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[GreenYes] Boutique Composting, Four Seasons, Whole Foods and Philly

The article below does not mention that fact that the principles discussed
in it all recently won awards at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Greater
Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council


A blooming success out of table scraps
Ned Foley's Two Particular Acres recycles kitchen waste from hotels into
compost that can be used on farms and in gardens.

By Harold Brubaker
Inquirer Staff Writer

Ned Foley holds a handful of compost produced at Two Particular Acres.
Foley, who also works as a lawyer, envisions a network of composting farms.
BARBARA JOHNSTON / Inquirer Staff Photographer

Ned Foley holds a handful of compost produced at Two Particular Acres.
Foley, who also works as a lawyer, envisions a network of composting farms.

Ned Foley has never eaten in the posh dining rooms of the Four Seasons Hotel
in Philadelphia, but the Montgomery County farmer knows something about the
most popular dishes there.

On Tuesday morning, for instance, Foley could see that fennel was big on the
previous day's menu - judging by the bounty of fennel trimmings the Four
Seasons had sent to his composting operation near Royersford.

Foley's business, Two Particular Acres, which will turn those scraps from
Monday's fennel and arugula salad at the hotel's Swann Cafe into rich, black
compost in about 10 weeks, is at the forefront of a budding effort locally
to keep commercial food waste out of landfills.

But Foley, who grew up in an Audubon subdivision and also works as a labor
lawyer, is trying to take the effort a step further by requiring the Four
Seasons and other customers to buy back some of the compost. "The carbon
cycle in this country is broken," said Foley, who believes that sending
compost back to its source is one way to raise awareness.

Only 2.4 percent of the 29.2 million tons of food in the U.S. municipal
waste stream was recycled in 2005, according to the Environmental Protection
Agency. By comparison, 61.9 percent of 32.1 million tons of yard trimmings
were diverted from landfills.

David Biddle, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Commercial
Recycling Council, said commercial food-waste recycling on the East Coast
was in its infancy compared with the West Coast, where it is widespread.
"Ned Foley is making it possible for some choice businesses to achieve what
they've been doing on the West Coast for years," Biddle said.

In a waste audit of the Four Seasons last year, Biddle found that the hotel
was doing a good job of recycling paper, cardboard, bottles and cans. But
that amounted to only 3 percent to 5 percent of its waste by weight, because
so much of what was going into the trash bin was heavy food.

The Four Seasons started working with Foley in February and diverted 10,000
pounds of kitchen waste from the landfill for the month. Based on that,
Biddle estimated that the hotel's recycling rate for the year would be in
the 30 percent to 35 percent range, and would save $15,000 to $20,000 in
dumping fees.

At the Four Seasons, which plans to use Foley's compost in flower beds and
in a small herb garden, composting fits into a broad strategy to reduce the
hotel's environmental impact, director of engineering Marvin Dixon said.

The challenge at a luxury hotel is to "do it more efficiently and not affect
the guest," Dixon said. Last year, the hotel reduced energy consumption 12
percent without using compact fluorescent bulbs, which guests do not want to
see, he said.

Until the fall of 2005, a farmer picked up the Four Seasons' vegetable
scraps to feed hogs, but he did not come frequently enough, Dixon said. "It
was really a mess," so the hotel halted the practice.

Biddle said that when he first worked in Philadelphia's recycling office in
the 1980s, as many as 20 farmers from South Jersey were coming into the city
to collect food waste for their pigs. But suburban sprawl and the
consolidation of the hog industry into huge operations with thousands of
animals helped put an end to that.

For the Four Seasons' kitchen staff, sending waste out to Foley is much
easier because anything that is not plastic, glass or metal can go,
including cardboard and paper, such as the ruffled paper cups for chocolate
truffles that worker Richard Padmore dumped Monday into a compost bin -
along with a few leftover truffles.

"You just had to change the work flow," said Tim Maurer, a sous chef in
charge of salads and cold foods. Everyone keeps a bin close by, he said.

EnviRelation L.L.C., a company based in Washington whose local customers
also include Abington Memorial Hospital and Holy Redeemer Hospital, makes a
daily pickup for $35 a ton plus a monthly service fee and hauls the waste to
Foley's farm in Upper Providence Township.

Premier Waste Management, of Hamilton, N.J., delivers food and other organic
waste from Whole Foods Markets in the region.

At the farm, Foley mixes the food and paper scraps with manure, yard waste
and crop residue into long piles containing 300 to 400 cubic yards of
material. All signs of lemon risotto, glazed salsify, and melted leek ragout
disappear in an orgy of microbial activity.

Premier Waste is trying to find more farmers to compost and is considering
developing a compost mix to deliver to farmers, so they would not have to
worry about getting the right blend of materials, said Mike Manna, who
handles sales and program development for the company.

Foley envisions a network of composting farms. "This is helping save
farmland," he said.

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or

Find this article at:
David Biddle, Executive Director
Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council
P.O. Box 4037
Philadelphia, PA 19118

215-247-3090 (desk)
215-432-8225 (cell)


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