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Article: What Is Commercial Composting: Process, Types & Problems

What Is Commercial Composting: Process, Types & Problems

A small step can also bring a huge impact. Well, that’s how composting waste products can bring forth a change. The demand for commercial composting started rising and became popular in the 1980s right after waste management started taking the front row. Today it is one of the opted methods for sorting out industrial, commercial and residential waste products. And if you are not aware of what commercial composting is, then here’s an article which covers everything about commercial composting and its processes.

What Is Commercial Composting Process?

But what is commercial composting process and what exactly happens during this process? Industrial or commercial composting process use the same biological processes as that of home composting process. However these commercial composting processes tend to magnify the scale on which it is done. Usage of latest technologies helps sort out organic materials and convert them into fertile soil for backyard composting. Here’s the entire process of composting that goes on at a large scale:

Collection and Transportation

The first step in the commercial composting process is collection and transportation. During collection the waste is considered to be mixed because it consists of two categories such as garden waste and organic waste. The garden waste present includes tree bark, pruned branches, flowers, leaves, grass and twigs. Whereas the organic waste consists of fruit skins, vegetables, egg shells and bread and meat. Once the waste is collected, they are transported to various commercial composting facilities which are available in the area.

Processing Organic Waste

After the waste is received it undergoes segregation. Sustainable waste disposal includes separating dry waste from wet waste. Wet wastes normally consist of wastes from hotels and restaurants. Dry waste on the other hand is segregated manually into organic waste, metals, recyclable materials and inert materials.

Once segregation is over the organic waste and garden waste is shredded. Shredding as the name indicates, the waste is torn into small pieces. Shredding tends to speed up the process of composting due to which this step is essential. It also allows microorganisms to break down the waste in the compost bin. After shredding is over the two categories of waste are mixed together properly before they are added to composting bins.

Maturation and Quality Control

The commercial composting process is further facilitated by the availability of oxygen and water in the mixture. This process produces compost which is commonly used as fertilizer. Once the waste has been properly composted, there are other tasks such as filtration, maturation, and curing.

Curing refers to the act of slowing down the process of decomposition. Also, humification and stabilization of the organic matter occurs at this point. Maturation will further involve removal of organic matter such as pathogen and other pollutants from the waste. The last stage is filtration where the suspended solids are separated from the liquids present in the waste.

What Can We Compost?

What can we compost? Well now that’s a question that most people ask about. Most common compost wastes consist of yard waste such as wood debris or grass trimmings. Apart from this depending on the process used there are also food wastes included. However, even the best of the best municipal composting programs cannot accept all the various kinds of organic wastes.

One of the examples where composting will not work is pet wastes. Since they consist of a large number of pathogens and are high in nitrogen it is usually hard to eradicate. Compostable plastics also tend to pose a much greater challenge even if they are labeled as compostable. This is because only certain facilities have the conditions required to compost these plastics. Understanding what we can compost and proper ways for waste management in such situations is hence important.

What Are The Different Types Of Composting?

It is now important to understand what are the different types of composting. Industrial composting facilities usually collect the compostable materials directly from consumers with the help of trucks which is similar to curbside trash pick-up.

Some of the companies also allow people to directly deliver large amounts of organic wastes such as kitchen scraps, leaves, or grass clippings. Either way once it reaches the composting facility, there are different ways in which they undergo the composting process. The processes can be provided as follows:

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is usually followed by people for individual composting or for smaller organizations. Vermicomposting involves usage of compost bins which are filled with organic matter such as yard waste. Worms are then added to these compost bins. These worms over time tend to break down food and other materials and turn them into soil which is rich in plant-healthy microbes and nutrients.

Vermicomposting is one of the faster options. However, the overall start to end process may take up to two months to produce high quality soil. However, it is not always the most cost efficient composting process and is also not that easy to manage.

Windrow Composting

Windrows is one of the common methods of composting for high volume commercial operations. This composting method requires organic material to be collected and managed into long rows which are called windrows. Windrows usually measure from four to eight feet high and are around fifteen feet wide with various lengths. While the size of the compost may vary, the measurement mentioned above helps maintain proper temperature while also allowing air to reach to the core and completing biodegradation.

