Winton Mfg. brings high-tech composting to businesses, households in the region
Winton Mfg. Composts Works is doing some interesting work developing a regional commercial compost program that allows farmers, restaurants, hotels and families to divert food and yard waste that would normally go to the landfill into nutrient-rich soil that can be used in gardens, farms and orchards.
Robbette Schmit, the company’s sales and outreach coordinator, was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility recently. The company’s composting facility is located on the former Longview Fiber Winton Mill near Coles Corner and Lake Wenatchee. So, the company is not just recycling food and yard waste, they’re also recycling a piece of property that has been sitting unused for many years.
Winton MFG has been signing up compostable waste customers in the greater Chelan County area. Their early customers included J&J Meats in Cashmere; Peshastin-Dryden Elementary, and München Haus restaurant in Leavenworth. Since the launch in November, more restaurants, hotels, landscapers, schools, nonprofits and cities have started using the service for their compostable waste.
The Winton Mfg. setup is impressive, with the rows of compost against the mountainous backdrop and the quiet work that the microbes are performing under Gore-Tex covers. Rows are built using a mixture of the food and yard waste, laid out in a row on top of pipes to provide the microbes oxygen as they work. The computerized gore cover composting system is able to record and track what’s happening internally in each row being composted. After the microbes have had 30 days to work on the pile, the soil is tested for stability, and then transferred to a holding area for the microbes to slow down and settle.
The finished compost looks like dark soil with varying sizes of wood material and smells like the forest floor. Before being sold the rows are moved and sorted into a finished fine compost product. Those who choose can purchase naturally reconditioned soil to improve productivity and reduce the need for fertilizers, according to Schmit. “It’s a really cool system,” said Schmit. “As a biologist, it’s awesome because we get to look at all this fun data — the graphs of how the piles are breaking down. I can geek out all day,” she said.
“A strong motivation for current customers and facilities users is to be responsible environmental stewards”, Schmit said. With that in mind, the program also launched with bear-wise initiative. With the help of Rich Beausoleil, a bear and cougar specialist, the bear-safe containers purchased reduce the risk of bears becoming habituated to food waste.
Winton Mfg. commercial accepts food wastes that backyard composters typically avoid, such as meat, bones, cooked food, and cheese.
For families who don’t have the time to compost at home and for those living in apartments, Winton Mfg. has a household composting program with drop-off locations from Plain to Peshastin. Participants pay $5 per month to bring food waste every week to the drop-off location of their choice.
Another application being discussed is bringing in forest fuels to be composted rather than burned. That would have the twin benefit of reducing smoke and wildfire risks. The company is partnering with the Lake Wenatchee Fire Department, the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, Cascadia Conservation District and other agencies to explore that application.
Winton Mfg. is selling finished compost and other soil products at their retail yard at the composting site. For more information, check out their website, Wintonmfg.com, and their Facebook page.