Salvation Army gets composter

Published 11:06 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

Maj. Cal Clatterbuck of the Suffolk Salvation Army shows off The Rocket food composter with John Vaughan pouring in peanut hulls. The machine, which was purchased with a grant, transforms food waste into compost on just two weeks.

The Salvation Army is constantly giving out food from its location on Bank Street.

Most of the food goes to people in need.

“There’s not a day that food doesn’t go out of here, including Sundays,” said Maj. Cal Clatterbuck of the Salvation Army.

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But sometimes, some of the food that is donated by a local grocery store can spoil before someone picks it up, or there can be food left over from meals served at the location.

That’s where “The Rocket” comes in.

The A500 Rocket is the Salvation Army’s new food composter. The first machine of its kind in Virginia, it can produce about 110 gallons of compost a week from the food thrown into it.

“Instead of throwing it in the dump, we put it in here,” Clatterbuck said.

The machine, which normally costs about $17,000, was funded by a grant from Birdsong Peanuts. Birdsong also provides a steady source of peanut hulls, which are used to thicken the compost. Wood chips also can be used, but the organization still is looking for a good source of wood chips, chairman Bobby Harrell said.

“It handles the food waste right here,” he said.

Clatterbuck said many of the organization’s grantors ask what it is doing to become more “green,” so The Rocket is a huge step forward on that path. The Rocket also will handle waste from food served at the new community building that will be under construction this month.

The compost will be used for landscaping the new building and for gardening programs at schools through the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, Harrell said.

“It gets us doing our part for the community,” he said.