CLEVELAND — Daniel Brown and his friend started their composting company, Rust Belt Riders, in 2014 with just a bike and a desire to better the environment. 

What You Need To Know

  • Since the start of the pandemic, food composting has grown significantly in the Cleveland area

  • 40 percent of all of the food that is grown in the United States ends up in landfills

  • Composting helps reduce the amount of food waste in landfills

“We decided to buy a mountain bike and weld a trailer to the back of it," said Brown. "[We] quite literally started riding around picking up food scrapes, 300 pounds at a time.” 

Brown and his partner realized that composting was the missing element to the local food movement in northeast Ohio.

"A lot of people were increasingly interested in where their food was coming from, and rightfully so," explained Brown. "Not enough people were asking the questions of where does this end up going.” 

Now, in 2021, the pair has ditched the bike and now picks up food scrapes from private homes and organizations across northeast Ohio.

"Instead of having that material go to landfills, we compost that and make nutrient rich soil," Brown said. "That we make available to the public year round.” 

Brown has seen a significant increase in the amount of people who compost during the pandemic. 

“A year ago, today, we had not even 100 people in our residential services,” Brown said. 

Now, around 1,500 households and 200 businesses use Rust Belt Riders composting services. 

Brown believes more people became interested in composting during the pandemic because they were having more meals and spending more time at home.

“So as the pandemic took root, we saw more and more people leave the corporate lunch place and work place and began doing more cooking at home and  eating at home,” said Brown.

The increase in composting is not only good for Brown's business; it's also beneficial for the environment. 

Brown said about 40 percent of all of the food that is grown in the United States ends up sent to landfills. 

“When food goes to landfills, it emits methane, which is a very toxic greenhouse gas that accelerates climate change, so when we can prevent material from going to landfills, like food waste," Brown said.  "Not only do we avoid those harmful greenhouses gases we are producing a product like soil or compost that can help sequester carbon from the atmosphere through sound agricultural practices.”

He hopes to make composting as normal as recycling in northeast Ohio.