Commercial Compost Program Grows To Five Participating Restaurants

Commercial Compost Program Grows To Five Participating Restaurants
Garvey Heiderman, who heads the compost operation for the Go Green OC group, is pictured placing food waste into a compost collection bin. File Photo

OCEAN CITY – A compost pilot program will expand this year with the participation of five resort restaurants.

Beginning April 1, Go Green OC – a local nonprofit dedicated to zero-waste goals in Ocean City – will launch the next phase of its compost pilot program. This year, The Bonfire Restaurant, 70th Street Dough Roller, 78th Street Mother’s Cantina and Real Raw Organics will join The Hobbit Restaurant in an effort to remove food from the waste stream.

“There’s a lot of people who want to do this, it’s just there’s no mechanism to do it,” said Garvey Heiderman, owner of The Hobbit and director of compost operations for Go Green OC. “We’re trying to be instrumental in creating that mechanism while making the numbers work on the back end.”

In 2018, Go Green OC partnered with The Hobbit to launch a pilot composting program. Since that time, the organization has composted thousands of pounds of food waste and collected more than $9,000 in grant funding and donations to support its efforts.

With four resort restaurants joining the pilot program this year, Go Green OC founder Josh Chamberlain said he is excited to see more food being removed from the waste stream.

“As a pilot program, we are using it as a data collection tool to show everybody the capabilities of what we can do,” he said.

Heiderman said all five participating restaurants will separate food waste into separate receptacles, which will be collected twice a week throughout the year. The waste is then moved to a farm in Bishopville, where it will be mixed with wood chips and brown yard waste and placed on a new aeration system for composting.

“If you do this properly you don’t have to do too much to it, physically,” he said. “You kind of just let Mother Nature do its work.”

While interest in joining the pilot program has grown, Heiderman explained the nonprofit is limited to collecting between 50 and 70 tons of food waste through the Maryland Department of Environment’s permitting exemption. As a result, he said, Go Green OC must limit the number of participating restaurants.

“We are still keeping the site under 5,000 square feet so that we fall under the Maryland Department of the Environment’s exemption, so we don’t have to get a permit from them …,” he said. “We’re going to have to cap the program at 70 tons this year, so that’s the most we can handle on site to stay under than 5,000 square foot footprint.”

But Heiderman noted plans for the composting program don’t end there. Though it would take major investments, he said, the nonprofit’s goal is to seek a composting permit and include more restaurants. That would also mean upgrading its aeration system.

“The plan – assuming everything goes as planned this year – is to expand the program and get to a point where I’ll become a licensed composter, and we will get a permit and take on more restaurants,” he said. “This will truly be the last pilot program type of year.”

Despite its limitations this year, Chamberlain said the nonprofit will still be able to remove up to 70 tons of food from the waste stream with the help of its participating businesses. He attributed the program’s ongoing success to community interest and volunteer efforts.

“Capping it off and moving that amount of waste would still be an extraordinary goal to reach,” he said.

For more information on Go Green OC and its composting program, visit gogreenwithoc.org or any of the nonprofit’s social media accounts. For those interested in donating to the compost pilot program, contact Josh Chamberlain at gogreenoccampaign@gmail.com.

“We’re doing this step by step and trying to understand the process,” Heiderman said. “The goal is to scale this and make it work.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.