The dirty craze on the rise in Charlotte: Composting

Photo courtesy of Crown Town Compost

Charlotte-area households are increasingly turning to composting as a way to lessen their individual impact on the environment.

How it works: Composting breaks down natural ingredients — from grass clippings and coffee grounds to banana peels and shredded cardboard — to make new organic material that can be added to soil.

  • In Charlotte you can DIY compost and use the product in your home garden, or you can get subscribe to a service like Crown Town Compost, which is the only local operator that offers residential pickup of food waste.

Food scraps and yard waste combined make up more than 30% of what we throw away at home, according to the EPA. When those materials get to landfills, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Why it matters: Policies guiding how to reduce our impact on the environment often focus on large-scale efforts by corporations and the government. Individual people, however, still want to know what they themselves can do.

  • Getting rid of food waste via composting — having it turned into nutrient-rich soil instead of getting tossed into the garbage — is a way to cut down on the amount that clogs up landfills, proponents say. It also alleviates the strain on the solid waste industry.

[Related Axios story: 5 big ideas for a more sustainable Charlotte]

Driving the news: The town of Davidson will begin a six-month pilot program with Crown Town Compost next month.

  • The program will accommodate approximately 250 households, town spokesperson Amanda Preston tells me.
  • It is made possible through a grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and $2,000 from the town.

The goal: Cut down on the amount of food waste coming from residences, therefore lowering the town’s carbon footprint and reducing waste.

“Sustainability has been a priority area for our town for a number of years,” Preston says.

Zoom out: Crown Town Compost provides service for about 1,000 households, from Davidson down to Ballantyne, for $35 a month. Customers get soil back twice a year as part of their subscription.

Crown Town Compost also has about 80-100 commercial partners, including Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, the new Gibson Mills and Summit Coffee.

  • “They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Eric Theys, owner in charge of operations, says of commercial businesses that opt to compost.
  • The first full apartment complex that added composting as a tenant amenity is The Joinery, Charlotte’s first carless apartment complex on Brevard Avenue that opened this year.

[Related Axios story: See inside Charlotte’s first carless apartment complex]

Yes, but: Composting isn’t for everyone. For small businesses like restaurants, it’s another cost on top of the rising price of just about everything, from labor to equipment. Plus, it’s more work.

  • “Their chefs just balk at the idea of another process to implement because of staffing issues,” says Charlie Hyland, director of Crown Town’s sales. “They don’t want to … tell a trainee, ‘here put the scraps in this bin.’”

Summit Coffee’s Brett Dioguardi, the company’s VP of impact, acknowledges composting is an extra investment and effort for the company. They’ve been composting for about three years — all back-of-house waste, though they’d like to add front of house/customer composting options in the future.

  • In 2021, Summit diverted 58,357 pounds of organic matter with Crown Town Composting, per Dioguardi.

“This is an added cost for us … but we believe in doing the right things, and sometimes those things cost more,” he says.

[Related Axios story: Why it matters that many of us in Charlotte are bad at recycling]

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