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High School Facility Turns Food Waste Into Fertilizer

REEDS SPRING, Mo. -- A recycling center at Reeds Spring will soon begin processing thousands of pounds of excess food every week.
REEDS SPRING, Mo. -- A partnership between a local recycling center and high school will soon divert thousands of pounds of food from a landfill every week.

The Earthwise Recycling Center, which has been operating out of a shed north of the school for nearly a year, is testing out a composting machine capable of processing more than 600 pounds of food a day.

Korina Branson and David Jones, a husband and wife team, helped lead the effort to launch a recycling program in Stone Co. Branson wrote a grant earlier in the year that gave the center nearly $10 thousand for operating costs.

"We really want to be a one-stop shop as far as recycling goes," Branson said.

The money allows the center to collect food waste in the area free of charge, starting with Silver Dollar City in the summer and Reeds Spring High School in the fall.

The facility will then sell the nutrient rich compost the machine produces.

"It doesn't cost anything for us," Branson said. "There's no raw material cost for the recycling center. But we have a revenue generator at the end."

The couple owns GreenStick, a construction company that specializes in energy efficient and green projects. Jones, a Reeds Spring native, said he grew up driving with his parents to Springfield, Mo. to recycle paper.

"We've never had a trash man," he said. "We just recycled everything. This is kind of my turn to do what my parents were doing way back then."

Jones called the machine "beautiful," explaining that it speeds up the composting process by fermenting food waste at a warmer temperature than an outdoor operation. The machine constantly moves the waste, emitting almost no methane gas or carbon dioxide. Instead, Jones said, most of the greenhouse gasses are trapped in the solid waste, instead of released into the air.

"I just hate to see all this good material go directly to the landfill," he said.

The composter is currently handling more than 200 pounds of food every day from a single restaurant at Silver Dollar City. When product from the theme park decreases in the fall, the high school will provide both waste and volunteers.

Eventually the center hopes to take on waste from the entire community, especially restaurants in the area.

Melissa Dancer, who owns Lillee's Sunrise Grill in the city's downtown, said she has expressed interest in contributing to the compost.

"It doesn't make any difference to most restaurants if it goes in the trash or not. But on a personal level of doing something for the environment, I think it's a great step forward."

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