One Less Garbage Truck: A Bike-Powered Compost Collection Service

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Jonathan Scheffel hauls food scraps in the Dearborn bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

While riding in the Dearborn protected bike lane today, I came across Jonathan Scheffel, the owner of Healthy Soil Compost, a bicycle-powered food waste collection service, towing a trailer full of restaurant scraps. Scheffel has been collecting food waste by bike as a hobby for over a year, and the business became licensed in July. He does the work full-time, year-round, and employs a few other riders. Scheffel dished the dirt on his car-free enterprise.

John Greenfield: So you’re picking up restaurant waste here?

Jonathan Scheffel: Yeah, this is from Hotel Allegro and 312 Chicago. They contracted me to be their composter. I haul it down to an earthworm farm [at 1111 West 48th Street in Back of the Yards] called Nature’s Little Recyclers and we make soil for farmers. And then I also pick up from residential members all around the city.

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Scheffel’s trailer is made by Gainesville-based Kanner Karts. Photo: John Greenfield

JG: How many clients do you have?

JS: Residential, over 100 now a month, and then about four commercial.

JG: Why do you guys use bikes?

JS: You can do stuff like this where you stop me and talk for a little bit — I would miss these interactions if I was in a truck or a car. Also bicycle delivery helps make the streets a little safer for everybody. I’m only going about 8 mph. And it brings awareness to what I’m doing in terms of picking up food waste and showing that waste is a thing that can be recycled.

So it’s about community interaction, and helping to make the air cleaner for everybody. Trash trucks that do what I do get three miles to the gallon. And this is a dense city, so we if we have bicycles picking up inner-city waste, then you don’t need to have trash trucks.

JG: Anything else you want to tell me about the business?

JS: You can sign up [for residential compost pick-up] at HealthySoilCompost.com, or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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