Two Guys with Nice Truck Invested in 'Black Gold'

Text and video by FRANK CARINI and JOANNA DETZ/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — They arrived on a recent Friday morning in a vintage 1963 International Harvester, which in a previous life was an engine for the North Kingstown Fire Department. It was almost painful to watch some 400 pounds of Moses Brown School food scrap be mechanically dumped into the bed of the spotless classic.

But soiling the pristine vehicle is a small sacrifice to pay to divert nutrient-rich, albeit messy, material from the Central Landfill. Instead of wasting away amongst the buried corpses of consumption in Johnston, the school’s cafeteria scrap is now being transformed into compost at Earth Care Farm in Charlestown.

Early last month, Leo Pollock and Nat Harris, co-founders and only employees of The Compost Plant, christened their 50-year-old truck, which they had modifed by a few Steel Yard alums, with the dumping of yellow-and-black compost bids filled with Moses Brown School food scrap.

Today, less than a month later, The Compost Plant truck now picks up commercial food scrap from 10 Rhode Island restaurants and schools, including the Friendship Cafe and the Portsmouth Abbey School. Expansion is in the works.

In their first three-plus weeks of twice-weekly collections, Pollock and Harris have diverted nearly 20 tons of food scrap from the landfill. The Compost Plant charges $15 for every one of their 48-gallon bins they dump. It pays a $30-a-ton tipping fee at Earth Care Farm.

The truck returns to Providence with a bed full of high-quality Earth Care Farm compost, which Harris and Pollock are selling through The Compost Plant. For more information about this compost, visit The Compost Plant Facebook page, or visit Cluck!, an urban farm and garden supply store, on Broadway.

By the end of the year, they hope to develop their own facility to produce and sell “black gold.”