The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 26, 2013

Mulch to see at new Good Thunder compost plant

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

GOOD THUNDER — There’s more to mulch than meets the eye, especially when it’s a key component of a new composting facility capable of churning out tons of product daily.

Blue Earth County Board members Tuesday got an up-close and personal look at the workings of the Full Circle Organics facility near Good Thunder that opened Feb. 28.

The board last year gave its approval for the operation over the protestations of some nearby residents with concerns ranging from increased truck-traffic roadway dust to potential odors.

The 15-acre plant site 13 miles south of Mankato incorporates organic food wastes with yard debris and wood chips to produce compost for commercial landscaping applications.

“This is just another example of using natural resources for positive uses,” Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg said.

Added County Administrator Bob Meyer, “Our Environmental Services Department has always been interested in lessening (the county’s) wastes.”

The composting plant uses a six-month process to turn waste into useable compost. The “fermentation” process begins in a hoop-structure building, and after a certain point, the piles are transferred outside to what will be a seven-acre asphalt-paved lot.

“We’re the first privately owned and operated composting facility in Minnesota,” said Full Circle Organics spokesman Max Milinkovich.

“Twenty years from now, when we’re having this conversation about (waste) diversion and sustainability, Blue Earth County will be a big part of that.”

Minneapolis-based Full Circle also has a plant in Iowa and in late summer will open another in Becker, Minn.

The Good Thunder facility will ultimately be capable of receiving 110 tons of waste daily. Under the volume-shrinking composting process, one-third of that amount ends up as finished product.

The facility uses an air-filtration system to mitigate odors, and all truck traffic comes from south of the plant and away from residential areas.

Food wastes largely come from restaurants and institutional settings. The wastes include all organic, compostable matter, including napkins and other paper products and even biodegradable plastic dinnerware.