If global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, according to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Currently, community-level composting options are limited in the Adirondack region, but a new project is aimed at changing that. 

Adirondack Compost for Good builds on the work that has been done by three local residents with a passion for turning waste into “black gold.” The project will promote food waste composting within the Adirondacks, and help communities meet the upcoming 2022 NYS ban on landfilling food wastes of a certain volume throughout New York State.

The goal of the project is to help Adirondack communities turn food and other organic “wastes” into a soil amendment, which is the material added to soil to improve its physical or chemical properties. This composting process builds local resilience, heals soils, and helps reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks to a 2016 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and project 

management help from the Adirondack North Country Association, North Country School and Camp Treetops was able to secure a grant to build a novel, community-scale composter designed by John Culpepper and a local contractor, Greg LeClair. 

John and two others, Jennifer Perry and Katie Culpepper, have been working hard to promote the use of this composter and the benefits of composting throughout our region. The first of these composters has already diverted more than 120,000 lbs of food waste from landfills. Since then, four more have been modeled after the original prototype, and are now in operation.

After strong interest and proven success with the design, the trio decided it was time to bring their expertise and the resources they have developed to an established organization that could help take the work to the next level. They approached AdkAction about taking on the project and helping to make food waste composting more commonplace throughout the region.

Drum Composters

For years, the Compost for Good team has been reimagining our waste stream. We wondered how we could divert more of the resources so often landfilled and use them to do good work within our communities. We recognized the need for an effective, adaptable, and affordable composting system. We believe that the design for our community-scale composter fits that need.

Food waste and a carbon material are added daily to the 4-foot diameter, 20-foot long pilot composter, the drum is rotated periodically and through aerobic decomposition, waste is converted to a valuable resource in just a few weeks time. This drum composter was sized to process approximately 50,000 pounds of unsorted food waste (including meat and dairy products) per year. This is roughly the amount of waste that a community of 250 generates through the course of a year.

The composter was designed to fit within a 40-foot shipping container, keeping the operation contained and potentially portable. There are five of these systems now up and running, at both public and private schools, at a community center, and at a natural history museum. The design is simple and we hope through collaboration with other communities and organizations we can continue to adapt the design to meet a variety of needs all across the Adirondacks and beyond.

The design for this composter and supporting documents are free and available to anyone interested in the resources section below. We want more communities to have access to the information we have gathered from our experience with this composter, as well as the technical support, educational tools and essential data that is required to make composting more effective and community efforts more successful. Whether through setting up site visits to observe a composter in action, a phone call to discuss viability of this design for a specific area, or assistance to find funding, we want to support Adirondack composting efforts. It is our hope that this design will provide communities with business opportunities and better waste management solutions leading towards a more regenerative Adirondack food system and more resilient communities. Together, we can compost for good!



Food waste is composted by a wide range of technologies, from low-tech windrows that require only a front-end-loader to mix and turn piles, to medium-tech aerated static piles and windrow turning machines, to high-tech in-vessel containers with aeration and agitation systems. The guiding principle of higher tech equipment design is to maximize the presentation of surface area of the food waste to microbes within optimal oxygen and moisture concentrations, thus accelerating degradation.

Rotary drums are at the high end of the technology spectrum since they continuously, or intermittently, mix food waste with carbon bulking agents such as leaves, wood chips, and nonrecyclable paper and cardboard. Large rotary drums can be 12-feet in diameter and 185-feet long, with a capital cost of more than $2 million per drum. There are also smaller drums, such as 4-feet in diameter and 8-feet long, or 10-feet in diameter and 40-feet long. The capital cost of such systems can be $40,000 to more than $150,000.

Rotary drums have been successfully utilized to compost food waste in all kinds of settings, from municipal to universities to an automobile manufacturing facility. There are probably more than 100 smaller drums operating on dairy farms in North America that convert manure into compost, as well as bedding for the cows. Drums are also used to compost animal mortalities, particularly chickens.

Continue reading the article by BioCycle. 


Bring Adirondack Compost for Good to Your Community

We are committed to working with communities across the Adirondacks to help make drum composting facilities available. Consulting and advice is available outside of the region as well.