True-blue gardeners pride themselves on saving their table scraps and making their own compost.
Other green-minded growers now can have the next best thing – locally produced compost generated from thousands of tons of Spokane County’s food and yard waste.
Last year, residents, colleges and dozens of companies diverted more than 25,000 tons of yard and food waste to the Spokane area’s compost producer, Barr-Tech LLC, a for-profit operation near Fishtrap, southwest of Spokane along Interstate 90.
The two-year deal signed last spring allowed area residents and businesses to recycle food waste and paper products like pizza boxes in their green-waste recycle barrels. Up till then food products were kept out of the recycling system.
Compost, the byproduct of the decomposition of organic material, has been used as a fertilizer and ground nutrient for thousands of years. Spokane residents were able to obtain home-grown compost from the city-run Spokane Regional Solid Waste System’s composting operation in Colbert – until 2002. That year problems with alleged chemical contaminants in the green waste shut down the Colbert operation for good.
This spring the first large batch of Barr-Tech compost is available at three wholesale-retailers: Action Materials southwest of Spokane, Rock Hound Landscape Supply in Post Falls, and Bark Boys Landscape Supplies in north Spokane.
Their customers include gardeners, landscaping outfits and contractors providing materials for area jobs. Contractors hired by the state Department of Transportation have bought Barr-Tech compost mixed with dirt for embankments along the North Spokane Corridor.
Before the deal with Barr-Tech, Spokane’s green waste – minus food items – was collected and shipped to Royal City, about 120 miles away, near Moses Lake. The shorter, 27-mile trip from Spokane to the 40-acre Fishtrap site significantly cuts the cost of providing compost, said Scott Windsor, Spokane’s solid waste director.
“That it all came from local and comes back to local users, that’s a good benefit,” Windsor said.
Ted Condon, managing partner of Barr-Tech, said he hopes the lower cost and the “buy-local” appeal sparks interest in the company’s compost products.
The Fishtrap operation easily can produce about 28,000 tons of compost annually, and more if demand grows, Condon said. The volume of compost is roughly two-thirds of the total waste hauled there from Spokane and other counties and cities.
Barr-Tech also brings in a second stream of biosolid waste from municipal waste treatment plants. The company separates those biosolids – sewage sludge left over from human and commercial waste – and uses that material to produce a second compost. It markets the sludge-enriched compost separately, said Condon, because some consumers and contractors demand sludge-free compost on some jobs.
Condon is one of the older brothers of Spokane Mayor David Condon. The mayor has no involvement in the Lincoln County business, his brother said. The city struck its contract with Barr-Tech about six months before David Condon was elected last November.
The local processing has led to lower costs for compost, said Calvin Matson, general manager of Action Materials. His firm charges about $29 per cubic yard. That’s about $12 cheaper than the compost he previously used.
“I think Barr-Tech’s is better,” Matson said. “Not because it has better materials, but because it’s right from here, it comes back here, and it’s all locally made.”