Compost kings Nick and Steven Carse and David Paull

Ever wonder what happens to the apple core you toss in the trash? Each year, Atlanta sends thousands of tons of food waste to land fills because it lacks the composting infrastructure many other cities have to reclaim these valuable nutrients.

Until now.

Homegrown, community-minded businesses King of Pops and Compostwheels have teamed up to create King of Compost, the closest compost facility to the city.

“By necessity we had to create it ourselves. Now we can take on more commercial clients, we can process more material and ultimately, get more finished compost back into local farms and gardens,” said Compostwheels founder David Paull.

“King of Pops is always trying to find ways to make ourselves a bigger and better part of the community and sometimes that’s through sustainability efforts like this,” said Nick Carse, King of Pops co-founder.

In 2010, Nick and Steven Carse began selling their distinctive popsicles seemingly everywhere under their signature rainbow umbrellas. Two years later, Paull started his compost pick-up service to turn organic spoil into fertile soil. The two businesses crossed paths at farmer’s markets, followed each other’s growth, and talked about creating something together.

“When we bought our farm in Douglasville in 2014 that became a pretty obvious place to do our own composting, not only because we needed to rehab the soil but because we now had the land,” Carse said about the 68-acre commercial nursery they converted into a popsicle farm.

Paull followed the farm’s progress as his business needed a site for a large compost facility to service restaurants, cafes, universities, and other commercial clients.

“I don’t even know who said it first – we have the space, you have the infrastructure, so let’s try it out,” Carse recalls.

From there, King of Compost was born. Fruit waste from the farm, King of Pops production, and Compostwheels deliveries are placed in long rows set atop two large clay pads. Woodchips and sawdust from sawmills and tree companies are added to introduce nitrogen. The last step of this giant chemistry experiment is to mix the ingredients to introduce oxygen, which breaks it all down into the desired soil amendment.

To maximize their efficiency and impact, and make a better product, King of Compost needs specific equipment and favorable regulations. At a hefty price tag of $50,000, a windrow turner rides behind a tractor and more evenly turns the piles than the scoop-by-scoop approach by a tractor alone, and cuts down on processing time.

“Right now, we turn food waste to finished product in three to four months. We could get it down to six weeks if we had the proper equipment,” Carse said.

A recent fundraising campaign raised more than half of their $120,000 goal.

“It gave us a good start. We’ll be able to fund more of the equipment that we need in a more traditional way,” Paull said.

Securing regulations to expand composting efforts has been another journey. For more than a year, Paull built community support to update the solid waste handling regulations to allow small farms to compost materials from outside sources. They explained that expanded composting efforts would revitalize agricultural land, improve soil, protect water, and generate jobs. Last month, those efforts paid off. State officials listened.

“The newly passed regulations in Georgia will allow King of Compost to compost more material and provide a rule framework that supports the growth of our business and our mission. We are greatly appreciative of the EPD and all other stakeholders. This is a big deal for community composting in Georgia,” Paull said.

King of Compost goes even further by showing Atlanta what’s possible on a larger scale when food waste is handled well to make beautiful soil and produce.

“For us it’s telling that full story. We can grow the produce, put them in the pops, and then compost whatever is left over. The fruit and the sticks can all go back into the compost and be turned back into the soil, which can grow more fruit to make more pops,” Carse said.

After this story appeared in our April print issue, Compostwheels announced it had merged with CompostNow based in Raleigh, NC. Paull said the combined business looks to both rapidly expand the number of households, restaurants, and offices they service in Atlanta and the Triangle and increase outreach, education, and advocacy in the community.

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