In the far reaches of Sussex County, New Jersey’s sole commercial-scale, open-air organics composter has, since 2005, been quietly converting table scraps from supermarkets and food-distribution centers all over the region. To date, Ag Choice in Andover has transformed nearly 6.48 million cubic feet of organic waste into usable topsoil for garden centers, athletic fields and some of the state’s remaining farms. For co-owner Jay Fischer, aiding a life cycle as old as time is just good business. 

“The amount of waste going into landfills is staggering. If you can collect some of it and take advantage of the natural decomposition process, you’ll have a reusable product we really need,” Fischer says on a rare break from overseeing the company’s cavernous 15-acre intake facility.  Staggering is an understatement.  More than 9 million tons of garbage are deposited in New Jersey’s registered landfills each year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 

Despite controls to prevent leakage of toxins from these dumping grounds, some is inevitable, adversely impacting soil, water and air quality. And nontoxic gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, landfills’ primary emissions, are the main drivers of climate change.  But without an understanding of the science of composting, it can cause similar hazards.

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Author: Pamela Weber-Leaf, New Jersey Monthly
Image: Christopher Lane, New Jersey Monthly