New facility aims to transform table scraps to compost

New facility aims to transform table scraps to compost »Play Video
This pile of dirt could have been anything from meat and cheese to chicken bones.

SALEM, Ore. - Starting this summer homeowners in Corvallis and Salem will be able to scrape their dinner plates right into their recycle bin.

The Pacific Regional Compost Facility that just opened in northern Benton County will allow people beginning July 1 to start throwing their food waste like meat, cheese, potato chips and chicken bones into their yard containers so it can be turned into compost. Then it will be sold to the public and to farmers.

It’s a program that’s never been done anywhere in the state of Oregon.

“It’s our first opportunity in a long time to recover some more good material out of landfills,” said site manager Brian May. “We’re looking for basically anything you would scrape off your dinner plate.”

Piles of compost covered in plastic at the facility can reach temperatures of 131 degrees Fahrenheit, which can help to safely break down things like bones, meat and cheese.

The co-owner of Salem’s Cascade Baking Company, Steven Perkins, has been recycling his bakery’s food waste and biodegradable food containers as part of a pilot project for the composting facility.

“It’s a great feeling - it really is - to know that our food does not go in the dump. It actually goes into your home, our home,” he said.

For berry farmer John Dinnis, “it goes right with our effort to become organic.”

Dinnis lives next door to the composting plant. He said he’ll buy the compost for his crops which will allow him to farm chemical-free.

 “The exciting part is money. It’s the financial part,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to trim the expenses and minimize the labor and maximize the return, and that does it.”

He said he expects to save about $3,000 an acre by using the compost since it improves soil quality and can erase the need for pesticides and fertilizer.

Residents’ garbage service isn’t expected to cost more and the environmental benefits are also huge since food waste makes up 15 percent of what is thrown away.

The drawback to recycling food waste is the odor. Allied Waste, which owns the composting facility, pipes the rotting air through a bio-filter to try and control the smell.

A bio-filter is a fancy word for a big pile of wood chips and finished compost.

For Portlanders, the city has launched a pilot project that involves a couple thousand homes to see how a curbside food-waste program will work.