0617 Curbside Composting

Curbside Composting owner James Davidson (third from right) speaks with a group of schoolchildren about a composting project.

One of Morganton’s newest businesses is aiming to drive down waste.

About six weeks ago, James Davidson launched Curbside Composting, a home pickup service that will turn food scraps into compost for gardens.

“We basically provide customers with a five-gallon bucket that they fill up their food scraps and food waste in and then we pick it up weekly and compost it on our site,” Davidson said. “We replace their dirty bucket with a clean bucket.”

As the business progresses through its first year, the hope is to create a large amount of high-quality compost that can be redistributed back to both customers and farmers in the area who can benefit from it, Davidson said, though some folks involved are providing their scraps for composting even if they don’t have a garden.

Davidson said he was inspired to start the company based on some similar business models he had seen elsewhere. He also is an experienced composter and thought the business would fit in well with the Morganton area, which he described as progressive and environmentally conscious with organic farms and farm-to-table eateries.

In the two years since he moved to the city from Winston-Salem, Davidson said he observed a high value placed on recycling locally with lots of bins out throughout downtown Morganton.

Curbside Composting can help limit the negative impacts of discarding food waste, Davidson said, and magnify the positives of using compost.

“Bulk food waste fills up landfills and gets broken down incorrectly into methane gas, which gets released into the atmosphere and is even worse than carbon being discharged into the atmosphere,” he said. “Food products, since they’re filled with water, as they break down, they soak up all the toxins that are in landfills and that ends up making its way into our water supply called leechate.

“Limiting the negative impacts is most important, then I think (what is next important is) promoting positive impacts of composting with improved soil conditions. It holds onto water better so you don’t have to use as much water for your farms and gardens. You don’t have to use as much fertilizer as you would normally use if you have a high volume of compost in with that.”

Davidson is a lung and critical care physician at Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge. While his career keeps him busy, he has carved out the time to champion the cause of Curbside Composting.

“My main career takes up a bulk of my time, but in my opinion, this is such an important part of what we can do as a community to better the environment that I’ve been able to set aside time to really work on it and get it going,” he said.

For those who are interested in using the service, Davidson said the best way to get started is to contact him through the Curbside Composting Facebook page. The business also has a booth at the downtown farmers’ market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon to talk to folks and distribute business cards.

The customers’ role in the business is pretty painless and straightforward, Davidson said.

“It’s the ideal system for people who are very interested in the environment and interested in composting but do not have the time or energy or space to put up a compost pile or buy a compost tumbler,” he said. “It’s more complicated than I think people realize.”

Composting takes a lot more time and effort than might be expected for someone trying to start out for themselves, Davidson said. Mixing temperatures have to be checked regularly, along with water content. Davidson said he always is adding in things like leaves, branches and grass along with food scraps and tending to the mixture every day to create the style of compost he wants, which is static aerobic compost.

“This service takes all those annoying parts out of the customers’ hands,” he said. “It’s a process, but I enjoy it.”

The composting process can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months, Davidson said, depending on the temperature and how quickly the compost pile (ideally 3 feet by 3 feet) is built. Davidson said he does not know how high his compost yield will be for the first year and no compost has been delivered back to customers yet, but he expects to be able to do so this fall or next spring. He has made customers aware of that timetable, he said.

Interest in the business has been high so far, Davidson said. The company has done question and answer sessions for communities and did a project at Morganton Day School to set up the fourth-grade class with a composting system. Davidson said he wants to go speak with some agriculture majors at Western Piedmont Community College in August, as well.

“We’re making a lot of contacts and explaining to people what we’re doing,” he said. “Everybody has been unbelievably receptive.”

Eventually, Davidson hopes that interest will extend to local restaurants and businesses getting involved to move toward his goal of zero waste.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943

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