St. Louis Composting (SLC) is the largest compost producer in the Greater St. Louis, Missouri metro area. SLC’s mission is to make the world a littler greener and reduce landfill waste by producing and selling high quality compost. SLC’s six composting facilities process roughly 600,000 cubic yards of green material each year – more than a third of all the yard waste generated in St. Louis County. Finished compost is marketed and sold in different target markets throughout the region.

Although SLC leads the organics recovery marketplace in the City, the demand for their products outstrips supply. To meet this growing demand, SLC was looking for ways to expand their business while further reducing the amount of waste entering landfills. Since the company already received yard waste from a number of sources in the St. Louis Metro Region, including grocery stores, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Zoo and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, increasing the number of suppliers was not an easy solution. An alternative was to increase the types of waste they could accept, such as food waste.

Composting food waste presents a challenge, however, because much of the food that goes unused is expired or recalled food in packaging. Examples include soda in plastic bottles or aluminum cans, infant formula in cans, and ice cream in cartons. The food must be removed
from its packaging before it can be composted. Opening every package and removing the food by hand would be labor intensive and expensive.

SLC had considered purchasing a machine to separate food from its packaging. This depackaging equipment would create two waste streams: organic materials and packaging materials. SLC could then compost the organics, while recycling much of the packaging.

Although the depackaging equipment seemed like the right solution for SLC’s challenges, it came with a hefty capital cost. To ease the purchase, SLC wanted to apply for a grant from Missouri’s Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority (EIERA) to help fund a portion of the equipment cost. EIERA offers grants for businesses to acquire equipment for manufacturing a product from recovered materials or processing materials for use as a manufacturing feedstock. Unfortunately, SLC staff members were at capacity managing the day-to-day operations of their business during the hectic summer months that they lacked the time to prepare the grant for submission.

SLC hired RRS to coordinate the preparation of the grant application, including writing the narrative for the grant application, seeking out letters of support, requesting quotes from equipment manufacturers, and assembling the application materials.

RRS began by speaking with staff at SLC to get a detailed understanding of their needs and objectives. RRS then researched the various types of depackaging equipment in the market place by talking to equipment manufacturers, examining the equipment specifications, requesting quotes, and interviewing businesses currently using the equipment. Using this information, RRS analyzed each type of equipment against SLC’s needs and provided an expert opinion on the suitability of the equipment for the site and task.

RRS then prepared the grant application: a detailed description of the project goals, the need for the equipment, SLC’s time table and plan for operating the equipment, and the impacts of the use of this equipment on waste reduction. The grant application also specified the type of materials that SLC planned to receive, how the materials would be processed, and what would be done with the organics and packaging materials once separated. As part of the grant application, RRS assisted SLC in obtaining letters of support for the project both from businesses that would be supplying food waste for depackaging and businesses that would be purchasing the finished compost products.

RRS also analyzed the fiscal impacts of acquiring the equipment. RRS examined the available waste streams, calculated the payments and avoided cost of disposal using area tip fees, and made projections for the number of jobs that would be created by the project. Using projections provided by SLC, RRS prepared pro forma cash flow statements for the first three years the equipment is operational.

Once the individual pieces of the grant were completed, RRS assembled them into the final grant application format. The draft application was provided to SLC for review, RRS made edits based on the client’s review and forwarded back to SLC for submission to EIERA.

SLC’s grant application was approved by the EIERA, allowing SLC to purchase and install the Tiger De-Packager, thus increasing capacity and output.