Custom Recipes Help Digest Solid Wastes

Waste Management Solutions

From dead chickens to old potatoes to crab scraps — if a smelly material is causing problems, Will Brinton has a recipe to make it go away.

Brinton, president and founder of Woods End Research Laboratory in Mount Vernon, Maine, is developing new methods to compost animal and vegetable garbage that decomposes too slowly and smells too bad to be tossed into a normal compost pile.

dead whale

In doing so, Brinton is creating a new avenue for businesses that must dispose of large quantities of undesirable material. Instead of paying high prices to have the material accepted at a landfill, they can have Brinton whip up a recipe to make the material decompose in a hurry. The remaining compost is then ready for farm or garden use.

For example, when a fire smothered thousands of chickens owned by a Maine egg producer, the company buried the carcasses on its land. However, state environmental officials — fearing ground-water contamination — told the company to dig up the birds and dispose of them properly.

With a thousand tons of rotting chickens on its hands, the company decided to call Woods End rather than pay the high cost of having the material hauled to a landfill.

Brinton and his 12-member team at the laboratory first analyzed the birds for their chemical composition, then started adding various substances to the material to see which ones promoted rapid decomposition. Eventually, a mixture of carbon, sawdust and chicken manure was used to turn the mess into compost in a matter of months, Brinton said.

“At $70 a ton to have waste dumped at landfills, in many cases it’s more cost effective to have it composted,” he said. “We can take your waste material, analyze it and tell you what kind of compost it can make.”

Brinton, a plant and soil scientist, uses a computer program he developed to determine the most effective way to compost different organic wastes. By finding the right mix of materials and combining them in proper proportions, Brinton said he can get almost any waste to decompose quickly into high-quality compost.

“By diverting these wastes, we’re buying time for our landfills,” he said. “And compost is much better for fertilizing than chemicals because it actually helps rebuild the soil naturally.”

With several dozen companies already on his client list, and samples continually arriving for opinions, Brinton said the future looks good. Perhaps a composting recipe book is on the horizon.

Tip/Stat — According to Brinton, between 12 and 30 percent of the waste hauled to landfills could be recycled through composting.

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