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From garbage to your garden

Recycling composter turns food to fertilizer

DIXON – Up to 15,000 pounds of organic waste could be rotating in a vessel at any given time at Secure Recycling Services, a business division of Kreider Services.

This waste is turned into fertilizer, thanks to an in-vessel composter that is one of only two in the world.

“From garbage to your garden,” said Don McFarland, director of green development. “That’s what we’re trying to promote.”

Secure Recycling, at 629 Palmyra Road (the former Marshall Salon Services site), employs and trains veterans and people with disabilities. It has transformed into a multifaceted recycling center, taking in electronic waste, cardboard, and plastic foam, among other items, and putting it back into re-use.

One of its latest initiatives includes recycling about 95 tons of food waste from school districts statewide, using the in-vessel composter.

About 34 million tons of food product go into landfills across the country, said McFarland, and about half of that comes from schools.

Secure Recycling has a business deal with school districts and some restaurants to separate their food products for recycling.

The total process takes 20 to 60 days, but the real magic happens within the vessel, said Greg Gates, director of recycling.

Air flow and temperature are controlled to make for optimum decomposition, as the waste rotates slowly in the large metal drum. It speeds up what otherwise would be a slow process, Gates said.

And “there’s no issue with runoff, or odors,” McFarland said.

The compost is put in a concrete bunker for more processing. The end result will be a fertilizer that can be used in gardens and landscapes that Secure Recycling will sell in 40-pound bags, Gates said.

Secure Recycling also uses worms to break down food scraps, using money from an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic opportunity grant. That process is much slower, though, and takes up a lot of space.

“This is just how we have to think of our future,” McFarland said. “Our landfills are filling up every day, and if we don’t take the measures to reduce that waste, it’s not going to be pretty.”

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