An industrial composter created by a school in the Adirondack region is attracting a lot of attention.

In 2017, the North Country School in Lake Placid designed and constructed a large-scale composter with funding from the New York Energy Research and Development Authority. The four-year, $100 million program has been administered through the Adirondack North Country Association.

North Country School has added new customers to its list.

“Three new industrial composting systems have been installed at or in cooperation with local schools in Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and DeKalb Junction. It’s the latest in a series of state-funded compost projects that started at North Country School and Camp Treetops three years ago,” according to a story by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, published Sept. 2 in the Watertown Daily Times. “The locally designed and manufactured composting machines turn food waste into rich organic material using feedstock from Lake Placid Central School, Hermon-DeKalb Central School and the Wild Center nature museum, which has partnered with the Tupper Lake Central School District. This process reduces the amount of methane gas produced by the school’s food waste, allows the schools to use the resulting compost material in gardens and fields, and saves the schools money on tipping fees at landfills.”

Information on the website for North Country School said that representatives of three different countries and eight states have expressed an interest in the composting technology developed there. Industrial composters can cost from $40,000 to $140,000. With materials costing about $15,000, the one created in Lake Placid is more affordable “and can be contained within a 40-foot shipping container,” the school said.

“Our hope is that this design will allow many more organizations like ours to divert food scraps from landfills and create a high value soil amendment,” the school reported. “Our first year of operation, we composted approximately 30,000 pounds of food scraps.”

North Country School’s industrial composter was designed and manufactured by John Culpepper, director of facilities and sustainability there, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise’s story. He worked in conjunction with contractor Greg LaClair from Upper Jay.

Bacteria in the composter break down food scraps.

“Around 50,000 pounds of food waste go into that composter a year; middle school students feed the waste gathered on campus into the tube. The material loses over 50 percent of its weight in the process and comes out as a type of soil fertilizer,” the story reported. “The microbes, though small, are massive in number. Culpepper noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 15 quintrillion (a 15 followed by 18 zeros) microbes in a compost drum the size of theirs — the same number of estimated grains of sand on all of Earth’s beaches, according to research from the University of Hawaii. These 15 quintrillion microbes in North Country School’s compost became operational in May 2017. Culpepper and Perry selected three more host organizations to receive tubes each filled with some 15 quintrillion microbes of their own. They said they based their choices on the organizations’ proven commitment to sustainability initiatives and their ability to successfully complete projects.”

North Country School officials said their design will eventually be placed on the school’s website for other groups to copy. The innovation employed to create a more affordable industrial composter reflects very well on this school. The people there deserve all the credit they’re receiving for coming up with an environmentally friendly method of reusing food waste, and we wish them continued success.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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