WEST ORANGE, NJ — Java’s Compost, which is in the process of expanding its services to West Orange and surrounding communities, gives food new life by educating anyone who will listen about the steps and benefits of composting.
Although owners Java and Michelle Bradley started their company approximately three years ago, they could not start their composting business for a full year due to New Jersey food waste regulations.
Java, who has a certification as a compost operator from Rutgers University and a background as an educator for 17 years, originally had the idea to collect food scraps from other people’s homes as a hobby in order to bring them to the Maplewood community garden, where the Bradleys were members.
“When we explored what that actually meant in New Jersey, [we found that we couldn’t bring] food from one person’s property to another person’s property,” said Michelle, a mother of three sons—ages 14, 12 and nine—with a background and master’s degree in social work.
Legally, compostable material needs to be brought to a licensed composting facility, “and in New Jersey, only companies with a Class C license are allowed to deal with organic waste,” she said.
Undeterred, the Bradleys continued their research, but came across another obstacle. There was only one composting facility in all of New Jersey that accepted food waste.
“But they don’t take any more because we have far too many producers [of food waste] and they can’t take a small residential quantity,” said Michelle. “So just the lack of facilities in New Jersey made us rethink how to do this business because at that point we were very committed to educating people about food waste and how to reduce it through composting and we just felt like we have to share this message with some people somehow.”
The Bradleys then came up with the idea to start their on-site composting business, which consists of teaching people how to compost on their own property, Michelle explained.
“You have a natural fertilizer in the form of compost,” said Michelle, adding that by recycling the nutrients that otherwise would have been wasted in a landfill, people can feel good about being in control of their “individual household food cycle—their ‘food loop.’”
Java’s Compost is a full-service company that offers a variety of services depending on the customer’s lifestyle and needs. Michelle added that it also depends on “what you have time for and what you’re interested in.”
For people who want to learn how to compost themselves, Java’s Compost has a DIY Composting service where customers are given the choice to build their own Start-Up Kit. Customers can choose between different sized tumblers—which they can also choose to assemble themselves—among other items that are available for purchase a la carte.
As the prices vary for this service, Michelle said that customers are able to make the kit as cheap or as expensive as they want. Click HERE for more information on pricing for DIY composting.
For those who still want to reduce their carbon footprint but don’t have the room or time to devote to composting, Java’s Compost also has a Pick-Up service, which will be available to residents of West Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, Short Hills and Millburn in the beginning of May 2019.
As part of the pickup service, Michelle explained that participants collect their food in a bucket with a lid that Java’s Compost provides. Each week, they set the bucket outside the front door—or in a designated area of an apartment complex or townhome—for Java’s Compost to pick up, clean and replace.
The service costs $12 per week, and the first 50 people who sign up will receive a free bucket provided by Java’s Compost. Registration is available now by clicking HERE.
The collected material will then be processed in a composting facility in Upstate New York. According to Michelle, Java’s Compost will be “giving fresh compost back to our customers probably in the fall or spring as a thank you for participating.”
Michelle said she understands some people might be apprehensive about composting, because for years prior to starting Java’s Compost, she said that she had “all the common fears of mice and smells and stuff we didn’t want to deal with.”
But after watching “Dirt! The Movie,” Michelle learned the values that composting brings to not only the health of soil, but also to people’s physical health.
Regardless of one’s skill level, Michelle said Java’s Compost’s goal is “to make composting easy for people—just to demystify it and take a lot of the guesswork out of it [instead of] wasting time and money trying to figure it all out.”
Java’s Compost will also offer to make house calls to troubleshoot any issues participants find while in the process of composting.
Java’s Compost also educates the community by providing workshops and coordinating outreach events for people who want to learn more about composting and teaches about the impact that food waste has on the environment.
Contextualizing this impact for the approximately 48,400 people who live in West Orange, Michelle noted that if one person typically wastes an average of one pound of food per day, West Orange would ultimately wasting more than 17 million pounds of waste in the course of a year that would ultimately be burned in Newark’s incinerator.
“That’s a pretty significant number,” said Michelle, which she said is why Java’s Compost wants people to “rethink of food as a resource and not trash, just like recycling.”
In the future, Java’s Compost has plans to open a Community Composting site so that everyone can have access to a facility where food scraps are kept “within the community.” According to Michelle, this would allow for more partnerships between them and community gardens.
Currently this is not feasible because the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) places the same regulations provided to huge facilities on smaller and mid-size facilities, which according to Michelle can cost between $50,000 to $100,000 to get licensing and permits.
As founding members of the New Jersey Composting Council (NJCC), the Bradleys work with fellow founding member Matthew Karmel, an attorney in Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP’s Environmental Practice Group, to “improve the laws and regulations relating to organics recycling and compost,” according to Karmel.
Karmel, who is also the committee chair, added that the committee is working with the NJDEP to “craft exemptions that will allow small scale activities without a recycling permit.” He said this would save money for smaller operations and would also reduce “the burdens on new and expanding businesses without sacrificing protection of the environment.”