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Food Scraps to Compost : What Happens After Neighborhood Compost Picks Up Your Food Scraps

Have you ever wondered what happens to your food scraps after Neighborhood Compost picks them up from your house, business, or municipality? When initially writing this blog, I thought about telling it from a banana peel’s perspective, and it started to sound like a children’s book, but then I realized how weird it would get when the inevitable step in our composting process occurs when the banana peel gets eaten by a goat. There goes that idea. Instead, I’d like to walk you through the steps of Neighborhood Compost’s operation as simply and straightforward as possible.

Here it goes.

Step 1: Pick Up and Weighing

Upon pickup, we weigh the contents of your bucket to provide you with sustainability reporting. We (and I know we’re not alone) find this incredibly satisfying. After weighing, we empty your Neighborhood Compost bucket into a larger container in our commercial vehicle, clean it, and return it to you.

Step 2: Journey to the Family Farm

Your food scraps travel a short distance to our New Jersey family farm. There, they are tipped onto a concrete slab outside our barn.  The barn door opens, and turkeys, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, alpacas, and an ornery rooster named Henry feast on your food scraps.

Step 3: Livestock as Efficient Composters

Neighbors, livestock really are the best composters. They’re manure is nitrogen-rich and composted along with any residual food scraps that they didn’t get to. Did you know that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agricultural purposes? (Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization). While this includes pastures for grazing, a large chunk of it is land that is used to grow feedstock for livestock. With that comes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to our climate crisis, and valuable land that could be used to feed hungry people. 

Because our livestock have a regular diet of food scraps that would’ve otherwise gone to landfill, we do not need to grow crops for our livestock on our farm. Instead we use that land to cultivate healthy crops, organically that are then returned to our communities.

alpaca close up

Step 4: Composting Windrow

Your residual food scraps, along with the manure of our livestock's feasting, are layered into a large composting windrow. This oval-shaped pile, supplemented with carbon-rich leaves and wood chips, initiates the decomposition process. The internal temperature rises within 24 hours, reaching 130-150 degrees F, and the compost pile significantly reduces in volume.

compost windrow with alpacas in the background

Step 5: Monitoring and Aeration

We monitor the temperature, moisture levels, and overall decomposition of the compost windrow. As soon as the temperature starts to dip, we aerate (or "turn") the pile using a tractor. This process introduces vital oxygen, supporting the microbes essential for decomposition.

Step 6: Transformation

Over several months, the compost windrow undergoes the aeration process, transforming the residual food scraps into a dark, rich, coffee ground-like material. The compost does not emit unpleasant odors but rather a rich humus, earthy scent.

Step 7: Curing

Once all food scraps are decomposed and the temperature of the pile cools, we let it “cure”, just like any artisan would do with a delicacy such as this, in our field for atleast 3 months. During this process, many more characters come into play, earthworms navigate through the compost creating air tunnels, bugs, beetles, flies, all come and play important roles in this incredible living ecosystem. 

Step 8: Sifting and Sorting

Our team member, Billy, designed a brilliant sifting mechanism to separate finer compost from larger pieces containing bones, shells, pits, and wood chips. The larger pieces like bones, mussel or clam shells, go back into an active compost pile, while the finer, finished compost is ready for use.

Compost shifter on farm

Step 9: Compost Is Ready To Use

After 10-18 months the finer, finished compost is now ready for use. We spread it on our fields and in our market garden. This helps our soil retain water longer, reduces erosion, provides our crops with a boost of nutrients and makes our yield larger every season, and helps the plants defend themselves against pests and disease because they have developed a strong immune system.

We pride ourselves on prioritizing circular and sustainable practices at every turn of our business, from compensating our team members a living wage, to ensuring that when a task can be performed by livestock instead of a machine on our farm, we opt for the livestock every time. We believe what comes from the Earth goes back to the Earth, emphasizing the value of food scraps and organic materials as valuable resources.

Are you interested in having Neighborhood Compost pick up food scraps from your home, business or municipality? Simply email us at to get started! Our alpacas will be happy you did!

Alpacas on farm eating pumpkins

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