Though still two or three months from having a marketable product to sell, Chesapeake Compost Works is already winning plaudits from some businesses interested in recycling their food waste.

"This is one of the most exciting things to come down the pike in a long time," said Spike Gjerdes, chef and co-owner of Woodberry Kitchen, the farm-to-table restaurant in Clipper Mill. Being able to compost food waste helps complete the connection with local growers, Gjerde said during a recent open house for Bevivino's business.

Del. Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat, got legislation passed directing the state agriculture and environment departments to study how best to promote and regulate composting. A report is due by the end of the year.

"We've gotten really good at recycling and there's been a lot of effort focused around that," Mizeur said. "But we haven't gotten to the point where everyone composts by second nature. …There was such a hodgepodge of rules and regulations in multiple agencies that overlapped or didn't talk to each other and were disconnected in ways that were a disincentive for a company like Chesapeake Compost Works."

Bevivino, meanwhile, is forging ahead while consulting closely with regulators to avoid any trouble.

The 54,000 square feet of warehouse space he's rented in Curtis Bay enables him to avoid the runoff concerns of an outdoor operation. Food waste will decompose for about a month indoors atop a network of pipes that are designed to draw air through the piles, helping decomposition while capturing odors that might otherwise upset neighbors. The material will then spend another two months finishing the compost process outdoors, also under cover from rain.

He's processing five to eight tons of food waste daily, and once production ramps up he hopes to handle 60 cubic yards a day of compost for sale.

While Bevivino said he'll take food-scrap dropoffs from households during business hours, the only other residential composting, outside of do-it-yourself backyard operations, is in Howard County.

The county is collecting food scraps from about 300 households in a pilot program and plans to slowly expand that. For now, those pickups are being trucked to Delaware to compost, but the county is building its own composting plant at the Alpha Ridge landfill, which should be open next year, said Joshua Feldmark, the county's environmental sustainability director.

The only other commercial food-waste composter in the Baltimore area is Veteran Compost in Aberdeen, a two-year-old concern that picks up scraps from Aberdeen, Columbia and a couple other sites and sells completed compost by the bag ($5 per 20 pounds) or in bulk ($35 a yard). Owner Justin Garrity said he has four employees and is looking to expand, with a preference for hiring military veterans.

"I'm happy to see Vinnie's up and running," Garrity said "There's huge demand in this state."

twheeler@baltsun.com

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