tend to be $120-to-200,000 range.”

What is special is he made his for under $20,000. It’s designed as an in-vessel composter that composts the scraps faster. The way it works is pretty simple. “For each pound of food scraps that they put in here they will add a specified amount of wood pellets,” Culpepper said.

It takes 18 days to a couple of months to churn out the finished product and the chamber can process over 50,000 pounds of food waste per year.

“The time varies in what we call the retention time -- the amount of time it stays in the drum. It varies on how much material you are putting in each day,” Culpepper said. He offers the design free of cost. “The idea is to create something simple, affordable, with materials that are sort of off-the-shelf, readily available.”

The program just received $90,000 in federal grant money to refine the design of Culpepper’s composter ahead of the new year’s composting requirements for large scale businesses and institutions

“The whole purpose of the RBDG program is to support rural business development. So, let’s create jobs, let’s create development, let’s support the economy. That’s the underlying principle here,” said ADK Action’s Brittany Christenson.

It will create 16 local jobs to help build the product and come up with plans to offer technical assistance and education to anyone hoping to make their own, all with the hope of keeping communities sustainable

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