Composting companies battle contamination as programs expand

Clinton Sander is done with contaminated compost.

On a recent morning, he sifted through long piles of waste from Denver and Boulder at a facility in Keenesburg operated by A1 Organics, the state’s largest compost recycler.

The problem has grown more severe as Front Range communities expand their compost programs, Sander said. A1 Organics has pushed city waste officials to take action for months, but it drew a line in the sand in early August. The company now inspects all incoming truckloads of compost and rejects any with unmanageable levels of contamination. Any amount of glass can trigger the company to reject a tractor-trailer load of compost, Sander said.

Common culprits include adhesive fruit stickers and plastic knives, but glass bottles were at the top of his most-wanted list. Each one could break into shards small enough to evade the company’s industrial screening machines and make it into the final product: a nutrient-rich soil amendment sold to local gardeners and landscapers.

“That’s dangerous. If there’s a load with a smashed bottle, we’re going to reject it and it will be brought to the landfill,” Sander said.

Image courtesy of Courtesy of Big Reuse

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