Carissa Moyna earned the nickname Compost Queen for her passion for turning food and organic waste into a material that creates a healthier floor. Now she and her business partner Andrew Frank have turned their enthusiasm for compost into a profession.
Core Living Compost is a recently formed startup that launched on June 1st. The food waste collection service covers all of Ames and helps to divert food waste from the waste stream treated at the Ames Resource Recovery Plant.
The company was co-founded by Moyna, an Iowa graduate with an MBA and degree in civil engineering, and Frank, an Iowa computer engineering student who shares Moyna’s passion for compost.
Customers can sign up for weekly or bi-weekly collections of their groceries and organic waste for $ 35 and $ 25 per month, respectively. They are then given a 4 gallon green container with a lid and a compostable liner to hold their food waste until the pickup day when Moyna and Frank will pick it up and replace it with an empty, clean container.
“We’ll pick her up at people’s doorstep and take her to the food waste disposal program run by the Resource Recovery Center, and then she’ll be diverted to a composting facility in Eddyville,” Frank said. “Our goal is to make it easier for people to access composting.”
Part of the added value that Core Living Compost offers, according to Moyna, is that the buckets are cleaned so customers have a fresh, disinfected container every week or biweekly, depending on their account.
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Core Living Compost does some of the gross chores of composting
It’s not a glamorous process. There are flies on the dumpster and some unpleasant smells there and in the buckets.
“It takes a special person to clean those buckets that have been used to store food waste for a week or two,” said Moyna, laughing.
The compostable liners help keep the containers clean, but true to their name, they start to crumble a bit before they get into the dumpster.
Core Living Compost works with the city of Ames to keep organic material out of the system.
“The city ran this food waste disposal program that people can now join for free,” Moyna said.
It’s a free program, but not everyone wants to pack their old food in their car and lug it into the bin with other biodegradable foods – and the flies that come with it.
Your business with Frank is helping make it easier for people to get involved in food waste diversion.
Moyna met Bill Schmitt, director of the Resource Recovery Plant, after starting the Compost team in Iowa in her sophomore year.
“I asked Bill what he thought of this business idea and he said, ‘Wow, what you’re doing is a great idea. We’d love to help you where we can, ‘”said Moyna.
“They really helped us as far as our buckets and compost liners go,” she added. “You donated the first 50 to really help us and to make it easier to reach the community.”
The city is also helping Core Living Compost get the word out by sharing information on the Resource Recovery Plant website.
“You helped us, but we are our own business and separate from the government agency,” added Moyna.
The food waste diversion program is generally beneficial for the city, Frank said, as the garbage is burned by the power plant to generate electricity.
“Organic waste isn’t actually flammable, so it affects their efficiency,” he said. “Getting this material out of there is really good for them.”
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The Ames resource recovery facility was founded in 1975 and, according to the facility’s website, was the first city-owned facility in the United States to incinerate waste to generate energy.
Trash comes to the facility from Ames and other communities in Story County. The plant separates reusable metals and sells them for recycling. The rest of the material is crushed. The combustible part is used in the power plant. The material that cannot be incinerated is sent to a landfill.
A few years ago someone asked Moyna why it was important for food to decompose in a compost heap rather than in a landfill.
“I had a moment of panic inside, but it was such a good question,” she said. “That is an important distinction. When food waste ends up in a landfill, it becomes covered in other layers of rubbish and there is no oxygen to get into the heap.
“It goes through an anaerobic process and the result is the formation of methane, one of the lesser-known greenhouse gases.”
When food waste ends up on a compost heap, it creates a minimal amount of carbon dioxide compared to the methane gas created in a landfill, she said.
“By diverting your food waste to compost instead of landfill, you are mitigating greenhouse gas climate change,” said Moyna.
Composting is better for the air, good for the soil
Composting not only reduces the negatives but also creates many positive effects, she said.
“If compost gets into the soil, it becomes a soil conditioner,” said Moyna. “The compost helps the soil to better absorb water and nutrients. So when you apply fertilizer, the soil can become healthier faster than without the compost. It helps water and fertilizer to be more effective. “
Moyna saw firsthand the positive difference that can happen when people compost their food waste.
When Moyna started the Compost team in Iowa, no one came to the first meeting. It was disappointing, but it didn’t stop her.
“It was very humbling, but now to see how it has grown and what impact we are having on campus is amazing,” she said. “It just made so much sense to me from an ecological and economic point of view. Compost is really on the rise and is trendy for cities, so I see it as a great opportunity. “
A project that encouraged composting among 120 residents of Frederiksen Court, an on-campus residential complex, produced 850 pounds of compost.
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Frank and Moyna call their customers the core community, and that’s the group they want to see grow.
Composting services are also gaining traction elsewhere in Iowa, such as The Compost Ninja, a Cedar Rapids-based organization that does something similar to Core Living Compost and even serves businesses in the Des Moines area.
To date, Core Living Compost has a few dozen customers, including Iowa President Wendy Wintersteen, Moyna said. The aim is to connect all Ames households to composting and also to be able to integrate companies into the core community. There is a survey on the website for companies to show their interest.
Customers can sign up for the service through the company’s website, corelivingcompost.com.