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One Man's Trash is Another Man's Compost

Dean Rosendall’s passion for composting and recycling is contagious. When we meet for this article’s interview, I’m struck by his genuine interest in and commitment to his profession, which meshes nicely with his ease in building relationships, spotting trends and putting together a strategic vision.

Rosendall is a partner in the newly launched recycling business, New Soil, which is doing some pretty exciting things. Yes, recycling can be exciting, believe it or not. 

Hey, I was surprised, too. 

New Soil helps local businesses go green by composting organic waste -- and not just food. Restaurants are the obvious customers of New Soil’s services, but expand your mind for a moment and think: law offices, architects, hair salons, department stores... the list goes on. Junk mail, facial tissues, paper envelopes, paper packaging, food waste, newspaper, cardboard, wood, coffee filters, paper cups and coffee grounds are just some of the waste that can be composted. You can get a more complete list from New Soil’s website. The point is that virtually every company has stuff that can be composted. 

“Organic waste typically makes up 75-85 percent of your total garbage content,” says Rosendall. “Adding one step to your waste disposal routine can make a world of difference. By sending food waste where it should go instead of where it shouldn’t, you’re helping to save energy, reduce pollution and conserve resources. By doing that, you’re also helping to keep yourself and your family happy and healthy.”

By throwing food in New Soil’s bins instead of the trash, companies can save an average of $40 per ton over traditional waste disposal.

“Sustainability is the goal,” says Rosendall. “We’re excited about it -- it’s the right thing to do environmentally. We are the stewards of the earth, and it just makes sense. We do a unique cost analysis and help businesses get rid of organic waste separately to lower costs.”

The cost analysis shows how a business can reduce its carbon footprint by reducing the size of its trash/waste container, which benefits the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economical. And LEED certification is available for buildings as a point for a sustainable practice. Businesses can use this as an effective marketing tool, especially since the community demands social responsibility. 

After studying a company’s waste stream, New Soil makes a proposal based on the company’s needs. A contract is signed, and voilá: A container is provided, and the company fills it with recyclable materials. New Soil then pulls the container, changes it out, brings the full container to a compost station, and the compost is sold to other local farmers as nutrient-rich potting soil.

Bob Etheridge, financial controller of Louis Benton Steak House, is sold on New Soil. “Our ex-waste disposal service was unreliable, messy, and bossy,” says Etheridge. “With New Soil, we’re saving 35 percent on costs -- including 95 percent saved on trash bags, and the service is so much better. New Soil caters to our needs and helps everyone appreciate the environment. It’s amazing to see the amount of recyclable material we’re dealing with.”

Matt MacNaughton, Louis Benton’s executive chef, concurs. “It was a real eye-opener to see how much had been recycled,” says MacNaughton. “And there’s no learning curve, so the staff got on board very quickly.”

You’ve probably heard plenty about the wonders of compost: it cuts down on methane emissions from landfill, returns carbon to the soil and is prized by farmers for its rich nutrients. 

“There’s been a movement toward consuming locally grown food, so why not compost and go full circle?” says Rosendall. “The average waste stream breakdown includes 80 percent of material that can be composted. This stuff doesn’t break down in landfills because it needs oxygen, so it just takes up room.”

Compost bins aren’t anything new on the West and East coasts, but Grand Rapids is progressive among Midwestern cities for taking recycling to this level. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced a composting law in 2009, which is the most comprehensive in the country. The goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions, return carbon to the soil and have the city sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020. Virtually every San Francisco residence and business is required to have three separate color-coded waste bins: black for trash, blue for recycling and green for compost. The law is enforced with warnings that can lead to hefty fines.

Can Grand Rapids be far behind? Only time will tell.

Rosendall’s grandfather started New Soil’s mother company, Rosendall Disposal in 1957, and Dean’s father, Fred, took it over 15 years later. Dean is a third generation Rosendall in the family business. New Soil employs 10 full-time workers.

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Rosendall went to Grand Rapids Christian High and graduated from Hope College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in1995.
As a child, he loved to tinker with mechanical things. He is serious about social responsibility and practices what he preaches. 

“God gave us one planet, and so many people take that for granted,” says Rosendall. “Small lifestyle changes can make a huge impact. It doesn’t have to be more expensive.”

Victoria Mullen is (in alphabetical order) an actress, artist, attorney, photographer, and writer based in Grand Rapids. She is originally from Milwaukee, Wis.  

Photography by Adam Bird
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