The Wonders of In-Vessel Composting at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In the short time that Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) has had their new in-vessel composter operational, I have heard many great things about it. In early November, I had the chance to see the composter in action and be further thrilled by its capabilities.

The new in-vessel composter at CCCC. This is the back end of the drum, and finished compost is falling onto the conveyor ramp that takes it to a holding pile.

The new in-vessel composter at CCCC. This is the back end of the drum, and finished compost is falling onto the conveyor ramp that takes it to a holding pile.

The morning I visited they had added 1000 lbs of food waste to the front end of the drum. The drum’s rotation is sufficient to move the material along, so that if you looked at the drum in cross-section you would see the progression from fresh waste to finished compost along its length. Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC), showed me the metal markers used to ensure that inputs of material have a residence time of at least the 14 days; the first marker was dated and put in the drum 2 ½ weeks ago, and has not yet showed up in the finished product—a promising sign that the composter is working as it should.

Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for WDOC, showing a metal marker used to determine compost's residence-time in the composting drum.

Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for WDOC, showing a metal marker used to determine compost’s residence-time in the composting drum.

One of the inmate technicians has become especially proficient at operating and servicing the drum composter; he has been able to fix operational problems as they arise. The system’s manufacturer has requested that he get in touch with the business post-release, because they want to put his talents to work as an employee.

An inmate technician for CCCC's large-scale composting program was pleased to pose with the new machine.

An inmate technician for CCCC’s large-scale composting program was pleased to pose with the new machine.

Vermicomposting continues at CCCC’s small-scale composting area, a longtime highlight of SPP tours. With the new large-scale composter, plus their intensive recycling program, CCCC is cancelling its regular contract with the solid waste collector, Lemay, Inc. The prison is processing more than 95% of their solid waste on site!

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