Business

Composting without any heavy lifting

Bainbridge High School students and Earth Service Corp members (L-R) Lauren Greenawalt, Marina Philip and Polly Lentz worked with entrepreneur Michael Bryan-Brown on a green composter for kitchen waste. The 9.9-yard machine creates compost for recycling.  - Brad Camp
Bainbridge High School students and Earth Service Corp members (L-R) Lauren Greenawalt, Marina Philip and Polly Lentz worked with entrepreneur Michael Bryan-Brown on a green composter for kitchen waste. The 9.9-yard machine creates compost for recycling.
— image credit: Brad Camp

While most islanders are looking for ways to get rid of their garbage, Michael Bryan-Brown is helping them keep it.

He runs the West Coast branch of Green Mountain Technologies, a firm focused on changing the face of composting.

The business designs and manufactures a number of products that take the work out of composting. Its machines store the compost, turn it, chop it and process it into usable fertilizer.

“The long-term goal of Green Mountain Technologies is to allow people to take in the waste of their own home and use it,” Bryan-Brown said.

The firm started by producing large-scale composters in Vermont. When Bryan-Brown and his wife moved to the island, they saw a need for smaller composters. They opened an office of Green Mountain Technology and began looking into composting solutions for businesses and individuals. This led to the creation of the Earth Tub and the Earth Bin.

The tub looks like a large, covered hot tub. It uses an auger to mix and chop items to be composted. It can process as many as 150 pounds of biomass per day.

The Earth Bin is a larger, fully automated version of the tub. Bins come in two sizes and can process anywhere from a quarter of a ton to a full ton of biomass in a single day.

Green Mountain donated two of its Earth Tubs to IslandWood and recently installed an Earth Bin at Bainbridge High School. The tubs process nearly all of the organic waist from IslandWood and the resulting fertilizer is used in the nonprofit’s gardens. The same is true at BHS where the Earth Bin will be used to process lunch waste and other compostable materials; it’s part of a project by the Earth Service Corps to reduce the school’s waste.

Bryan-Brown said the idea is to eliminate any need for outside help.

“You can take your own waste material, do the recycling and then use the finished product,” Bryan-Brown said. “It doesn’t involve intermediary steps like putting it on a truck and moving it.”

These two types of composting machines work well for businesses and schools, but they are still not a good fit for most homes. At 4-feet tall, 7 1/2-feet wide and 450 pounds, the Earth Tub is too big to fit the needs of individuals. Size and convenience have always been barriers to composting, Bryan-Brown said.

To overcome this, Green Mountain has come up with a new way to compost that could rival the popularity of the kitchen sink, while sitting right under it. Bryan-Brown and his colleagues have designed a modified garbage disposal that takes care of the composting. When it is switched on, the disposal would redirect the ground-up food waste into a separate pipe.

Instead of flowing into the sewer system, this ground-up food would be collected in a tank and broken down for fertilizer. The product, which is still in the prototype stage, could be placed in apartments and homes to make composting easier.

To promote the product and help the company grow, Bryan-Brown has begun hiring people like Bainbridge Graduate Institute alum Caleb Bushner. He is working to combine green business with good business. By hiring professionals, Bryan-Brown wants to build up his company and expand its abilities. If they are successful, composting could become common place.

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