Compost Cincy Puts Organic Waste to Good Use

In late July, Grant Gibson opened the gates of Compost Cincy on the edge of Elmwood Place. You’d never know it from the road, but thousands of tons of organic waste are quietly decomposing into compost, which will be sold to local mulch and soil suppliers after careful testing and screening.

Compost Cincy coordinates with businesses who generate organic waste (restaurants, produce distributors, grocers, and others in the food industry) to have their organic waste hauled to the commercial composting facility on Este Road. Tractor trailer loads of 15 to 20 tons of produce arrive at a time, must be removed from boxes and bags and are added to compost windrows, (long piles that start out 10 ft high and wide). Fresh produce must be mixed with wood chips to provide an adequate mix of nitrogen and carbon to allow for efficient (and smell-free) decomposition.

The temperatures in the windrows are monitored daily (check out the giant thermometer Grant is holding in the photo below), with the ideal temperature being in the 120-150°F range. When Grant notices temperatures starting to decline, he knows it is time to turn the pile. Workers drive a massive, decades-old machine over the windrows, which turns them with a giant spiked cylinder. After the initial turn, which can happen at about 3 weeks of maturity, the piles are turned weekly until they are finished, at approximately 60 days. The final product will be soft, black, crumbly, sweet smelling compost.

Opening the facility required the sign off from a number of government agencies and there are regular tests involved in operating the site to ensure that there is no environmental contamination, and to ensure a high quality finished product.

Compost Cincy currently works with haulers Rumpke, Future Organics and Ruff, Inc, who transport waste from Castellini Produce, P&G, Walmart, Kroger and individual restaurants. They also receive yard waste from the city of Mariemont, manure and stable bedding from River Downs Race Track and tree material from local tree service companies. The company is looking to hire additional help and eventually plans to operate a complete depackaging line at the site, sending as many non-compostable items as possible into the recycling stream.

Did I mention Compost Cincy claims to be the first commercial compost facility located inside a major metropolitan area? That is something of which Cincinnati can be proud!

Grant Gibson stands in front of a pile of over 5,000 heads of lettuce covered by woodchips. He is holding a giant compost thermometer.
Compost windrows mix food waste and wood chips in ideal conditions for decomposition.
A giant compost thermometer plunged into a steaming windrow reads within the ideal range for speedy decomposition.

– Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Green Learning Station

Leave a Reply