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Compost and Replenish

((TRT: 07:06))
((Banner: Compost and Replenish))
((Reporter/Camera: Philip Alexiou))
((Map: Aberdeen, Maryland))
((Main characters: 1 male))
((Sub characters: 1 male))
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
Veteran Compost. This is Justen. Hey, how are you doing,
sir? The way our program works is we drop off clean bins and
take away bins that have food scraps in them. And then we dump
them and wash them.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
I started really small, literally a shovel and a trailer that I bought
used for a couple hundred bucks on the back of my SUV I towed
around and that's how we started out picking up material.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost)) So,
right now, we're getting ready to unload some material from local
coffee shops, schools and hospitals. So, this is one of our local
trucks. So, he'll unload his bins, load up clean bins for his next
route and then go back out the door to pick up more stuff. The
material will be sorted and then mixed with woodchips and
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
You can see the more colorful stuff here on the edge. I think
that's turmeric and then over here, there's like a ginger material
over here and this all comes out of a juice factory. The first piles I
ever built were built by hand. It helps to make mistakes when
you're smaller and learn from them. And then now at the scale
that we're at, it's really just optimizing a process. So, we have the
equipment. We have the knowledge. We have the tools. It's
really just kind of optimizing the system here that we have now.
You can see like coffee grounds. This is all tons and tons and
tons of coffee grounds from this chain of stores that makes coffee
24 hours a day. They’ve a little bit different chemical properties
with moisture and nutrients and things like that. So, as we mix
them in throughout the day, different ratios of woodchips get
mixed in depending on the type of food scraps in the mix.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost)) The
thing that kicks our butt is all the non-compostable stuff, all the
packaging and lunches, you know, packaged cheese sticks, juice
boxes, all that's going to have to get picked out. So, if we dump
out all the material and pick out all the trash by hand and then
we'll mix it all and set it out to the compost pile. But, you know,
no one wants to buy a finished product that has plastic and trash
in it. So, we've got to make sure that material gets picked out.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
I got into this because I was unemployed and the goal of the
business is whenever we can to hire veterans and family
members of veterans. And for a lot of our guys that come into
this, you know, they may have been in situations that weren't
great. And this is kind of a good way to escape all that, by
working here. So, yeah, pretty literal name.
((Russ Nichols, Driver))
My name is Russ Nichols. I was in the United States Army for
three years and I’ve been a driver ever since I was hired in
October. So, what drew me to the business was it’s a veteran-run
and operated business and, you know, after I talked on the phone
with Justen, he seemed like a real nice guy.
((Russ Nichols, Driver))
So, these are all the full coffee bins that we’ll exchange one for
one with. Now I took two out, I’ll grab two more and put two
empty ones, put them in here and grab this last.
Came here. We do a tryout process where you work for four
hours and see if it’s something that you like. Most of the guys
were really cool and, you know, it makes me feel like I’m back
with my brothers and sisters from the military.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
This is metal drums of blackberry puree and juice material. So,
it's actually a sealed bag inside of a barrel. So, what we do is
remove the lid, dump out the puree and sell the metal drums and
we end up making more off of selling the metal drums than we do
the composting part of it. You mix this in and it makes the pile
really hot because bacteria love sugar.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
Every day like today we’re short a guy and stuff’s broken. You
know, at least it's sunny. We've got one of the three.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
Once all that stuff's done breaking down after 30 days, it goes
through the screeder and that separates the larger material from
the finer material. All the nice fine compost goes out the back and
will be stockpiled for sale. All the larger material lands down
close to where we are. Those large, chunky, woody pieces and
those are actually added back to the compost process and we'll
continue to break those down until they're nice, fine particles.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost)) So,
underneath this barrel is an electric fan. So, what we're doing is
we're forcing air into these pipes and the pipes run into the
pile. So, all we're doing is supplying air to the pile so that all the
microbes inside have air to breathe. That's the finished
product. So, a couple thousand yards [cubic meters] of compost
and every day we're trying to sell it and every day we're trying to
make more of it.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost)) So,
you kind of see this stuff we screed yesterday. So, you can see
how much finer it is. Obviously, it doesn't look or anything like the
large wood chips or the food scraps we started like.
((Justen Garrity, Founder/President, Veteran Compost))
I did computers in college and like IT management in college, and
then I did, I was a combat engineer in the Army, mostly focused
on explosives, and then I got into this. So, well-rounded or
disjointed. You know, I like the idea of sustainability, of doing
something that has purpose and trying to make the world a better
place. So, part of that. I mean, I'm not fully committed. I drive a
pickup truck and I eat meat. So, I'm not a full-on
environmentalist. But the idea of recycling just makes a lot of
sense to me. And so, in this case where all the material on this
facility would have gone to a landfill or been burned. And so,
we're saving all that material and we're composting it. We're
recycling it. And then the finished product behind us, that's going
to grow new food and that's going to rebuild soil. It's going to
erosion control projects. So, we're helping to fix the issues in this
country with soil depletion. I mean the amount of topsoil that’s
been lost in the last 100 years in our country, no one's really
worried about it, but one year we're all going to go to farm and no
plants are going to grow and then everyone is suddenly going to
worry about the loss of topsoil. So, that's what we're doing, is
we're supplying great soil so people can get ahead of that and
grow good stuff.