Completing the Cycle
New co-op ready to solve food waste problem, one pedal at a time.
by Karlee Jackson, Cooperation Humboldt
Humboldt County has a food waste problem. According to the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, over a third of our waste going to landfills is food or food-related. As it decomposes in landfills, food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And trucking thousands of tons of food waste to landfills each year consumes fossil fuels and drives up disposal costs for everyone.
Landfills and the industrial waste disposal industry also disproportionately threaten the health, social and economic wellbeing of the low income and BIPOC communities that tend to disproportionately be located near these facilities. Meanwhile, local residents have very limited options for diverting their food waste. It can be especially hard for condo or apartment residents without access to a backyard composting set-up.
“What we call ‘food waste’ is actually a resource,” says Morgan King, one of the worker-owners of Full Cycle Compost, a new worker-owned cooperative dedicated to zero waste. “Society tacitly supports an industrial system that earns millions of dollars hauling away and then burying this resource in landfills. Instead, we should be using this resource to build our soils, store carbon, and grow food.”
Full Cycle Compost is a new business on a mission to provide residents with a convenient and affordable way to remove their food scraps from the waste industrial complex and to put that resource to use building soil and growing food. Starting this spring, the bicycle-powered collection service will haul food scraps from residential and small business subscribers to local composting sites.
I recently sat down with King and his fellow worker-owners – Isaac West, Rory Baker, Julian Palmisano and Tobin McKee – to learn more about their business and their vision for the future.
“We are focused on sustainability,” says worker-owner Isaac. “One of our goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; it would be hard to do that if we’re relying on fossil fuels for our business. It also helps that we all are avid cyclists, so we appreciate the health benefits and the pure joy of riding bikes.”
Why a cooperative?
Tobin from Worker Owned Humboldt, a program of Cooperation Humboldt and the North Coast Small Business Development Center, initially brought the group together and facilitated its development into a worker owned and operated cooperative business. “Democratic self-governance and community building were big reasons for us becoming a cooperative,” says McKee. “We see Full Cycle Compost as a strong community partner. We want to eventually provide educational and workforce opportunities for HSU students, youth, and the community at large, and we want to help our local governments achieve their zero waste goals.”
Who are you trying to reach?
According to worker-owner Rory, Full Cycle Compost will start out by serving residents of Arcata. “We’re looking forward to serving single family and multifamily households, as well as small businesses,” says Baker. “Our climate here can make it hard for backyard composters to keep up with their piles, so our service may also be attractive to those who just don’t want the hassle of DIY composting.”
How does it work?
Worker-owner Julian explains, “We provide the customer one or more buckets, or they can use their own bucket if it meets our guidelines. For a monthly subscription, one of our riders will come each week to collect the compostables and leave the buckets empty and clean, ready to be filled up with the next week’s food scraps. Our riders will drop off the food scraps at one of our composting sites. We are currently working with the Jacoby Creek Land Trust farm, and with the Arcata Community Health and Wellness Garden, to help build their soil to grow healthy food. It’s the full cycle, realized!” According to Palmisano, the Full Cycle Compost crew might add additional sites in the future as they gain more subscribers. They also want to eventually give compost back to their subscribers.
Want more information?
Full Cycle Compost is currently accepting new subscribers in Arcata, Sunnybrae and Bayside. Visit www.fullcyclecompost.com to learn more and sign up.