Union couple seeks council support for start-up compost business
Belfast — A couple from Union is looking to start a pilot program that would compost municipal waste and in turn generate heat for schools and other facilities.
Larry and Stacey Palmer appeared before the Belfast city council Tuesday, March 5, to ask for a letter of support as they prepare to launch their start-up business Compost Maine. The business would collect waste, such as leaves or lobster shells, from cities and towns and process the material at a facility.
The Palmer’s sought council support because they are applying for a grant from the Maine Technology Institute. Larry said they would be notified about the status of the grant by late summer.
While the couple has not decided on an exact location for their processing facility, Larry said the Belfast Industrial Park is on the list of potential sites. The facility would act primarily as a processing and bulk storage facility, he said.
Depending on the availability, Larry said deliveries of material could be made to the processing facility on a daily basis or twice a week. In terms of bulk storage, he explained that loads of leaves could be baled and stored at the facility.
The material collected from the municipalities would be brought to a facility where it would be analyzed and tested. Once analyzed, Larry said, the facility would grind the material, mix it and then load it into metal drums. He said the process of composting material takes about three and one half days to complete.
Once the material is loaded into the drums, they can be transported to another location, such as a school, and installed to provide heating for a building. During the composting process, Larry said, the material would generate about 100,000 British Thermal Units an hour of heat.
Each drum is eight feet in diameter and about 30 feet long, Larry said.
As an example, Larry said, that two drums of compost could be temporarily installed at Troy Howard Middle School to provide heat for the building during the pilot period of the project. Once the pilot period is complete, there could be an option to install a more permanent structure, as well as increase the number of compost drums.
The heat generated by each compost drum would save about 5,000 gallons of heating oil a year. For that reason, Larry said, using the compost as a source of heat for schools could be attractive to taxpayers who are on the hook for paying those costs.
“The heat is free,” Larry said.
Councilor Roger Lee questioned whether there would be an issue with composting leaves that are covered in road salt or other substances. Larry said that would be an issue, which is why the company would want to pick up leaves in the fall and not the spring.
Stacey noted that the composting process would not cause an odor issue or attract rodents or other pests.
The businesses primary source of revenue would come from sales of the compost. He estimated the cost of establishing the project would be about $500,000. Depending on its success, Larry said they envision having multiple facilities throughout New England.
Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge noted that the city would not be obligated in any way to assist the business other than to send the letter of support.
Larry noted that he and his wife would like to locate their facility in Belfast because of its reputation for supporting renewable energy projects.
“One way or another we plan on being here, or we would like to be here,” Larry said.
Councilors unanimously approved the request to submit a letter of support on behalf of the Palmer’s start-up compost business.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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