Local organics composter Rust Belt Riders wins $20K grant

Rust Belt Riders, the Northeast Ohio bicycle-riding organic recyclers who collect food waste from local restaurants, schools, and homes, have won a $20,000 grant that will help them manage customer relations, improve their billing processes, and expand their bicycles-and-trailers collection fleet.

The grant came from Social Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) Change of Northeast Ohio.

Rust Belt Riders grew out of a local community garden’s need for soil improvement. The gardening group, all employed in food service, realized that the soil amendment they were purchasing for the garden could be replaced by gathering the food waste at their work sites and composting it for use in the garden.


Composted food waste becomes a soil amendment in the hands of Rust Belt Riders.

Seeing the value of their market for food waste, Rust Belt Riders began charging to collect it from local restaurants and, eventually, schools and households. (Read more at the Waste 360, WasteDIVE, and Rust Belt Riders websites.)

Rust Belt Riders are putting food waste where it belongs —in the garden — and Keeping It Out of the Landfill.

Want to stay in touch with the latest Zero Waste news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.


Juice cleansing: what happens to the leftovers?

When I finished reading the article “Juice cleansing is a hit, but is it truly healthy?” (News-Herald Medical Directory supplement, August 29), I was left with one thought: after the juicers finish extracting the liquid from their fresh produce, what do they do with the leftover pulp and fiber?

I certainly hope they’re composting it!

Recycling in the kitchen: bringing a stale biscuit back to life

Last Saturday, I brought home a biscuit that had been part of my breakfast at a local Bob Evans restaurant. (The kitchen’s only going to throw it away — why let it go to waste?)

Today I decided to eat it along with the bowl of soup I was having for lunch. I took it out of the refrigerator and tried to break it in half, and found that I’d need a hammer and chisel to get inside it. I considered just dunking it into the soup, like coffee and donuts, but the soup was quite thick, and the biscuit probably wouldn’t absorb enough liquid to make it soft.


A little moisture softens a stale biscuit. (Photo credit: Lou Sander)

I tried wrapping it in a napkin and microwaving it for a few seconds, on the theory that the shortening in the biscuit would soften, but it was still rock-hard. So I moistened it with a little water, just with my fingertips, lightly, on the top and bottom, rewrapped it, and nuked it again for ten seconds.

Success! It hadn’t returned to its original wonderful fall-apart flaky state, but it was as tender as any biscuit I’d pull out of my own oven (I make hockey pucks), and it broke nicely into smaller pieces that went into the soup.

I know this isn’t a Big Thing — one biscuit, more or less, isn’t going to solve the world’s food waste problem. But I ended up with a delicious accompaniment to my lunch, the biscuit didn’t end up in the disposal, and I don’t have to feel guilty about wasting food.

Want to stay in touch with the latest recycling news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.

Learn about composting at Solid Waste District seminars

If you’re not already composting, now is a great time to start planning to give your garden the gift of homemade organic soil nutrition. You’ll save money you’d spend on chemical fertilizers, and you’ll keep food waste out of the landfills and sewage treatment plants.

Hands holding compost

Composted kitchen scraps become nutrient-rich soil additive. (Photo credit: Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District)

The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District is offering Backyard Composting seminars at locations throughout the county during the 2013 growing season. These hour-long seminars include an extensive introduction to composting — what to compost, how and where to build a compost pile, problems to watch for and how to solve them — followed by a question-and-answer session.

For a list of seminar locations and dates, as well as a set of downloadable documents covering backyard composting, vermicomposting, and backyard food digesters, see the Solid Waste District web site. You’ll also find instructions for obtaining free horse manure to enrich your compost pile.

The Solid Waste District also offers for sale two sizes of compost bins and a kitchen collection container. These are available for purchase at the seminars and at the Waste Management District at 4750 E. 131 Street in Garfield Heights.

Composting: turns waste into food … keeps it out of the waste stream … keeps it out of the landfill.

Recycling Trail Mix: The Chipmunk Will Eat It

Last spring, I bought a large bag of trail mix from the wholesale club. We ate a little of it and didn’t like it. What to do with a ten-dollar bag of trail mix that you don’t like?

My husband’s suggestion: maybe The Chipmunk will eat it.

Ever since I moved into our condominium when Leo and I got married sixteen years ago, I’ve been enjoying The Chipmunk’s occasional brief appearances. I know that chipmunks live only about three to five years in Northeast Ohio’s climate, so the one we’re seeing now is several generations removed from The Original Chipmunk, but who can tell — he sure looks like his mommy and daddy.

Chipmunk eating nut

Trail mix doesn’t last long when there’s a chipmunk around. Photo credit: Gilles Gonthier

We’ve grown fond of the little critter, especially since the day thirteen years ago when he and my final cat faced each other through an open doorway and decided to let well enough alone. The Chipmunk went back to his lair under the garage, Muffy came back inside and curled up on the couch.

In the years since, I’ve put various nutty/fruity leftovers out onto the patio, and The Chipmunk, or some other beastie, has made them go away. Once in a great while I’d be rewarded by the sight of him stowing the goodies into his little chipmunk cheeks.

So last spring I poured a couple of tablespoons’ worth of the untasty trail mix onto a plastic lid left over from a can of salted cashews and placed it on the patio about where Chippy disappears into the shrubbery. I checked it every couple of hours, and, later that day, the dish was almost empty.

From time to time this summer I’ve set more of the trail mix out on the patio, and it reliably disappears. The bag is finally running low, and this afternoon I put out what may be Chippy’s second-last serving. About ten minutes later I glanced out the back door and watched as he dashed out of the shrubbery hell-bent for the stand of mint growing behind the grill. Leo joined me to see him get halfway there, stop, lift his head, taste the air, and hang a sharp left for his plate o’ goodies. The plate’s about half-empty now — he can stuff only so much into those little cheeks — but I’m sure that by bedtime it will all be gone.

Once I empty the bag, I know I won’t be able to abandon him. I guess I’ll just have to start doling out the walnuts I’ve been saving for the cookies I never seem to bake. And maybe next spring I’ll buy him another bag of trail mix.