• Your green waste, recycled
    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at

  • Urban-to-agriculture solution a win-win for all

    July 18, 2009

    Let's face it, most of us don't compost. And most of us don't use a mulching lawn mower, either.

    That means, especially during the spring and summer, our green waste barrels are overstuffed and really heavy as we wheel them out to the curb for trash-collection day.

    As we struggle to keep from crushing our toes, to keep the dog from getting out the gate and to keep from wrenching our backs, we remind ourselves that we are doing a good thing.

    After all, the green waste is being "recycled," isn't it?

    But what does that really mean? Is someone turning our soggy, sweating, stinky lawn clippings into new plants?

    In a way, yes.

    Bill Camarillo is the CEO of Agromin, the green materials recycler for communities throughout Ventura County (and the SCV) and a manufacturer of premium soil products.

    "We've been managing the city of Santa Clarita's green waste since 1995," he said.

    And, through composting, that green waste ends up as mulch and soil amendments for farmers, landscapers and individual consumers.

    "Everybody wants to make sure their barrel gets picked up. We want to be sure it gets processed responsibly," Camarillo said.

    He explained that both Burrtec and Waste Management (the major trash haulers in the SCV) take their green waste to Agromin.

    The waste used to be hauled to facilities in Ventura County, but is now processed locally.

    "We process it all on a ranch on The Newhall Land and Farming Company's land," he said. This facility is just off Highway 126 but out of sight from the highway.

    Camarillo said he was very proud of "making that urban to agriculture connection and managing it locally."

    The local processing benefits the environment because far less diesel fuel is used by the haulers to get the green waste to the facility--and less fuel burned means less air pollution.

    Camarillo described the steps in the green waste recycling process:

    1. "We receive the material from the collectors and we clean it."

    2. "Then we chip it. We have to shred it down to three-inch material."

    3. "Then we compost it. It heats up to 131 to 161 degrees. We do that for 15 days. It kills the pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli. It also kills weed seeds."

    4. "We cure it for 30 days, and bring the temperature back down."

    5. "After curing, we screen it into different particle sizes — two-inch for mulch and 'fine,' three-eighths-inch or less, for soil amendments."

    Camarillo said that much of the resulting material is used for agriculture right there on the ranch land.

    "The orchards use the mulch and the row crops use the fine material."
    There are many benefits for putting it back in the ground, according to Camarillo.

    "It's pretty tremendous," he said. "It reduces water usage, it reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides, and it reduces the need for commercial fertilizers. Beyond that the mulch blocks weeds from growing and it reduces soil erosion.

    "We provide the material to the ranch as part of closing the loop for the valley," he said, and he explained that the process is paid for by the trash haulers.

    Camarillo said that Agromin provides soil materials free to the local Earth Day celebration each year and to schools.

    The company also provides it for landscape projects in the SCV and Ventura County.

    "We call it an urban to ag solution. It's a win-win for the community," he said.

    He added that it creates a sustainable yield process for the agriculture side. "It's a pretty good program."

    While most people would understand the logic of using green waste for agriculture instead of filling up landfills with it, many don't realize there is a far more important benefit.

    "Green waste going into landfills produces methane gas," Camarillo said.

    And he explained that methane gas produced in landfills is actually two to three times more concentrated than carbon dioxide, as far as being a greenhouse gas.

    "I think the Santa Clarita green waste stream is some 40,000 to 50,000 tons a year. It's equivalent to about 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide," he said.

    Finally, Camarillo said the community should be very proud of how its green waste is being managed.

    "With us, and themselves, we have created a great, sustainable, organic recycling program. It's one to be modeled across the country, actually," he said. "It's created locally and managed locally."

    He added that Agromin is the eighth-largest composter in the country, and, in 2008, was named the U.S. Composter of the Year.

    Agromin recently moved its headquarters, maintenance facility and wholesale operations to Oxnard.

    Previously housed in sites throughout the county, its consolidation into a centrally located, 6,000 square foot facility will cut down on employee driving.

    "With less employees on the road, we will reduce our carbon footprint," Camarillo said. "And, because everything is under one roof, we can better coordinate our production and business services."

    Agromin's new location is at 201 Kinetic Drive, Oxnard, CA 93030. The telephone number is 1-800-247-6646. Commercial wholesale bulk soil products (no retail) are available at the facility.

    There is a wealth of information available at the Agromin Web site, www.agromin.com, including how-to guides for things such as putting down sod, container gardening, mulching your garden, planting bulb and bare root fruit trees, and more.

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