April 13, 2024
Waste not: Florida Organic Solutions puts Hurricane Irma's spoils to use

Photo: Pedro Castellano

Refuse from Hurricane Irma will triple or quadruple inventory, estimates Eric K. Carl.

Southwest Florida Roundup

Waste not: Florida Organic Solutions puts Hurricane Irma's spoils to use

A Seffner firm is putting some of Hurricane Irma's spoils to use.

Art Levy | 10/26/2017

On a typical day, Florida Organic Solutions takes in about 500 cubic yards of yard waste and begins the nine-month process of converting the plant and tree material into nutrient- rich compost. After Hurricane Irma, the Seffner facility started getting 10 times as much yard waste — more than 5,000 cubic yards of debris a day, the equivalent of about 2,500 pickup truck loads.

“We’ll sure have a lot more product to sell next year,” says Eric K. Carl, the company’s executive vice president of finance and administration.

Florida Organic Solutions, which employs 20 full time and another 20 during the busy fall and spring planting seasons, makes its compost in a 63-acre former clay pit about a mile north of I-4 between Tampa and Plant City.

Florida Organics gets its raw material from home and business owners — and through con- tracts it has with nearby municipalities. It processes the yard waste in one of two massive chipping machines, each big enough to handle entire trees. The refuse is then arranged in 100-footlong, 15-foot tall piles called windrows, where the wood loses up to 40% of its weight as it decomposes.

The compost, which is certified organic, sells for between $14.50 and $35 a cubic yard, depending on the size of the order. Customers include commercial organic farms and community gardens. The compost is also sold at home stores.

Carl, who grew up working as a “field hand” in his mother’s garden, joined the company earlier this year after a career in investment banking. “I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m 48 years old, and all I had done for the last 20 years was mark up paper and hand it to the next guy. I wanted to do something different. It’s very hard to find a business where you can do well by doing good, but I think I’ve found it.”

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