Environmental Recycling, Inc. was started in 1993 by John Dean,
as one method of dealing with the increasing amount of horse
manure in Anchorage. Dean had worked for Anchorage Sand and
Gravel for a number of years, Pete Kinneen says, and thought he
had figured out how to make composting work. “He started this on
a wing and a prayer,” Kinneen says. “Everyone said you cannot
compost in Alaska and he said ‘No? Watch this.’”
Dean reasoned that if you had a large enough pile of compost it
wouldn’t freeze on the inside during the winter. All those living
organisms that are so valuable to plant life could survive.
According to Kinneen, Dean worked with the Municipality, became
a non-profit, got a lease on city land and, despite a few late
payments in his file, was able to operate the composting facility
But Dean became ill with cancer and, sometime in 2000, started
looking for a replacement, someone who would run the facility with
the passion that he had. That person was Kinneen, who had
operated Commercial Recycling Center in Anchorage for about 10
Kinneen became the executive director in 2002. He says he made
the decision to so because "it was a satisfying and enjoyable thing
to do.” With him, Kinneen brought many years of experience
working in the world of Alaska recycling, and about a million dollars
worth of equipment. He spent three years becoming certified to
manufacture and sell Filtrexx, a technology designed to use
compost for erosion control.
Kinneen says Dean was given a five year trial period. When that
was up the city extended the lease for 10 years. (Excerpted from
Anchorage Press article by Monica Bradbury)
Between 2002 and 2008 Kinneen transformed the Composting
Facility from a small operation serving the gardeners and
landscapers or Anchorage into a larger commercial operation that
continues to serve the established clientele, but additionally serves
the construction industry around the state through the sale and
installation of compost based erosion control products. This
growth, like any, did not come without pains and misperceptions.
That is the incentive for this series of pages about the ARCF. To
clear up some misperceptions about industrial scale composting
and educate Anchorage citizens about the valuable resource they
have in the composting facility. The staff at the ARCF take the trust
of the community very seriously.
Pete Kinneen with some of the rich compost
generated at the Anchorage Regional Composting
|Creating Compost on a Large Scale
|Just like your backyard compost bin, successfully composting on
a large scale is a mixture of experience, ingredients, and alchemy.
The basic ingredients are the same at any scale: nitrogen rich
organics, carbon rich organics, water and air. The additional
'ingredient' for commercial scale composting is machinery, since
the sheer volume far exceeds what even mechanized household
machinery can handle. The familiar neat, small scale windrows
have been replaced by larger, less tidy windrows that require
turning by excavators and loaders. The organics also differ
slightly, in that they are not typically used in household or even
garden center composting operations. Feedstock such as pallets
and construction waste, tons of horse manure, furniture, even
bowling pins, can all contribute to a large scale composting
operation. This is all material that would otherwise go to the
landfill. Of course, more traditional woody materials like Christmas
trees and woodlot debris, autumn leaves, and summer grass
clippings contribute as well. The entire process can take 24
months. The production is not always pretty, but then again, not
much on an industrial scale is. Nevertheless, it is important and
As mentioned above, the composting facility was begun to help
the community manage the increasing volumes of horse manure.
As we have read recently, horse manure by itself does not
compost readily. It, like any nitrogen rich feedstock, must be mixed
in ratio to woody carbon rich material. The result, if properly done,
is an odor free, balanced 100% organic product that does pass
federal certification standards. Even the composting process as
done at Anchorage Regional Composting Facility, is odor free.
Economical: Each year the ARCF processed many tons of horse
manure at a much lower cost to horse owners than what is
currently being charged. In fact, all tipping fees at the ARCF are
less than those charged by SWS for dumping at either the landfill,
transfer stations, or the woodlot. Community members that benefit
range from homeowners all the way up to large construction firms.
Diversional: Tons of material are diverted from the landfill each
year, including gypsum board, known as sheetrock, that while not
compostable, is completely natural and recyclable. Wood furniture
damaged beyond use, wood pallets brought into Alaska by the
truckload, tons of books from thrift stores such as the Salvation
Army, bowling pins beyond their useful life, literally anything that
was once alive is compostable.
Environmental: Not only is substantial space saved at the landfill
by diverting bulky items towards composting, but the compost
itself is returned to the community through landscape and garden
use on a small scale, and Filtrexx certified erosion control
applications on a much larger scale. Water bodies that are being
protected by ARCF compost include Little Campbell Creek,
Campbell Lake, Chester Creek, Rabbit Creek, Little Rabbit Creek,
and Ship Creek.
Educational: Hundreds of Anchorage school children and other
community groups have visited the ARCF every year to learn
about composting and its benefits to the environment.
Additionally, ARCF personnel have presented at various civic
group meetings and assisted with various school and community
projects, including the rain garden at Taku Park.
ARCF nonprofit status is based on community education.
Spiritual: Thousands of local beloved pets have been cremated
and returned to the earth through the composting process at the
ARCF. These events have been conducted at the request of the
pet owners and the collaboration of the pet crematoriums. The
nutrients contained in the ashes are welcomed by the compost
|Benefits to the Community
|The Future of the
Anchorage Regional Composting Facility
While the Pt. Woronzof site is closed as of this writing, the ARCF
continues to operate through its erosion control practices and
community activities. Negotiations are underway for a new main
composting site within Anchorage and several transfer stations
around town, Eagle River, and possibly Girdwood. The staff of ARCF
are excited about composting at a new facility and continuing to
produce the variety of products that benefit mother earth in general
and Anchorage in particular. The Filtrexx business is growing, and is
currently shipping materials on a regular basis as far north as
Fairbanks and occasionally as far south as Homer.
In spite of the poorly explained MOA reason to not extend the land
lease, the community asset known as Anchorage Regional
Composting Facility will return better than ever in a new location.
ARCF wants the community to know that its' support is appreciated
and they look forward to again serving the public this spring at their
Composting on a large scale allows year round
production, thereby benefiting the community all four
seasons. Above, steam rises from an active
windrow in mid-winter.
Using large equipment, the compost windrows are
thoroughly turned a dozen times during the process.
The full size excavator ( 45,000 pounds ) in this picture
gives a sense of scale.
On the left is raw woodstock being fed into the large tub
grinder. Click here to enlarge the image and for more
An almost romantic view of the process. Can't you smell
the good earth?
Compost blankets are tools that enrich the earth while
preventing erosion. A home on the hillside received
such treatment with native seeds, clearly successful.
Producers from Animal Planet arrived from Los Angeles
to film the return of pet ashes to the earth through the
compost process at ARCF recently. It was later
broadcast to the entire nation. This service is very
popular and will be continued.