Composting for Businesses: Finding a Service Provider
When choosing a compost service provider for your business, it's essential to consider several important factors depending on your industry and waste volumes.
If 12 years of experience has taught us anything, it's that every workplace has unique requirements for a successful compost program. In this post, we will guide you through various considerations to help you compare compost service providers in your local area.
What should my business consider when picking a compost service?
How much waste do you produce? A general rule of thumb is about one-third of the waste your business produces can be composted. This rule typically works if you need a compost solution for an office, school, or church. If you are a commercial food producer like grocery stores, event centers, or restaurants, your volume will be significantly higher and may require special considerations like compactors and commercial service providers.
Depending on your volume, your service frequency may vary. It’s important to consider whether your business needs a consistent, reliable service schedule, or if you’re a higher waste producer you may need the option for more frequent servicing. Schools and event centers may need more flexibility in their programs. If you’re considering a compost service provider, ask how they handle variations in scheduling or seasonal changes.
Service Model (Tip vs. Swap)
There are two common service models in the composting industry – tip and swap. Depending on the services that exist in your area, you may not get to choose the model, but it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of each.
Tip Model: As the name suggests, containers are tipped on-site. While this is a common practice in the waste industry, bins that are filled with food and organic waste often require more routine cleaning to minimize odors.
Some service providers that tip will rinse the containers on-site as needed, but some do not have that offering. If the service provider offers a tip service, ask about how the containers are cleaned and understand upfront if that is a responsibility of the service provider or your business.
Swap Model: This model means that the company is collecting the full container each service and replacing it with a clean container. If your company is concerned about the appearance of your dock or waste area, this is a great option that ensures your area is clean and odor free.
Because this model is a simple swap, it also means that the service provider can often get in and out more quickly without blocking a dock or lot area. It also works great for harder to access areas because the containers can be brought into the area without backing in a full truck.
Compost Service Provider Transparency
When you have a consultation call or are gathering information about a compost service provider in your area, be sure to ask these questions:
Where does the organic waste collected go?
What happens to the finished compost or end material?
Does your business get to receive compost back or does it go to partners in the community?
A compost service is an investment in your company's sustainability portfolio, and just like you vet vendors in all areas of your business, you should validate potential compost service providers. Asking these questions will help your business understand what you’re contributing to and how that will impact your company goals.
Data Tracking and Impact Reporting
Ask your compost service provider how your impact is tracked and shared. Because composting is a critical aspect of achieving your sustainability goals, you should know how much waste your business is diverting with each service and have a means of converting that to carbon emission reduction. A company that is providing this service should be able to track this information:
How much waste in pounds or volume your business has produced.
How much compost was generated as a result of that waste being processed.
Additional calculations, like greenhouse gas emission reduction, are also helpful to have.
Does my business have special compost service requirements?
Depending on your business segment and volume, there many be more specialized considerations you should make when looking at a compost service provider. Below are some considerations by industry or business type.
If you are interested in compost services for your office space, you likely produce lower volumes and need a solution that works well in break rooms and small kitchenettes. Consider how easy the service is to manage from a cleaning staff or property management perspective. Cleanliness and odors are a top concern in offices.
Education or University Campus
Schools and Universities need scheduling flexibility in order to pause service during breaks and resume compost services when classes are back in session. Safety, reliability and flexibility should be your top concerns when vetting a compost service provider.
Event Centers and Arenas also have service flexibility requirements and often have higher fluctuations in volume and frequency. This can present challenges to service providers and compost facilities which often need fairly consistent and stable volumes of organic feedstocks to keep processes running smoothly.
For this reason, finding a service provider that can reliably handle large fluctuations in service scheduling and waste volumes is a huge value and will go a long way to contributing to the success of the program.
Commercial Food Producers, Restaurants, and Grocery Stores
These businesses often have high volumes which means high impact potential! Therefore, data tracking and transparency is critical to ensure your compost efforts are counting towards your environmental goals.
Multi-Unit Buildings/Property Managers
We’ve seen a tremendous increase in multi-unit tenants demanding compost services in their apartments and condos. If you’re a property manager, you should consider the logistics of the program. For example, can tenants opt-in for cost share or do you pay for the service as a utility for all?
Hint to tenants: Property managers want to be hands off, so look for ways to make it easy on them if you’re trying to find compost service options for your building.
How to get decision makers on board with a workplace compost program?
If you want to get a compost program started at your workplace, it’s important to understand who you might need to get on board with the program.
A compost champion can be a Sustainability Coordinator or team member that wants to own and support the compost program. These team members may have direct lines of communication to decision makers, so it's important for these stakeholders to understand how a compost workplace program would work based on the options that are available to you locally. Help them get a head start by creating a list of compost service providers in your area.
A decision maker is someone in the business who has to approve of the program. They may care more about the business bottom line and will want to hear how a program like this will contribute to the organizational goals.
Because composting is not yet subsidized in most states like other waste methods, there is often not a direct financial benefit for a company to compost. This means you need to approach this conversation from the perspective of other goals and objectives the company has related to environmental and social responsibility. Carbon footprint reduction, company impact, community compost give-back, and supporting the local community are all great talking points that may align to your company's goals.
In some cases, you need to get both a decision maker in a company and a property manager of a space on board with a compost program, especially if your business or office is in a shared space with other tenants.
Cost-share programs may be negotiated with property managers who are open to the idea of offering the program or service to all tenants in a space. Property managers like to hear that a program is clean, quick, and requires no additional support from cleaning services or property management teams to support. When vetting service providers, get ahead of these questions so you’re prepared when a property manager asks.
Third Party/Vendor Managed Contracts
This comes up frequently for large campuses and arenas, where vendor contracts are managed by third parties. These companies act on behalf of the interest of the institution, and care about reliability, transparency and working well with multiple stakeholders.
What does training/onboarding look like for a workplace compost service?
It’s important to understand what materials and resources a compost service provider has for training and onboarding of the program.
Signage, videos, and onboarding lunch-and-learns can lead to more successful program engagement, so it’s important to understand if this is something a service provider can help provide or if someone from your team will need to lead this effort.
Composting through a service provider is an investment in your operations, and the success of your program impacts your company’s environmental and social responsibility goals.
While service providers often remove the hassle of managing the compost process, it’s important to understand how these programs can support your individual business goals. If you know that composting through a service provider is the right choice for your business, make sure you look into the options that are available in your local area, and treat a compost service provider like you would any other vendor.
Finding a compost service provider that is reliable, transparent, and communicative will lead to long term program success and ensure your business can have the most impact.
To see examples of service options for businesses, or to inquire about services for your business, visit this page.