An expansion at the Balls Ford Road Composting Facility has nearly tripled its capacity to produce compost. In addition to yard waste, the facility can now recycle food waste using state-of-the-art equipment and processes. The expansion of the facility, which was established in 1994, is a public-private partnership between Freestate Farms and Prince William County. Under the agreement, Freestate Farms, which has operated the facility since 2015, financed and expanded the operation without using any County funding. The County will pay Freestate Farms for the amount of organic waste it brings to the site; Freestate Farms will recycle the material and sell the resulting high-quality compost that can help improve soil health and productivity as well as reduce water use and pollution.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the facility’s opening and said that she has driven by it in the past and was excited to see the new additions. “I think this is really wonderful, to come back here now and see all these buildings. The future of our County is just absolutely wonderful. I really am grateful for this facility because … the EPA tells us that 30 percent of waste in landfills is food and yard waste.”
Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson added, “I am glad to have this facility, which is one of very few in the region or across the country. It is exciting for us, in Prince William County, to be a leader with this compost facility in the region.”
Turning yard and food waste into compost at the facility will keep tons of this material out of the landfill. According to Acting Director of Public Works Tom Smith, “About 30 percent of the waste going into the landfill was organic, primarily yard waste, leaves, grass, brush and food waste. We saw this as a great opportunity to expand the program for organic processing to increase the life of the County landfill. It’s part of our work to recycle more, be more sustainable, to take more material that previously went into the landfill and make usable soil amendments to improve our environment.”
Processing at the New Facility
The process at the facility includes shredding waste, removing plastics and other non-organic material on a sorting line, and processing the resulting organic material in large concrete bins that controls air flow to increase the speed of the composting process as well as control any odors.
In the past, yard waste was processed in long windrows that had to be periodically turned over, using heavy construction equipment. That process could take up to nine months. The new process will get the job done in less than three months.
With the new construction complete, the composting facility will be able to process more than 80,000 tons of waste per year, as compared to roughly 30,000 tons per year that it processed in the past.
Who Can Use the Facility?
Other jurisdictions can use the composting facility and pay Freestate Farms to take their waste. Smith said, “This is a regional facility. We’re working with Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. This is a facility for the region. Being right off I-66 it’s very easy to get trucks in and out of the facility.”
The facility is open to all residents, businesses and institutions in the County and region who can separate organic waste. Grocery stores, food processors, restaurants and cafeterias typically generate larger amounts of food waste and need a way to divert this material from landfills.
The facility will decrease methane emissions. Douglas Ross, Freestate Farms CEO, said “We built a facility that would create high-quality compost while also minimizing the region’s and our own environmental footprint. Because of compost’s organic qualities, its use has powerful benefits in everything from backyard plant and vegetable gardens to green roof construction, sports turf management, and regional soil erosion and sediment control projects.”