Market Compost Drop-off Project Update

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By the close of the last official Market Compost Drop-off on Saturday, October 29th, 8195 pounds of household organic waste had been collected and recorded from some 1045 contributions over 31 weekly collections at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. These four tons of nitrogen-heavy organics are happily on their way to becoming finished compost at the Black Bear Composting facility in Crimora. Although the last official Market station collection is over, Black Bear collection bins will continue to be available for organics deposits near the Market’s Turner Pavilion through the end of the year.

The project coordinator, Adrie Voors, Cohort II, and her co-coordinator Art Fovargue were joined by HMNs Art Vasy, Stephanie Gardner, Kate Guenther and Carl Droms in devoting numerous hours to staffing the Market station. They were rewarded with many thoughtful conversations with program participants and expressions of gratitude for offering this option. There is no sense in sending these valuable resources to a faraway landfill when they can be composted locally.

Late September brought the sad news from Black Bear Composting’s founder and chief composting officer Eric Walter that his business is scheduled to close at the end of the year after five years of slow growth. Despite a consistent demand for the finished compost, an insufficient organics waste stream aimed at the facility prevents it from being financially viable. Current Virginia state policy favors large landfills over smaller, local efforts at sustainability. Black Bear’s closure puts any future of a Market Compost Drop-off program for next year in jeopardy but options are still being explored.

Over the course of the seven-month project, the Market Compost Drop-off program hosted other events including two tours of the Black Bear Composting facility, and four vermicomposting demonstrations at the Market with Bridgewater College Physics professor Deva O’Neil with some help from her students. Additionally, access to Black Bear’s commercial scale compost service allowed for the organization of two “zero waste” stations at the Shenandoah Valley Century on September 11. This annual bicycle event feeds 300 riders at parks in Harrisonburg and Bridgewater. Using compostable serving-ware, recycling granola wrappers and energy gel pouches through Terracycle, plus other recycling efforts for plastic bags and shrink wrap, paper, hard plastics, cardboard, and metals left very little for the landfill. Finally a culminating event for the program was a public forum on “Talkin’ Trash” with Harrisonburg -area waste managers attended by close to 60 concerned citizens interested in hearing about local waste handling and the status of recycling and composting programs.

– Adrie Voors, Cohort II, November 2016

Top photo is by Art Fovargue at the second Black Bear Composting facility tour on October 6th.

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