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Composting With a Purpose: East Buffalo Custom Composts

There is a new composting operation on the east side that is diverting green waste from landfills and providing a valuable soil amendment to Western New York green infrastructure projects and to area property owners.  Compost is the product resulting from the controlled decomposition of organic matter that has been sanitized through the generation of heat and stabilized to the point that it is beneficial to plant growth and neutralizes any pathogens.  The resulting organic material then can be used as a soil amendment or as a media in gardens or landscapes.

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Dave Majewski has established a composting operation on the east side that will compost about 1,000 tons of green waste in its first year.  East Buffalo Custom Composts, a subsidiary of SRG Buffalo (SRG), and a member of the U.S. Composting Council, will primarily handle grass and tree trimmings from area landscape contractors, material that would have likely ended up in a landfill or driven to a large composting facility in northern Amherst.

Ed Shanahan is partnering with Majewski, and owns the four-acre composting site and the equipment, as well as the adjoining property.  According to Majewski, Shanahan, operator of Emerald Services Concrete and Construction (ESC&C) and also Atlantic Garages, has been very cooperative and understanding in allowing this operation to build over the last eight months.

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“He is not in the business of compost, soils, or organics,” explains Majewski, “but he is bright enough to see a real opportunity and how he can help build something good in Buffalo, especially in his community where he operates out of. He gets it and realizes the benefits and the potential – beyond the dollars and cents.”

The operation is also a money saver for local landscape firms.

“Because I have been taking select green waste from a very few contractors, they don’t have to go to Amherst at forty miles round trip anymore,” says Majewski.  “One of them saved enough fuel, time and money to hire another employee.”

The compost is created by combining organic wastes at proper ratios into static piles and sometimes adding bulking agents such as wood chips as necessary to aerate the piles and to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials.  The finished material stabilizes and matures through a curing process and will be sold to larger commercial customers.

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Majewski’s piles, most the size of a two car garage, are managed by what is called alternating thermophyllic and mesophyllic practices for several weeks before determining the curing stage.  This practice provides a number of benefits: it kills any and all weed seeds and other pathogens within 72 hours. It also builds the internal environment where certain very beneficial micro-organisms develop and thrive if managed properly.

Majewski says the finished compost has been used on green infrastructure projects, sites being remediated or restored, and landscape contractors looking to enhance soil and/or much landscape installations.

“This operation and compost far exceeds the quality of anything in our region,” says Majewski.

Majewski says composting is 60 percent art and 40 percent science. It takes years of hands-on experience to gain the knowledge that help builds the processes that then create the quality end product. You do not get this from a book or two, or a few classes on “how to.” You have to experiment, fail, attempt, fail, succeed, and move from there.  Majewski documents everything and uses those records to improve his process.

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“You have to learn to adjust your processes based on what you see, smell and what the thermometer tells you,” he explains,  “Every week something new pops up that requires you to refer back to records and to research and improve the process.”

“A friend of mine asked me about some ‘compost’ they bought from a local operation.  On the bags the fine print reads that contains cadmium and is not suitable for growing food!  It also notes that it contains sewage sludge. “Sewage sludge is fine to compost and is done around the world. But, it must be done correctly and under the right management protocols or you get a poor or impure end product.”

“This local company, and municipal compost operations compost only to avoid landfill costs and to sell the compost to the uneducated public,” says Majewski.  “As long as they can skirt all the minimum legal environmental regulations, they will get by with the minimum that they can squeeze.

“The majority of compost operations in the region focus on diverting green waste from the land fill and recycling it, providing an environmental service,” says Majewski.  “However, what we do at SRG/East Buffalo Custom Composts is accept specific ingredients, under specific management protocols, and follow a learned batch processing system to create a specific end product for a specific use to meet design protocols for most green infrastructure projects.”

This compost end product is specifically designed for bio-retention, bio-filtration, rain gardens, bio-remediation, etc.  The increased fungal, bacterial and microbial life facilitate increased mutualism with plant roots.  If the plants being used do not increase their root mass, then the storm water runoff management projects can eventually fail.  It can take several years for a single tree, planting, or landscape to fail or exhibit signs of decreasing health.  Using fungal dominated compost at the beginning increases the landscape or tree’s chances significantly.

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Through the initial mixing, ingredients and ingredient ratios and management processes, Majewski can influence the end products to result in bacteria or fungal-dominated composts. Each batch is custom managed to produce a specific end product for a specific use.

This is how we are different and on a whole new plane of technology with what we produce.  I started this to go along with my bio-retention, rain gardens and remediation work.  We could not find a single supplier in the region that makes a quality produce tested by labs and proven. So we did it ourselves.”

“Our compost greatly increases a site’s storm water runoff percolation/infiltration needs as well as increasing the root biomass of plants used. If the right plants are selected, that then increases absorption and subsequently evapotranspiration rates,” he says.

“In the end it is all about carbon,” explains Majewski.  “It is about Carbon sequestration and removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. Quality compost improves poor and denuded soils in just that manner. By increasing the fungal mass and the hypha/hyphae, and eventually the mycorhiza and glomalin production, we can then increase the new tree and shrubs ability to survive even under the worst conditions – by increasing the soil’s properties. It is all about Glomalin production.

Compost added to our soils improves the ability of soil to capture CO2 and to provide the necessary microbial life that benefits the plant roots. Trees being replaced in Western New York since the ‘Storm’ need to be planted with fungal-dominated compost to increase their chances of survival in a minimal maintenance environment.”

Majewski has long been promoting green, low-impact development and Regenerative and Ecological Design (R.E.D.).  He has spearheaded the Urban Habitat Project at the Central Terminal (UHP) and has a long history in the area of environmental remediation, ecology, soils, and ecosystems.  In 2013 he won the Nature Sanctuary Society Environmental Stewardship Aware and in 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award.

What he’s been preaching for years is finally catching on with enlightened developers and homeowners.  The City of Buffalo is also makings strides; in particular with the upcoming Green Code.

“I see organizations and municipalities and numerous industry professionals still doing it all wrong and wondering why it does not work and then paying out big money to ‘fix’ the problems,” he says.

“In October and November we watch homeowners and contractors and municipal staff rake up leaves and place most of them in plastic bags at the curb for someone to haul ‘away’ to ‘somewhere,” he says.  “All the while robbing the soils and plants of valuable carbon that could just be mowed right back into the lawn and stored for generations.  The homeowner saves money, the contractor saves money, the municipality saves money, and we all get improved soils that absorb green house gases for 100 years.  All this could be used to make quality compost as well.  But, we have to annually contend with those plastic bags!”

“We live in a world of astonishing abundance,” says Majewski.  “There are no shortages except for common sense, intelligent planning, and discerning and unselfish collaborating.  The soil is everything: Water, food, air, and life.  It is all about the soil. At SRG and EBCC, we do the best that we can with what we have to increase soil health and awareness by making the best possible compost for Western New York residents and commercial projects.”

Get Connected: East Buffalo Custom Composts, 716.432.2960 (email)

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Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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