However there are few drawbacks of the windrow method such as large ground space. Apart from this the waste cannot be piled up in large amounts without them undergoing the process. Every part of the pile needs to be exposed to heat, oxygen and moisture and hence a machine is used to mix them up regularly. While this method is great for creating high quality soil in bulk it may take as long as four months to complete the process.

Static Pile Composting

Static pile composting is quite an efficient method for commercial composting or industrial composting companies. In as little as three months it is possible to produce compost on a large scale without having to spend a lot. Static pile composting works by mixing piles of organic matter with debris such as paper or wood chips.

Larger debris tends to create air pockets which allows oxygen to reach very part of the pile. Piles are then occasionally turned over with tractors or excavators. There is also usage of air pipes to pump oxygen at various levels of compost. This ensures that the pile gets enough oxygen as required by the microorganisms.

Unfortunately, static pile composting is not exactly a great method for every type of organic matter. For example, animal by-products and grease cannot be decomposed at the same rate as various other materials. As a result the organizations tend to spend a lot of time sifting through organic waste collection before adding them to the pile.

In-Vessel Composting (IVC)

While all of the composting methods usually have their own pros and cons, the in-vessel composting method is considered to be one of the most efficient methods while also being the most cost-effective method. In vessel composting do not have any biological constraints as seen in aerated static piles or even require much space.

Here the organic materials are initially shredded and mixed and then added into a composting machine. The device controls various parameters such as hydration, aeration and temperatures. Additionally the machine also tends to rotate and churn the composition so that the decomposition in the pile occurs at the same rate.

The hot compost is then sanitized using high temperatures by killing off any harmful bacteria. Once this is complete, the compost is left to mature in an enclosure in order to stabilize and to screen. Normally the size of the machine usually decides the amount of compost which can be processed. It can take less than a month to go from waste to fertile soil. This method is sure to provide best results.

Common Commercial Composting Problems

You need to know why commercial composting problems arise before you check why it’s not working properly. Common signs that indicate the composting process is not properly done includes a bad odor, materials slowly breaking down, compost catches fire or there are no worms or insects in the pile. Here are few of the composting problems you might want to keep an eye out for:

  • There might be multiple contaminants that invade the pile. This can lead to failure of compost piles and plants could even die.
  • The acid alkaline content of the mixture should be maintained properly. Even various factors such as availability of nitrogen and oxygen should be in control. If there is an increased amount of nitrogen then the piles may start to rot.
  • Adding the wrong ingredients without proper sustainable waste disposal may also mess up with the pile of compost. Some of the common ingredients which you can add include coffee grounds, eggshells, old clothing and veggies
  • Knowing which method is suitable for which type of compost pile is very important. Using adequate tools is also necessary to get the best results.

Conclusion:

Now that it has been clear about what is commercial composting or industrial composting it is now easier to understand the importance of the same. Industrial or commercial composting is an important part of national and local sustainability policies. The lesser the waste stays in the landfill the better the environment will be. This will also reduce any carbon footprint. What’s more you can keep on getting great compost for your plants while improving the quality of growth.

 FAQ’s

What does industrial composting look like?

Industrial composting consists of long rows of piles of compostable waste which are turned regularly to get optimal air, heat and moisture.

Does commercial compost smell?

Microbial organisms are considered to be the main source of odor from compost facilities and hence yes they do smell.

Is commercial composting profitable?

Yes, large scale composting which is designed to treat tons of organic waste into high nutrient fertilizer is definitely a highly profitable business.

How can a business start its own commercial composting program?

Here are few simple steps for a business to start its own commercial composting program:

  • Define the goal and path
  • Check with local governments for the facilities that are needed to establish a compost
  • Containers for people who use compost products
  • Pick up or drop off services
  • Using technology to grow and educate about your program
  • Achieving a proper feedstock balance
  • Choosing an appropriate composting method.

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