Meet the pile people

As Golden adds composting service, these residents have long been committed to the practice

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/3/21

“People will be surprised how little trash they generate.” That’s one of the first things Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza owner Jon Bortles says people can expect to learn if they start composting. …

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Meet the pile people

As Golden adds composting service, these residents have long been committed to the practice

Posted

“People will be surprised how little trash they generate.”

That’s one of the first things Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza owner Jon Bortles says people can expect to learn if they start composting.

And Bortles would know. About six years ago, his pizza spot started composting everything it could. That waste, which includes everything from kitchen scraps to leftover pizza and salad to the restaurant’s compostable takeout boxes and straws, is all now deposited by staff into a huge bin behind the restaurant.

“The way we train our staff is if it was once alive then you can compost it,” he said. “So, whether it’s a plant or an animal it can be commercially composted.”

Twice a week, a truck comes and picks up the waste and transports into a facility that composts it at much higher heat levels than could be achieved in a normal backyard compost pile. That’s important, Bortles said, because it allows bones and other items that compost slowly and only at high temperatures to be put into the bins.

In total, Woody’s is now composting about 10,000 pounds in waste each month, according to its website.

“We like to brag that we are composting the weight of a 737 airplane every year,” said Bortles.

But while composting has become second nature at Woody’s, it’s still a curiosity for many residents.

However, the city is hoping that will soon change in a big way now that it will be including compost pick-up for all households that participate in Golden’s waste pick up program. Previously, residents had to opt into compost pick-up for an additional fee.

To see the benefits of composting in action, Goldenites need look no further than the Golden Community Garden, where composting has been a part of the scene since the garden’s founding in 2009.

John Hicks, who has been overseeing the garden’s composting program for about five years, says everyone who gardens there is asked to volunteer at least two hours to work at one of the garden’s compost stations each year.

Those stations have three bins where the material becomes compost in stages and the volunteers are generally responsible for tasks like cutting up new material to add it to the bin and then mixing the material and adding water to it to keep it moist. The finished compost is then added to soil in the gardens to enrich it with nutrients.

“It’s really kind of an interesting and fun process to facilitate and be aware of,” said Hicks. “In addition to being a great way to keep organic material out of the landfill and put it to use as a soil conditioner.”

Erik Gruenwald follows a similar process — albeit on a smaller scale — at his Applewood home. Inside their home is a one-gallon trash can where his family everything they use and eat that can be composted.

Once that can gets full, they deposit all the contents into one of two large piles, which they spend about a year regularly turning, before starting to dump the contents into their 2,000-square-foot garden.

For Gruenwald, the benefits of composting extend beyond sustainability.

“We have terrible, terrible soil here (in Colorado) and composting just creates this awesome black gold,” he said. “When you do it properly and just sprinkle it around the trees and everything is so much healthier.”

Gruenwald said that for his family, composting has become a habit that is basically second-nature. He also touts the added benefit of keeping anything stinky out of his garbage.

“As long as your compost pile is properly maintained it doesn’t stink at all,” he said.

Perhaps most important, however, is the message composting sends to the next generation in a time of increasing environmental concern.

“I don’t want to teach my kid to just throw things away, throw things away, throw things away,” Gruenwald said. “It’s terrible.”

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