Every day, at Cedar Grove Composting north of Seattle, truck after truck pulls into this huge warehouse to dump loads of food and yard waste.
"There's a nice mix of green waste and material. We actually have different seasons here in the tipping building," says Susan Thoman, business development director for Cedar Grove. "There's pumpkin season, that's the first of November after Halloween. We have Christmas tree season, which is obviously the first part of January after the holidays."
According to Thoman, food waste and yard waste are currently all dumped in a pile together. Then they're mixed with microbes, ground up, and poured in long, covered rows to biodegrade for a month.
The people who work at Cedar Grove talk about compost the way chefs talk about food. Thoman digs her hands into a rich, dark pile of the finished product.
"This is what it's all about, though, here. This is what those wonderful things we divert from the landfill turn into."
Now Cedar Grove has a new recipe in mind for its food waste. Before turning banana peels and bread crusts into compost, the company wants to use them to create alternative energy.
Food waste would be separated and sprinkled with bacteria to help the food begin to break down. Then it would be poured into a closed container called an anaerobic digester, where the decomposing food would start releasing large amounts of methane.
Instead of letting that methane escape into the atmosphere, where it could contribute to global warming, Cedar Grove would suck it up and store it. Then they could burn it, to power and heat the compost facility.
Lawrence Klein, technology and development planner for Cedar Grove, says they could also convert the gas from the food waste to compressed natural gas, to fuel their trucks.
"I mean, it's a beautiful image," says Klein. "It's taking a waste product and then driving down the highway with it. I'm excited about it."