A Future in Composting: Waste Management Buys Ohio Recycling Firm

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.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

3 responses

  1. We at Inergy Plus have been ardent believers in creating high quality compost from MSW for years. We have much data.

    Please review the site in that it provides more than just selling our stuff.

    WE provide hardware and software that reduces the cost and time of composting greatly.

    There at the web site you will find a “Paper” “Integrated Solid Waste Management and State of the Art TEchnologies” published by the International Public Works Association” providing information on the hardware and software technologies available when the paper was written.

    Best Success,
    Curtis L. Harris

  2. Exciting stuff Leon. It’s great to see Waste Management making some more aggressive moves to expand its commercial composting infrastructure.

    And idea where the regional impact will be focused? Are Garick’s facilities based mainly around the Cleveland area or are they all across the US?

  3. It’s great to see a local Cleveland company focusing on composting and recycling get recognized for its work and picked up by a large corporation like Waste Management.

    Composting has really starting picking up steam here in Cleveland. There was coverage a few months ago about a composting program in which several downtown businesses, including Quicken Loans Arena (the Cavs) and Forest City Enterprises (owns Tower City Center), have begun participating. The food waste is sent to a local business, Rosby’s, that converts it into organic soil and either sells it or uses it for their organic berry farm.

    The business opportunities for recycling and composting are tremendous, and I am glad to see that businesses are really starting to catch onto this. It can benefit large businesses (the Q, Forest City), smaller businesses (Rosby’s, Garick), and be better for the environment simultaneously. That’s a win-win-win and is a great representation of the triple bottom line in practice.

    – Tim Kovach,
    Product Coordinator for Energy at COSE

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