Steelcase composting story

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Summary of dialog with Betsy Hernandez of Steelcase

Betsy is in Global Environmental Performance with Steelcase Inc. She has implemented, among other initiatives, a program in which paper hand towels from the company's facilities are collected and composted instead of being sent to a landfill. Betsy has graciously offered to assist us in our study of this issue. Below is a summary of questions and answers between the Green Garage and Betsy.

1. What kind of paper towels are you starting with? Do they have recycled content, and are they sugar-cane or wood pulp based? Our restroom paper toweling is just the least expensive restroom paper toweling you can purchase. However, the toweling is collected in biodegradeable trash liners versus plastic trash liners. Both the toweling and biodegradeable trash liners are purchased from a local supplier.

2. Do you compost the used towels on-site or do you have a remote location or third party service? How often are the towels collected, and who does it? Our compost provider is Spurt Industries. Their facility is located on Kalamazoo Avenue/100th Street about 10 miles south of Steelcase. The towels are collected daily by Spurt. (Note: We also collect restroom paper toweling, food waste and other organics from our dining areas at seven facilities in the Grand Rapids/Kentwood, Michigan area. Most facilities have M-W-F pick-up versus daily.)

3. If you are handling the compost, what do you use as a nitrogen/green source, if any? How do you manage the composting process, and how long does it take? Spurt composts our organics along with organics from local universities, restaurants, hospitals, etc. They combine these materials with yard waste from several cities in our surrounding area. The organics are then placed in wind rows where material decomposes within 90-180 days.

4. Where does the finished compost from the towels go? Spurt compost is bagged and sold thru local retailers, landscapers, etc. Additional information regarding Spurt can be viewed at

5. Have I badgered you enough for one round? You can ask as many questions as you’d like. We have been instrumental in recruiting our local universities, hospitals, industries, etc., in our area to divert organics from landfill. The process is fairly easy, cost comparable to landfill and a better use of organic material. It has also been a great educational experience for our employees. We have truly reduced our trash expense well over 50% by recycling and composting over the last three years.

I see that you are located in the Detroit area? I think Spurt has a facility near Ann Arbor as well.

Enjoy the rest of your Summer…and thank you for your interest in Steelcase! J

Betsy Hernandez | Global Environmental Performance

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