A lot goes into the business of composting — in more ways than one.
Just ask Cody Witt, who helps manage and operate Full Circle Soils & Compost in Carson City, the largest composting company in Northern Nevada.
Full Circle operates a 40-acre site at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center dairy and horse farm in Carson City. There, up to 50 trucks a day roll in with loads of organic materials collected from municipalities and organizations across the greater Reno-Carson-Tahoe area.
The site’s large, manicured piles of organic matter then sit and cook, naturally heating up to as high as 160 degrees for as long as six months.
All the while, Witt and the Full Circle team monitor the mounds as they go through the composting process. When finished, the materials are used to make the company’s 40 retail products, including all-natural, soils, compost and mulches, shipped to 25 distributors across Northern Nevada.
“The key in composting and with us is that you take materials in, but they have to go out,” Cody Witt said. “Because if you don’t keep the materials flowing out, you’ll become a compost landfill and you either shut down or get shut down.”
In 2020, Full Circle had more materials flowing in and out than ever before. The Carson City-based company collected more 87,000 cubic yards of organic materials last year. For perspective, Witt said that volume of yard waste could fill the Nevada Wolf Pack’s Mackay Stadium to the brim — 41 feet high.
In all, the amount of compost Full Circle diverted from landfills weighed north of 40,100 tons, Witt noted.
A view of manicured rows of compost at Full Circle Soils and Compost’s 40-acre site at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center dairy and horse farm in Carson City.
"That Mackay Stadium-full of organic matter made into compost and then used saves 30,000 cars’ worth of CO2 per year,” Witt said. “So it’s like pulling the entire city of Gardnerville’s cars off of the roads and sequestering that carbon.”
Meanwhile, Full Circle saw a “huge boom” in product sales last year, said Witt, noting he attributes at least 10% of their increased sales to the pandemic.
“People were at home and they’re like, I’m going to build that garden,” Witt said. “There was more time to do stuff, so a lot of landscaping projects. And I think there was a cultural change (regarding) the idea of food security and knowing where your food comes from.”
MEETING COMPOST DEMAND A composting company in Reno has also seen demand grow from the gardening and home-cooking boom that has sprung during the pandemic.
Jon Criss, left, and Oz Kupoglu are co-owners of Down to Earth Composting in Reno-Sparks. Courtesy photo
“Our numbers actually went up during the pandemic,” said Oz Kupoglu, CEO of Down to Earth Composting. “I think that people were staying home and cooking more, so they were seeing their food waste and how much food scraps they were creating. So, it actually gave our company a little boost.” Down to Earth Composting is a subscription-based service that, every week, has its bicycling “rot riders” pick up food scraps from its members. The monthly cost for subscribers, who are provided with a five-gallon composting bucket, is $28. The company also offers a community drop-off subscription for $14 a month, allowing members to unload scraps as often as they want at the company’s five access points in Reno-Sparks. Where does Down to Earth take all of its collected food scraps? Down to Carson City to Full Circle — not via bicycle, of course — so compost can be created. Down to Earth then brings the finished product back to members, who have the option of receiving up to 40 gallons of compost each year for their gardening needs. Since the pandemic hit, Down to Earth’s memberships grew from 550 to 700 subscribers, said Kupoglu, who estimated they divert about 196,000 pounds of food scraps from the landfill each year.
Oz Kupoglu, co-owner of Down to Earth Composting, bicycles around a cart filled with food scraps that will be turned into compost. Kupoglu and fellow “rot riders” pick up compost buckets from people around Reno-Sparks subscribed to their service. Courtesy photo
Meeting the demand, however, has not been easy. “The member growth has definitely been a challenge because we want to keep growing and we don’t want to cap our membership at all,” Kupoglu said. “It’s been a struggle keeping rot riders around to help us collect food scraps.” Down to Earth currently has a team of eight part-time rot riders. Kupoglu, who co-owns the business with Jon Criss, said they would like to have a solid group of 10-12 riders. After all, as people become more eco-conscious and food-waste aware, she expects composting to grow in popularity in Northern Nevada. “Composting is such an important part of creating healthy soils in Nevada, and redirecting what we think is considered waste to being a reusable resource for our gardens and our farms,” Kupoglu said. “It is really cool to see your waste and what it is and where it can go differently than the landfill.”