Now I compost my yard waste in a 4- by 4-foot wire bin, but it’s challenging to dispose of kitchen waste, thanks to my curious dogs. A young local company, NewTerra Compost, aims to solve this dilemma.
NewTerra was started by friends Michael Ryan and Normand Lavoie in December 2020, following a summer-long trial program in which they, their friends, and neighbors diverted over 3,000 pounds of food from the trash (i.e., landfill). Ryan says his inspiration for the trial was 20 years of working in the foodservice industry, seeing firsthand how much food was thrown out.
NewTerra serves the Chattanooga metropolitan area, with its processing facility located in nearby Wildwood, Ga. The company’s programs have seen consistent growth, evidenced by the over 1 million pounds of food that has now turned into compost. Ryan explains the company’s purpose: “Our mission is to make it accessible and convenient for residential and commercial members to compost, while educating the public about issues of food waste.”
Even as a lifelong composter, I was surprised at some of the information Ryan shared with me about why composting matters. “Unfortunately food doesn’t just disappear in landfills like people think it does. In fact, a head of lettuce can last up to 25 years in a landfill, producing methane as it breaks down,” said Ryan. Even more astonishing, he shared that scientists have found banana peels and newspapers still recognizable after more than 50 years.
The food waste that restaurants, stores and households save for NewTerra serves a dual purpose - “starving the landfills,” as Ryan says, and creating a nutrient-rich compost that is then utilized in local gardens and landscapes. The process for transforming food to compost in their industrial facility takes about 90 days. (This is mind-bogglingly fast to most home composters!)
Members of the NewTerra programs have the option to receive finished compost twice a year or donate it to a school or nonprofit. Current nonprofit partners include the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, the Chattanooga Food Center, the Chattanooga Audubon Society, and the Blythe Oldfield Community Association in Cleveland.
NewTerra’s residential customers on Signal Mountain can take their food scraps to a kiosk at Pruett’s, a system Ryan says works well and will remain available. (Ryan notes that Pruett’s has been a strong supporter of NewTerra’s mission from the start.)
NewTerra’s additional service, available now, is weekly curbside pickup. Ryan describes the basics of the program, “Our curbside membership is $30 per month. Every week our curbside members will receive either an email or SMS reminder to set their bucket out by the curb. Then, the next day we will show up and swap out their full bucket with a clean, empty bucket and new compostable liner.”
NewTerra’s customers can compost the usual fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as some things that might surprise you as well, including meat, dairy, and BFI-certified compostable products. The bucket has a tight-fitting lid to keep smells in and mischievous pets out.
While Ryan naturally looks forward to meeting new customers and growing the business, passion really is at the center of NewTerra’s work. At the risk of offending him, I asked about the typical customer and whether composting is “just for hippies?” Ryan responded, “Composting is for everyone! Our typical customer would be someone who cares about sustainability, wants to help set us back on the right course, and supports teaching our children how to properly handle waste.”
Three boxes checked for me.
If you are interested in more information on NewTerra Compost’s programs, visit www.newterracompost.com.
by Ginger Gibson