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De Pere, Greener Bay Compost team up to fight food waste

Partnership aims to limit greenhouse gasses, save on taxes and educate residents

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December 12, 2023

DE PERE – As the founder of Greener Bay Compost, Cory Groshek loves talking trash – as in, what should and shouldn’t go into garbage cans and landfills.

“Most people don’t know this, but 20-25% of what’s in our landfills, what’s getting put in there every day, is food waste,” Groshek said. 

Since its inception in 2021, Groshek said Greener Bay Compost – a food scrap and organic waste pick-up service – has been devoted to composting for the common good and communicating uncommon knowledge about waste. 

Groshek said he hopes to achieve both of those goals by way of a new partnership with the City of De Pere for 2024, while also saving the city on present and future operational costs. 

“Our pitch to the City of De Pere was simple – we’d like you to partially subsidize the service for your residents,” he said. 

Groshek said De Pere’s Director of Public Works Scott Thoresen deserves credit for inviting him last winter to present Greener Bay Compost’s capabilities to the city’s sustainability commission and initiating this private-public partnership.

“As part of the presentation, Greener Bay Compost talked about how their services would provide residents with an alternative in diverting food waste from the landfills,” Thoresen said.  

Thoresen said the commission and Groshek had ongoing discussions regarding a partnership wherein the City of De Pere would partially subsidize the cost of Greener Bay Compost’s services for its citizens, leading to a formal budget request. 

“The City Council approved $10,000 as part of the 2024 budget for this program,” Thoresen said. “In 2024, the city’s sustainability commission will begin working with Greener Bay Compost to develop a food composting program.” 

This program itself, Thoresen said, will need to be approved by the city council before it’s implemented.

He said he anticipates the program will be running by June 2024, if not sooner. 

Groshek said he applauds De Pere’s commitment to taking action on sustainability, rather than applying and waiting for potential grant money. 

“They like to say De Pere is ‘a great place to live,’” Groshek said. “We’d like to make it not just a great place to live, but a green place to live, and that’s (Thoresen’s) goal as well.” 

Thoresen said he hopes for program growth.

“Because this is a sustainable practice that is the ultimate goal for the city in providing a more sustainable, livable and healthy community,” he said.

Savings for the city 
Greener Bay Compost presently offers two options of its door-to-door compost pick-up service: 

Once every two weeks for a cost of $25 per monthOnce every four weeks for $15 per month
Groshek said the plan is for De Pere to cover half of the cost for residents, for either option.  

Depending on which service residents choose, Groshek said he anticipates the city’s $10,000 commitment will subsidize compost pick-up for 70-80 De Pere households.

Cory Groshek said composting is an effective way to mitigate the environmental impact of food waste. Submitted Photo

He said this would triple or even quadruple the number of De Pere residents Greener Bay Compost serves. 

“That’s a big deal for us and for De Pere,” he said. “We don’t want (residents) to have to pick between our compost services and something like Netflix or something more crucial, like keeping the lights on.”

Groshek said he weighs and tracks all the waste for each Greener Bay Compost user.

And because he numbers his assigned collection buckets, he’ll be able to quantify the organic waste the partnership diverts from De Pere’s garbage trucks and landfills. 

“The number of pounds or tons that are diverted can actually be translated into cost savings for the city,” he said. “(It’s) something that (De Pere) can use to explain to people why this is good for the environment and why it’s good for the city’s pocketbook as well.” 

Groshek said fewer garbage collection trips means less time and resources spent on collection, less weight in the trucks and less maintenance costs for trucks.

“This (organic waste) is the wettest, heaviest stuff that makes up 20-25% of what they’re carrying around,” he said.

Groshek said he can also calculate how much the service extends the life of De Pere’s landfill – which he notes is incredibly costly to taxpayers.

And once the current one is full, locations for new landfills are increasingly difficult to find, as homeowners never want one “in their backyard.” 

Other municipalities’ environmental investments, Groshek said, cannot be so easily measured. 

“For example, (De Pere) could have given out rain barrels – and I love rain barrels – but how do you measure the positive impact that they’re having?” he said. “You may not even know if somebody’s using them. Same thing if the city would have just decided to give compost bins to people for their backyards.” 

Groshek said he’s a big supporter of backyard composting, which is how he got started. 

“Our service is more for people who either don’t want to compost on their own, because it’s hard, it’s dirty, it’s smelly work or they just don’t have the time or the physical ability to do it,” he said. 

On a larger scale, Groshek said Greener Bay Compost is an ideal service for the municipalities it serves – Green Bay, Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue, De Pere, Hobart, Howard, Lawrence, Ledgeview, Rockland and Suamico – which have sites dedicated for handling yard waste but not food waste. 

“We’re focusing on the things that they don’t want and are not set up to take,” he said. 

All organic waste collected in Greener Bay Compost’s signature five-gallon buckets, as well as used pizza boxes, Groshek said, are picked up on schedule, thoroughly scanned for contaminants (such as glass, metal or plastic) and added to its ongoing windrow of tarp-covered compost located at a facility in the Town of Lessor, about 20 miles west of Green Bay.

