Albuquerque’s Local Compost Collectors

New Mexico is not well known for rich soil and an abundance of water. But there are two operations in Albuquerque that are working to create healthy soil through compost, by adding nitrogen, water and carbon into the ground. Little Green Bucket and Soilutions are the first of their kind here in Albuquerque, and together they are working to keep food out of landfills and reduce emissions from decomposing organic matter.

Brad Weikel, founder of Little Green Bucket, is a pioneer of diverting food waste from landfills in Albuquerque. As he was developing his business plan in 2018, Weikel realized that Albuquerque was one of only a few comparably-sized cities in the U.S. that had no city-wide composting service. He decided to take on that challenge and has since created a residential pickup and drop off compost service for Albuquerque. Thanks to his work, over 500 Albuquerque homes are able to keep their food waste out of the landfill and save themselves the hassle of trying to compost at home. This service prevents the production of greenhouse gases that contribute to warming global climates. In addition to gathering their food waste, customers are entitled to a share of the compost that this waste creates twice a year. In fact, it is already compost delivery season for members! Many homes in Albuquerque are now seeing their food come full circle as brand-new fertilizer for home gardens and flower beds.

Little Green Bucket boasts one of the most inclusive lists of acceptable materials for residential composting in the nation. It may be surprising, but many small companies in other cities are hesitant to accept meat and dairy, or bioplastics and other materials advertised with compostable packaging. What makes Little Green Bucket unique is their partnership with the industrial compost facility Soilutions. Because of their inclusivity in the materials they are able to process, Little Green Bucket is able to accept many more items than the average compost service. Weikel highlighted some of the ways that Soilutions is different, including their year long process. This allows for any items that take a longer than average time to break down to have ample time for decomposition. He also stated that industry standard is to create 10-foot piles, but Soilutions makes 30-foot piles. This conserves water and allows for the temperature to rise quickly to the desired 130 degrees, or higher.

I also spoke to Ben Dickerson, Business Development Manager of Soilutions, and he described the problem of composting in Albuquerque. Right now, ABCWUA transports municipal biosolids from the water treatment plant to their Soil Amendment Facility. The biosolids are put through a two-week anaerobic composting cycle, followed by a three-month curing period. This short window of composting time is the reason they do not accept meat, dairy or bones. Proteins in these items take much longer to break down and are often best put into an aerobic process like Soilutions. For now, there is no city-funded composting, and what the Water Utility does is minimal. Soilutions has bridged that gap with the community and serves many businesses like La Montanita Co-op and the Downtown Growers’ Market, while Little Green Bucket handles the residential needs. Together they have diverted over 21,000 tons of food waste to date and have introduced it into a circular cycle of reuse.

The inclusivity of Little Green Bucket’s collected items is due to the practices of Soilutions and their ability to take just about any organic material. This includes items backyard composters often omit due to smell, like meat and dairy. These things are also common sources of temptation for varmints like racoons and skunks, so many Albuquerque homes are able to keep the pests away and the food out of the landfills thanks to Soilutions and Little Green Bucket. Organic fabric is another item often forgotten about. But Soilutions gladly accepts cotton, wool and other clothing materials as long as they are not mixed with polyester or other synthetics. Basically, if it was once alive, Soilutions welcomes it. It is a privilege to have such an open and inclusive variety of materials diverted from landfills.

Composting is an important step to take, especially now with the threat of climate change and rising global temperatures. There are a multitude of other reasons, though. Home composting is often a viable option. But for the apartment dweller, the one who doesn’t want wildlife in their yard, or the college student living at home whose parents won’t let them (yours truly), a residential service like Little Green Bucket is crucial to keep food waste from creating these issues. Weekly and biweekly members are able to collect food at home and have it picked up either once a week or once every other week. Drop off members collect their food waste and bring it to drop off sites for Little Green Bucket. Not only is this an important step for diverting food from the landfill, it supports a grassroots local business, and makes it possible for even more people to get involved. Whether you decide to compost on your own or utilize a service like this one, any food saved from the landfills is food that is able to become a part of a circular chain of utility, instead of the linear one that landfills illustrate.

-Posted by Erica

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