Jeffrey Neal

Jeffrey Neal

Jeffrey Neal

Speaker | Loop Closing

Washington, DC |

Before founding Loop Closing LLC, Commander Jeffrey Neal, Retired, served a 24 year career in the United States Navy as a Civil Engineer Corps Officer solving our most complex operations and facilities problems by leading innovation and change for our nation’s Navy and Marine Corps bases worldwide. He holds the Compost Facility Operator License from the state of Maryland and developed curriculum and taught composting with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Georgetown University. He earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford and MS in Civil Engineering and Management from UC Berkeley. He is a Licensed Professional Engineer, certified Contracting Officer, Echoing Green Fellow, and Bethesda Green Innovation Lab resident.

Session Code: C1

Track: Operator

Session Name: Compost Industry Expansion: Reaching New Markets

Session Time: Wednesday, Jan 25, 8:15 to 9:45 AM

Presentation Title: Distributed Composting Systems Have Not Scaled: Why, Solutions, Benefits, and Shortcomings

Presentation Description: Distributed composting solutions such as on-farm and on-site in-vessel approaches have not been scaled to provide meaningful diversion. Five reasons include labor cost, capital cost of composting machines, training and oversight, use of the finished compost, and regulatory alignment. Solutions include leveraging composting machines to reduce the labor cost, applying to composting the solar industry approach of leveraging the financial industry to finance distributed solar systems, and hiring technicians and consultants to support oversight, use, and alignment. We will discuss the lessons learned from locations around the US where this has been tried and explored: the pros, cons, and what’s needed next.

Benefits and shortcomings: Benefits of on-site composting include the scalability for large-scale diversion, unit economics cost savings, and accessible local jobs. Municipalities and organizations set sustainability and zero waste goals but lack the paths to implement and meet them. Adding the under leveraged approach of distributed composting can provide needed additional paths, to more quickly make progress and provide needed infrastructure. Discuss the lessons learned such as the capacity potential with one system on each block in an urban area (>100%), the unit economics and payback period (< 4 years) to operate a distributed system based on the status quo current costs to haul away food scraps, and how this leverages ILSR’s analysis on jobs (18x more) compared to different food waste management approaches. Also, discuss shortcomings that need addressing such as staff continuity, accountability, cultural hurdles, and model policy language.

Enablers: Subsidies currently target centralized approaches. DC government has taken steps to level the playing field. They removed old outdated laws and regulations blocking distributed composting and provided three grant opportunities for demonstration projects and transfer of lessons learned. We will discuss some pros and cons for other municipalities to glean.