published Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Bakery, insurer haul food waste to farm compost

A sign designates a working pile of compost while Bengt Carlson moves small mounds of mulch Friday. John Sweet of Niedlov's Breadworks and Carlson unloaded and covered compost at Crabtree Farms from the bakery on Friday morning. Sweet says he tries to make a compost run to the farm at least once a week.
A sign designates a working pile of compost while Bengt Carlson moves small mounds of mulch Friday. John Sweet of Niedlov's Breadworks and Carlson unloaded and covered compost at Crabtree Farms from the bakery on Friday morning. Sweet says he tries to make a compost run to the farm at least once a week.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

• What: John Sweet, founder of Niedlov’s Breadworks, has initiated a composting program, Chattanooga Compost. BlueCross BlueShield recently joined in the effort. Its goal is to take unused, inedible food waste and turn it into valuable topsoil through chemistry.

• Location: Three times per week, composters haul food waste from downtown establishments to Crabtree Farms, where it is separated into piles and allowed to slowly turn into useful dirt.

• How it’s green: The program keeps waste out of the landfill, cutting back on the buildup of methane gas. “With relatively little work, it will turn back into something that has innumerable applications,” Sweet said.

• Why do it this way: The only other option is throwing the food away. The food waste that is suitable for recycling is unsuitable for eating, he said, because it’s mostly made up of things like egg shells, orange peels and carrot tops.

• What’s the cost: For the present, the main cost is time and labor, Sweet said. However, after spending about $300 on materials to get started, the only remaining cost is the truck used for hauling the waste, which consumes about $30 in gas per week.

• Advice for others: Even though it’s a lot of work, “to be able to walk home from my workout and pick carrots and potatoes from my garden to eat dinner out of raised beds primarily filled with compost from the bakery is its own reward,” Sweet said.

• Is environmentalism an essential part of the business: Sweet favors the term “stewardship” over environmentalism. “It’s all about being a good steward with the resources I’ve been entrusted with, which is one of my life’s guiding principles,” he said.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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