Rust Belt Riders Composting: A Business to Support Community Gardens

Read time: 3 mins

By seeing value in what others throw away, Daniel Brown and Michael Robinson found a creative way to turn their passion for helping their community into a full-time job. The inspiration for their business came while they were running a community garden in Cleveland, Ohio. The garden was formerly the site of a factory, so turning the poor-quality compacted soil into fertile farmland was a constant struggle. They turned to composting as a means to improve the soil condition but had trouble procuring the volume of compost that they needed. Brown and Robinson were both working in restaurants at the time, and they began soliciting food scrap donations for the garden. They soon realized that other gardens all over the city must be struggling with the same problem, and they started brainstorming how they could change that. With a starting budget of only $2000, Rust Belt Riders Composting was born.

Rust Belt Riders Composting began by collecting food waste from homes and businesses for a small free and turning it into compost to donate to community gardens. Initially, all of the food waste was transported by bicycle using custom designed trailers. Business was booming, and it wasn’t long before the gardens had more compost than they could handle, leading to some logistical changes to keep the business viable. Rust Belt Riders Composting now works exclusively with commercial clients, and a local composting facility operated by the Rid-All Green Partnership takes all of the surplus material. Using motorized vehicles has allowed them to transport a larger volume of food waste and serve a larger area, ultimately increasing their impact. Since its inception in June of 2014, Rust Belt Riders Composting has diverted more than 80,000 pounds of food waste from landfills. They now handle 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of food waste per week, and that rate is still growing. They currently serve 25 local businesses, restaurants, and even a high school.

Rust Belt Riders Composting has been so successful in part because of their education-based approach to composting. They work closely with clients to teach them about the benefits of composting as well as what materials are compostable. The trick has been getting people to see that there is value in food waste and that by supporting a fee-based composting program, they have the opportunity to help their community and the environment. In addition to working with businesses, Rust Belt Riders has also implemented programs to educate the general public. A grant has allowed them to start a “2 for 1” program at a local farmers market, where shoppers can trade in 2 pounds of food scraps for one dollar to spend on fresh produce. Through their campaign to educate people and correct common misconceptions about composting, they hope to show the city of Cleveland and other cities that the issue of food waste should be addressed on a larger scale. By meeting a real need within their community and understanding the population that they serve, Rust Belt Riders Composting has turned a vision for a better world into a reality with a thriving business.

To learn more about Rust Belt Riders Composting, visit and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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