From onion skins to eggshells to withered bouquets, one local small business is keeping literally tons of compostable waste out of landfills and making it into something useful for its customers — nutrient-rich soil.

In 2018, Michelle Bradley and her husband Java Bradley started Java’s Compost by placing their signature containers in local households. After their customers fill the 5-gallon buckets with kitchen scraps, they pick them up and replace them with clean ones. Next stop for the refuse is a processing center where food and plant waste transforms into dark, rich compost for gardens.

The West Orange duo has diverted a lot of garbage from landfill and incinerators.

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“Our last tally, which was in December, we were at 50,000 pounds,” Michelle Bradley said. “The most recent trip to the composting facility our food scraps weighed in at five tons.”

Last year Java’s Compost added a commercial pickup service to meet the needs of local businesses. They now collect compostable waste from Brave Floral and culinary ventures including Baker Street Market, Joyist, the Able Baker and BSTV Entertainment, a studio where the Food Network produces shows.

Java’s Compost serves customers in Bloomfield, Montclair, Glen Ridge, West Orange, Millburn, Short Hills, Chatham, Maplewood and South Orange, and will be coming soon to Summit.

“Our days are never alike,” Michelle Bradley said. She handles customer relations, special requests, social media and marketing, while Java Bradley heads operations and does some of the hauling. He makes sure the pickup routes are as efficient as they can be, a plan that changes since new customers sign up almost every day.

So far, the residential service is more popular than the commercial.

“It allows busy people to compost without having to put in the time and effort needed to manage a backyard compost system,” Michelle said. “Our customers appreciate the convenience and feel much less guilty about throwing away food because they know it's being recycled into nutrient-rich compost.”

Giving back to their community is important, Michelle Bradley said, so they offer customers 10 pounds of compost twice a year. They also work with the SWAG Project in Newark and the Urban Agriculture Cooperative, which works with a consortium of urban farms in both Newark and East Orange. They recently started to facilitate workshops at local schools and participate in speaking engagements.

Although their business is growing (they also started customizing events to make them more eco-friendly) Michelle Bradley said that people sometimes have misconceptions about composting, at least at first.

“Some of our customers remember their parents or grandparents composting, and let's just say it was not a good memory for them,” Michelle Bradley said. “Our pickup service eliminates many of these roadblocks since the material is picked up and carted away. Even so, people are afraid their bucket will smell and become gross. We try to reassure them that it doesn't actually smell but many don't believe us until they start and see for themselves.”

“It's all about education,” she said. “In fact, I had these same misconceptions before gaining some experience with composting. But, honestly, composting just feels good to do and once you start it's very hard to stop. Once we help people get over the initial hump, we have very few people who stop using our service.” 

Want to learn more?

Weekly pickup, recommended for a two- to five-person household, costs $12.50 per week. Pickup every other week, recommended for a one- to two-person household, is $8.50 per week. There is also a $25 one-time set up fee.

Price, quantity and frequency for commercial pickup is customized based on the needs of each business. 

For more information about Java’s Compost or to sign up, visit www.javascompost.com.

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