San Antonio Firm Recently Launched One of the Largest Curbside Organics Recycling Programs in the U.S.
For all practical purposes, compost is new Earth. Transforming the organic material that grows from productive soil back into that very soil from which it came allows us to replenish the Earth with the bounty we reap. Texas-based New Earth was founded on fulfilling that mission, and by staying true to that cause, has built a brand synonymous with high-quality organic amendments and industry-leading customer service. Today, New Earth operates two compost facilities that sell bulk and bagged product under the New Earth and Lady Bug Natural Brand labels, with a third just opening earlier this year. Oh yes, and they also helped launch one of the largest curbside organics collection services in the country.
New Earth President Clayton Leonard has seen that growth from the start. The family-owned company was born from a meat packing business that was trying to solve a problem. “We generated a lot of manure, and we looked at composting as the solution,” he explains. “It was a great way of taking what was a waste stream and turning it into a highly valuable soil amendment. We then expanded into biosolids and launched a New Earth model to take other corporations organic waste and turn it into an asset.”
Forming Business Partnerships
One of the strategies that made New Earth so successful is their vision for organics recycling in its entirety. Whereas many compost operations open their yard and compost whatever comes in the gate, New Earth is actively looking for where they can collect and drive material their way. As a result, numerous partnerships with municipalities and corporations have resulted in a vast and varied stream of feedstock.
“We recycle more than 65,000 tons of biosolids per year for the City of San Antonio, which started about 10 years ago,” continues Clayton. But biosolids are only the tip of the New Earth iceberg. Manure is composted at all sites, as are many liquid and solid food wastes. In 2007, a second facility was opened in Houston to duplicate the success of San Antonio. “With the success of Houston, we recently opened another location in Katy.”
Curbside Organics Collection
“Our curbside organics program began in 2011 when we were selected to deploy a pilot program for San Antonio,” Clayton explains. “It was a huge pilot program!” The pilot offered curbside organics recycling, including food waste, to 30,000 homes or nearly 10% of the city. While New Earth does not handle the collection, they are responsible for the sorting and processing of everything that is collected. “The city evaluated the entire program for two years, and in 2015 rebid the full-scale project and we won that opportunity too,” continues Clayton. “We’re now about 30-40% deployed, and by the end of 2017 the services will be offered to more than 300,000 homes.”
Creating quality compost from all these materials requires meticulous attention to detail, one of the characteristics that really sets New Earth apart. “It would be easy to just dump everything into a windrow and go with it,” admits Clayton. “But that’s not what we’re about.” Their intense focus on sorting and separation ensures that plastics and other inorganic materials are removed. New Earth invested significantly to fulfill that goal, even though a very small percentage of what they collect are contaminants. “Having the right equipment is crucial,” says Clayton. “We do whatever is necessary to make sure we do it right.”
Backed Up By BACKHUS
That scrutiny, and high standard, was applied to their choice of compost turner as well. “BACKHUS, definitely BACKHUS,” says Clayton without hesitation. “Prior to our first purchase of a BACKHUS 6.75, we were experiencing very high repair and maintenance costs from our previous turner. We also recognized that all the horsepower of that machine was actually breaking down the fungal structure in our compost,” details Clayton. “So we were spending a lot of money to kill our material, not turn it.”
After viewing a BACKHUS demonstration at a USCC convention and traveling to Germany to meet with company representatives, New Earth took delivery of their first unit in 2007 and immediately saw a difference. “We could turn a 40% larger windrow with the same horsepower, and we saw wear part life go from 100-200 hours up to nearly 1000 hours. The turn had more lift-and-fluff action rather than a beat-and-crush approach.” Rather than batching their compost ahead of time, New Earth now simply spreads each raw material on the pad and turns it with the BACKHUS to batch. Not only does that save significant time, Clayton believes the mix is even more homogenous.
New Earth bought their second BACKHUS, a 17.60, in 2011 and will be considering a third unit for their newest facility soon. Clayton has shown many customers, who have come to their site, their BACKUS in action, and is happy to share the positive results they’ve experienced. He also appreciates the value and support he gets from owning a BACKHUS. “We purchased our first BACKHUS from N40, the U.S. dealer at the time, but Ecoverse now provides support. An Ecoverse representative was actually just here to check on us; it’s great to know someone always has your back.”
The Quest for Harvest Quest
Ecoverse is also working with New Earth to provide a pilot study of the benefits of using Harvest Quest compost inoculants. Initially, the trial started on a small scale but has recently been expanded to include their entire San Antonio facility. “We’ve been using a different inoculant for the past eight years,” admits Clayton. “But our Harvest Quest results are starting to show the advantages. Andrew [Gregory] and everyone from Harvest Quest have been here regularly, and we’ve visited A1 in Colorado to see their flagship site. As we are now seeing the Harvest Quest edge, we’re scaling up our test and running it for a longer duration to confirm these benefits before implementing company-wide.” New Earth is making new Earth. They are the catalyst in the cycle. Their success in building a business while remaining true to their commitment to the environment is demonstrated in everything they do. And the world is better off for it … or at least those lucky communities in Texas.