Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ball Ford Compost Facility expands to Food Recycling

 A ribbon cutting was held in mid-September to mark the completion of the Balls Ford Composting Facility expansion. Prince William County residents have long been encouraged to bring yard waste, such as grass, leaves and small branches, to the Balls Ford Road Compost Facility in Manassas.

With the newly completed $10 million two year expansion has nearly tripled its capacity to produce compost. In addition to yard waste, the facility can now recycle food waste using state-of-the-art composting equipment and processes. Freestate Farms, who operates the Balls Ford Road Facility paid for the expansion  This is a part of the Prince William County’s efforts to recycle more, be more sustainable, to take more material that previously went into the landfill and make usable soil amendments to improve our environment.”

Before the expansion, yard waste of leaves, grass and brush is piled high into long rows that have to be manually turned with heavy equipment. The new system will significantly decrease the time it takes to make compost. According to Prince William County’s Acting Director of Public Works, Tom Smith “The new facility will use an advanced aerobic composting technology where the leaves and grass will be mixed and placed in large bunkers. Those bunkers will have a series of pipes underneath so air can be drawn … through the piles. It will be constantly monitored by computers, so it’s a much more efficient operation. The process now takes six to nine months. Under this new system, we can have compost within 30 to 45 days.”

The air used in the bunkers will also pass through bio-filters to control any smell that might otherwise come off of the composting piles, Smith said.

Turning yard and food waste into compost at the facility will keep tons of this material out of the landfill. Mr. Smith went on to say that collecting this type of waste, which would normally enter the landfill, would increase the useful life of the county’s main landfill past its current lifespan of 2060. “Based upon studies we have done, approximately 30 % of the waste going into the landfill is organics, leaves, grass, food waste, etc. If we can divert that waste into this facility to make usable products, we can increase the landfill life by 10 to 15 years.”

Freestate Farms will ultimately employ 20 to 25 people at the facility. The company will profit from the operation by charging commercial interests a “tip fee” on a per-ton basis. The company will also sell the compost, fertilizer and mulch it creates from organic waste. Residents will not be charged to drop off organic material and can purchase the products at competitive prices, Smith said.

If you are thinking of composting food waste at Balls Ford Road, you might want to bring your glass bottles and jars with you. If you bring glass bottles and jars to the compost facility and place them in the purple bins they will be recycled/reused. All colors of glass- clear, green and brown of glass food and beverage bottles and jars are acceptable for recycling/reuse and can be place in the purple bins.

Do not place glass dishes, drinking glasses, vases, shower doors, windshields, window and door glasses, and mirrors in the purple bins.  Put those items in the trash.

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