Could more of us across North America find a fourth can in our trash can lineup? Many municipalities provide the recycling bin, green waste bin, and of course, that black bin for everything else. Not many include a bin for food waste, so most Americans still do not compost—well, you may be throwing your apple cores in that green waste bin, but composting it is the way to go. Although estimates suggest composting has been growing at the rate of 15% to 25% annually, only about 2% to 3% of food waste is diverted from landfills each year.
Some companies have seized upon our low composting rate as an economic opportunity. Cleveland-based Garick has built a portfolio of services including anaerobic digestion, mulching, farm byproducts management, and of course, composting. Its composting consulting arm offers advice to schools, companies, and municipalities. Meanwhile, Garick processes and distributes garden soils and other products across North America. Its success attracted the attention of Waste Management (WM), which purchased a majority stake in Garick this week.
For Garick, the deal will give it the opportunity to expand geographically, giving it access to WM’s customers in even more markets. And while having a greater reach on WM’s coattails is a shot in the arm for Garick, the real winner could be the firm that now has majority ownership.
Waste Management immediately gains an additional one million tons of processing capacity, which could allow the company to develop composting and bagging facilities at its plants throughout the US and Canada. Recently WM invested in firms that helped the company gain a foothold in the organic composting market, including Harvest Power and Terrabon. WM has set several ambitious goals for the future, including tripling its recycling capacity by 2020, doubling its renewable energy production, and investing in new waste management technologies—all possible through the acquisition or investment in smaller, innovative firms.
It is easy for some to get on their high horse and proclaim that everyone needs to just start composting. But the reality is that most people do not, and will not. Some are valid reasons (we and our neighbors have ours) . . . some are excuses (we and our neighbors have ours). If composting can become more mainstream, and operations divert more waste from landfills, and therefore prevent more methane and other gases from seeping into the air, that can only be a positive trend. The corporatization of compost? I’m all for it.