How industrial composters turn food waste into black gold

A rich black soil additive that is made out of food waste is referred to as ‘black gold. And this black gold improves soil health dramatically, making a positive impact on small home gardens or large community gardens. The process for creating black gold involves composting, which is the biological decomposition of organic matter. Composting occurs naturally, but the process can be accelerated, and it is an economically-friendly method to improve the performance of gardens of all sizes.

Large-scale or industrial composting facilities can handle a high volume of organic waste, which can be defined as food scraps, yard and garden trimmings, food-soiled paper products and biosolids. Industrial composting facilities have special equipment that can break down this waste on a much larger scale, whereas home composting methods typically cannot handle the foul smells and hungry outdoor pests that may impede the process.

Libby’s pumpkin products are born on family farms in Illinois, and in addition to reusing water and supporting pollinators, parts of the pumpkin that don’t make it into the can are recycled. These pumpkin rinds and stems serve as great fertilizer and are sent to local farmers to help boost the nutrient composition in the soil. Rinds and stems can also be used to make compost.

Excess food can also be reborn through a process called upcycling. Del Monte Foods, Inc. is helping lead the upcycled food movement by partnering with the Upcycled Food Association to help reduce food waste. The Upcycled Food Association is the world’s only third-party certification program for upcycled food ingredients and products. Del Monte Blue Lake Green Beans are made with 100 percent upcycled and sustainably grown green beans from Illinois and Wisconsin. Del Monte has also partnered with UFA to produce fruit infusion products by redirecting thousands of pounds of excess pineapple juice.

Healthy soils are living mixtures of minerals, microbes, organic matter, water and air. Unhealthy soils may contain fewer microbes or less organic material, making them less active and less helpful for plants. Poor soils have trouble holding water and are unable to decompose organic material into usable building blocks for new growth.

Making good compost involves mixing green plant waste such as vegetable peels with brown organic matter like soil or manure. In the ensuing weeks and months, microbes turn the mix into compost, which looks just like soil. When gardeners add compost to soil, the organic matter in the compost acts like a sponge for water. It is also a reservoir for nitrogen, phosphorous and other micronutrients that plants need to grow.

Home composting requires burdensome time and maintenance, and the process takes tools and constructing materials not all aspiring gardeners can afford. Composting also requires access to space and a friendly environment that can produce odors and attract pests.

Industrial composting companies or municipal composting programs can accept waste from restaurants, schools, businesses and residents. Composting helps save money for communities by diverting food waste from landfills, and it also promotes sustainability by reducing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas produced in landfills when waste breaks down in the absence of oxygen. Composting can also regenerate soil, revitalize water sources, and provide food security for communities.