Groshek said it’s located amid an agricultural community where composting is common – as are the process’ side effects, which would be less appreciated in De Pere. 

“Another reason why what we’re doing is so valuable: rats and foul odors,” he said. “This is why our compost site has to be in the middle of nowhere. The last thing the City of De Pere or any city wants is for people to be taking that kind of material and throwing it at their (municipal) yard waste site.” 

Savings for the planet
Groshek said he personally started composting to save money, and likewise recognizes De Pere’s responsibility to financially justify an organic waste program.

He said his primary focus, though, is to help the environment by diverting organic material from landfills where, deprived of oxygen, it becomes methane – which is a greenhouse gas that Groshek said traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere at a rate of 20-30 times higher than carbon dioxide.

The amount of methane diverted from the atmosphere by Greener Bay Compost’s services can also be calculated, Groshek said. 

“One of the easiest ways for us to stop what some people call global warming or climate change is to get the food waste out of the landfills,” he said. “Look at what’s in your trashcan and recognize you can make a difference.” 

He said he’s extremely worried about staggering food waste statistics, but sees composting as a clear way to mitigate the environmental impact. 

“It really breaks my heart to see all this food, a lot of which we’ve imported from other countries, going into these landfills where it’s permanently contaminated by every other toxin that’s in there, when we could be making compost out of it,” Groshek said. “We could all be saving money, making our farms and agricultural land healthier and growing more food locally.”

Groshek said despite rising food costs, food waste increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“It might have gone a little bit back to normal, but the long-term trend is that this keeps growing,” he said. “Let’s say you go (to the store) and buy four bags of fresh fruits and veggies. The amount of food waste that we’re all collectively throwing in the trash is equivalent to taking one of those bags of groceries, chucking it in the dumpster and only going home with three. That’s not just hurting the environment. That’s hurting our pocket books.”

As concerned as he is about food waste, Groshek said he’s increasingly encouraged by the successes of Greener Bay Compost.   

“Our first complete year of running our business, we kept 30,000 pounds of organic material out of the landfill,” he said. “The second year, it was 70,000 (pounds),” he said. “This year, if you look at our third year of operation, it’s 100,000-plus (pounds).”

Groshek said his efforts to educate the community continue to garner support and enthusiasm, as exhibited by the increased subscriptions to Greener Bay Compost’s services. 

“We started with 16 residential subscribers at the beginning of August 2021,” he said. “We now have about 178 residential households we service. When we started we were only diverting maybe a couple hundred pounds of food scraps and organics from the local landfills every week. Now we’re consistently over a ton a week.”

Local businesses have also started utilizing Greener Bay Compost.

On the company’s website, a leader board not only shows how much organic waste residents are diverting to landfills, but also the amounts of local businesses and organizations.  

De Pere and more developments
Groshek said Glass Nickel was the first business to approach him about a partnership, which led him to create a blueprint for working with future commercial subscribers.

Now, with De Pere as the first municipality to partner with Greener Bay Compost, Groshek said he hopes it will lead to more collaborations. 

Though the City of De Pere is the first municipality to partner with Greener Bay Compost, Cory Groshek said he has partnerships with a handful of area businesses, including Kavarna Coffeehouse. Submitted Photo

“I think this De Pere program is going to go a long way toward convincing people this is doable, especially with those great stats and numbers we’re going to have,” he said. “Our hope is that this is going to inspire other municipalities in the area to do similar arrangements with us.” 

Wherever Greener Bay Compost serves, Groshek said the process will essentially stay the same. 

“Composting is science, but it’s not rocket science,” he said. “You’re not going to show up and see a SpaceX launch pad with a bunch of people in lab coats standing around. It’s basically my wife and me in muck boots with winter gloves on.” 

Even if more staff is hired and facilities and equipment are upgraded, Groshek said composting is essentially an ancient solution to contemporary problems. 

“This is some real salt-of-the-earth stuff that we’re doing,” he said. “Our ancestors have been composting for thousands of years – we’re not doing anything new. Every farm that you’ve ever seen, they compost.” 

Groshek said Greener Bay Compost keeps its process as clean, easy and friendly as possible for users, in part by providing updated lists of which waste items are acceptable.

“If it grows, it goes in our bucket,” he said. “I’ve heard many people say one of the big reasons they like us is they have a lot of anxiety over throwing things in the trash, and we absolve them of that anxiety. We want them to be excited and get a big endorphin rush like I do every time I throw food waste in my bucket instead of the trash.” 

Groshek said he recognizes what a big opportunity he has with De Pere, and hopes interest in the city and beyond encourages constituents to contact their leadership about local organic waste management. 

“The squeaky wheel gets the compost service, right?” Groshek said.

For now, Groshek said he’s focused on and grateful for the first municipality to give him this chance.  

“I applaud De Pere for being leaders,” he said. “They’re a shining star of sustainability in a sea of cities nationwide that will not put their money where their mouth is. We at Greener Bay Compost might have gotten the ball rolling, but they just snowballed it. They dumped an avalanche on top of it and got it going, and I think there are really great things in store for our whole Green Bay metropolitan area in terms of composting.”

Visit to learn more about the community compost service.

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