Compost With Me

By Larry Egan / Photography By Dianne Langeland | May 01, 2015
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Mary Rather of Compost With Me
Mary Ryther owner of Compost With Me, a Falmouth-based business that turns organic kitchen waste into usable compost

This may sound familiar: you’d like to do more when it comes to recycling. You’d love to stop spending good money on bags of compost every time spring rolls around. This is the year you’re going to start that compost pile out back. Funny how life gets in the way, time speeds along, and poof! It’s one year later and you’re having the same exact conversation with yourself. Perhaps it was you Mary Ryther had in mind when she started her burgeoning business, Compost With Me.

Compost With Me, located in Falmouth, is providing a way for area businesses and homeowners to recycle their organic kitchen waste and more. The list of acceptable items is quite impressive—it’s much more than the eggshells, coffee grounds and banana peels that many of us associate with composting. Along with fruits and vegetables, Compost With Me takes meats, cheeses, and animal bones from commercial kitchens. Ryther’s commercial compost pile can spike to 160ºF to kill off pathogens; although 140° is ideal for fastest composting. Most pathogens and weed seeds are killed at 130°, so the standard is 15 days at 130°.

Leaves can be composted, but how about the shredded paper in the office trashcan? That’s organic, and can be composted as well. A few of the items Compost With Me won’t accept are plastics, metals and fertilized grass clippings, along with human or pet waste.

Mary supplies Falmouth-area commercial and residential kitchens with clean buckets to dispose of their scraps and waste. She returns weekly to collect the filled buckets and leave behind a clean bucket for the next week. “The washing is my least favorite part,” groans Ryther. “But I roll up my sleeves and wash those buckets once a week.”

She brings the collected waste to her farm in West Falmouth and turns it into usable compost, which she then returns to her customers four times a year. Compost With Me takes away the mess and hassle of making and tending to your own compost pile, but leaves you with the black gold at the end of the decomposing rainbow. If you’re around Falmouth this summer, look for one of Mary’s helpers peddling deliveries aboard the Compost With Me bicycle complete with a bucket-laden trailer.

For over 20 years, Ryther had a successful career in architecture. However, as a milestone birthday loomed, she desired something… else. She says, “I was one of those people. As 50 approached, I needed to do something completely different.” She thought of her roots, of working on the family farm growing up. Ryther is still, along with her siblings, a trustee of the Bunker Tree Farm in West Falmouth. It’s there that the waste goes to “cook” into compost. It’s a mid-life crisis that is refreshingly beneficial to so many.

Ryther started the business small with the idea of controlled growth. After a year and a half, things are ramping up since she signed an agreement with the town of Mashpee. The town received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to start a pilot program turning food waste into compost. This summer, residents will find Compost With Me’s containers at the Mashpee transfer station awaiting their kitchen scraps. Ryther does have a plan for the inevitable expansion to enlist other farms for the composting process. That would cut down on the delivery expenses. The farms would receive 50% of the compost generated on site (as dictated by the agricultural permits needed). The circuit is completed as the farms take in the organic material, turn it into compost, grow their crops with it, and sell their yield back to the commercial and residential kitchens from which the raw materials came.

As of October 1, 2014, Mass. DEP has issued a ban on organic commercial food waste disposal over 2000 pounds per week. By their guidelines, a restaurant would need to sell 4000 meals per week before overstepping the limit. Despite area restaurants not coming close to those figures, Compost With Me is starting to appear on more establishments’ radar screens as a sustainable way to deal with their waste. After all, a world without compost is just a bunch of garbage.

Compost With Me
compostwithme.com

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