Whether you are just starting to look for opportunities in the composting industry or if you want to step up your game to become a successful compost producer, you have to manage your fixed operating costs and produce quality end products that people want to buy. According to Vermeer Recycling and Forestry Sales Manager Ted Dirkx, you can achieve both of these goals by managing the way materials move through your yard.
“Having spent time working with composters all over the world, I can say that setting up a composting facility says a lot about how lean it is operated,” explained Dirkx. “The layout determines the efficiency with which the material is handled and can have a significant impact on the quality of the finished products produced. Proper layout minimizes material handling and helps control outside factors, such as humidity, which can impact ripening and cause odors. And while the overview of how a composting facility is built may seem pretty basic, it’s the little details that make the difference between average and large growers.
To better understand the details that matter, let’s take a quick tour of an efficient composting facility. And once we’re done, be sure to check out the composting layout quick guide that comes with it as a reminder for you and your team.
FIRST STOP: DEPOSIT AREA
“How and where you accept the organic waste questions, ”Dirkx said. “Since composting facilities typically include a tip fee, their first thought is how they can make it more convenient for people to throw in and go. So they place their drop area just beyond the weigh station, and if they are selling compost and / or mulch, they also want to have it readily available near the front of the facility. Having both incoming and finished material up front requires a lot of movement, and the extra time spent moving material can have a significant impact on fixed operating expenses, reducing profit margins.
The most efficient place to accept incoming material is closer to the crushing zone, so that as it is processed it can gradually move forward and be ready for retail sale. “Controlling the flow of where material is received can dramatically reduce the number of times it is moved with loaders, saving on equipment costs, fuel and labor.” , Dirkx added.
The other benefit of having the drop area away from the front of the facility is that it can reduce the possibility of incoming material accidentally mixing with finished material waiting to be sold.
SECOND STOP: ENTRY OF EQUIPMENT AND CORRECTION AREA
Not in the same place as the drop zone, but right next to it, is the stacked raw material that will have to go through a crusher. For customer safety, only trained employees should have access to this area of the operation.
“What’s important at this stage is material flow and efficient handling. Grinding is one of the most expensive functions of any operation, so it is important to fully utilize the throughput potential of the grinder. The material must be able to be pushed from the disposal area to the shredder, and the landfill must be directed to the composting area, ”explained Dirkx.
THIRD STOP: COMPOSTING ZONE
In the composting area, you need to look at things from top to bottom, starting at the base of the area and then looking at how the area drains the runoff.
Dirkx said that while an earth pad may be the most economical option, it won’t be the most efficient or create better quality compost. “When it comes to wet materials, like food waste, mulch, and rain, dirt pads can quickly get sloppy and potentially give off an odor. Concrete or asphalt slabs often provide the best surface for producing quality finished composts.
He went on to say that compost stored in windrows is preferable to minor static piles because it can be aerated more efficiently and will decompose more quickly, which means more efficient use of space and a smaller percentage of leftover overhead. time to separate your finished products.
Besides the base composition of your composting area, you should also optimize the drainage of this area. “The composting area needs to have a slope so that there are places where water can drain off after a heavy rain,” explained Dirkx. “To prevent water from getting trapped between the rows of compost, the swaths should be parallel to the slope of the platform.”
Windrow spacing should be kept to a minimum to maximize the use of space. It is also good to use a windrow management system to track the life cycle of the pile, including temperatures to help determine the optimal time to turn the material.
FOURTH STOP: SCREENING AND FINISHING AREA
Once the compost has matured, it’s time to sift through. This area should be positioned between the composting area and the retail space to help minimize handling of the materials involved.
“The Trommel screens should be positioned so that the surplus comes out of the conveyor near the composting side of the yard and the fines are near the retail space,” Dirkx said. “Simple little things like this can help reduce cross-contamination of materials, which will help lead to a higher quality end product.
FIFTH STOP: TRADE ZONE
Once the screening is complete, it’s time to retail it. The layout and layout of this space will depend on your customers. If you are selling in bulk, batteries are acceptable. If you are bagging products, make sure your bulk material is placed as close as possible to help minimize cycle times. Barriers should be put in place to minimize contaminants, such as plastic and paper, from blowing into the retail area. Drainage and covering should also be considered to keep materials dry and to maintain good quality.
SIXTH STOP: DRAINAGE POND AND PERIMETER
Part of being a good compost grower is being a good steward of the land. Building a series of drainage ponds on the low side of your property near the composting rows and establishing a tree barrier or fence to catch light plastic contaminants can be a good idea and is often required by national authorities and local.
“Drainage ponds are used to catch runoff and clean it up, which is why it’s important to have more than one,” Dirkx said. “The first pond collects the runoff while each additional pond helps slow the flow and gives the sediment a chance to separate. These ponds are also a good resource when the moisture content of the compost is low. Running a pump and sprinkler is a cost effective way to reduce moisture content to optimal levels. ”
A fence is almost always required, but trees can provide an additional barrier of protection.
As you can see, optimizing your fixed operating costs and producing high quality mulch starts with the basics. Setting up your facility to help minimize travel and provide optimal compost maturation conditions can help you develop and grow a successful composting business.
However, it does not end there. As your operation grows and evolves, the site layout and material flow must be questioned and changes will need to occur. Keeping this spirit of continuous improvement alive within your operation will ultimately guide you to a more efficient compost disposal.
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