Three Durango entrepreneurs have joined forces to recycle a common material that has no market value as waste.
Paperboard, the material of cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, toilet paper rollers, egg cartons, advertising displays and beer stein coasters, is being turned into food for earthworms that produce castings for gardeners.
Phoenix Recycling/Phoenix Data Protection, Durango Compost Co. and Native Roots Garden Center are the principals in the venture.
Paper or cardboard can be recycled, Mark Thompson of Phoenix said last week. Why not find a use for a material that cant be recycled locally?
The joint venture is relatively new, but the idea of doing something creative with waste started a couple of years ago with Tim Wheeler, the owner of Durango Coffee Co.
I wanted to do something with my coffee grounds other than throwing them away, Wheeler said Tuesday as he displayed the bins where thousands of red wiggler earthworms were munching their way through a meal of paperboard, coffee grounds and plant clippings.
Wheeler found a solution by forming the Durango Compost Co., with vermiculturist Jennifer Craig as a partner.
The company, which now rents space at Native Roots, sells soil supplement, worms and kits for do-it-yourselfers who want to make natural fertilizer at home.
If the worm bin has the proper proportions of paperboard, which supplies carbon, and coffee grounds, which provides nitrogen, and is kept moist and at the optimal temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the worms are tireless workers, Wheeler said.
Their seed-size castings (excrements) become a soil supplement, full of micro-organisms and nutrients that improve the quality of soil. The castings also can be turned into a tea to spray on plants.
The recycling of paperboard spreads benefits three ways.
The process starts when Phoenix Recycling trucks pick up paperboard as part of their regular rounds in several neighborhoods.
The waste is hauled to the company yard where the Phoenix Data Protection shredder reduces the paperboard to manageable mouthfuls for earthworms.
Shredded paperboard is taken to Wheelers composting site, where red wigglers are waiting to go to work.
Durango Coffee Co. is handling its waste more efficiently, Wheeler said. Our collaboration is turning waste into a valuable product.
Production can be regulated, Wheeler said. If we put in more food, we get more worms. If we use less food it means a better soil amendment.
Native Roots owner John Wickman likes the proximity of Durango Compost.
I prefer to buy from Durango Compost, Wickman said. People are interested in a soil supplement and want to know whats in it. Now I can tell them.
Thompson said the cooperative effort highlights local businesses doing more than any one of them could do alone to protect the environment. The paperboard waste stream is hardly being tapped, he said.
The amount of paperboard can be increased if demand is there, Thompson said.