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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

UF grad starts compost service for local restaurants

<p>Chris Cano gives 5-gallon buckets like these to businesses to fill with scraps. Cano runs Gainesville Compost out of his home.</p>

Chris Cano gives 5-gallon buckets like these to businesses to fill with scraps. Cano runs Gainesville Compost out of his home.

Waste: It's what we do every day.

One local resident is doing his best to turn waste into something valuable.

Turning food leftovers into topsoil, Chris Cano, a 23-year-old UF graduate, started Gainesville Compost: From Waste to Food, a business initiative that works with local restaurants to improve their sustainability. Created when organic scraps are recycled and decomposed in a controlled way, compost provides soil with nutrients that stimulate plant growth.

Gardening since high school, Cano said he used to spend a lot of money on expensive organic fertilizers. He started doing research and read about compost and how people call it "black gold" because it is so useful.

"I learned that you could essentially recycle your fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen and turn it into a nutritious medium for your garden," he said.

The current pilot program started in September and involves five local restaurants: Midnight, Reggae Shack Cafe, Jones Eastside, The Bull and Karma Cream. These were the first local businesses to hop on board, and they are working toward the Gainesville Compost vision of having a pedal-powered community compost network.

The pedal-powered compost bucket pick-up and delivery service moves away from fossil fuel-dependent transportation. The waste is collected from the restaurants one to three times each week, depending on the amount of scraps collected.

Cano said he puts the 5-gallon buckets of waste into the trailer attached to his bicycle, pedals to his house, adds the materials to the compost and then returns the buckets.

"When I leave the restaurants carrying these heavy buckets, I feel good about the fact that we're diverting waste from the landfill and turning it into something valuable," he said.

As long as it is economically feasible, he said he does not plan on charging for the pick-up service. Cano believes that he and the restaurants have a mutually beneficial relationship.

As a source for income, he aims to eventually sell compost to local gardeners and community members. Another goal of Gainesville Compost, he said, is to help restaurants set up their own organic gardens that are "powered by the very compost they are contributing to."

Midnight will be the first restaurant Cano will build a garden for. He described the plan for the garden as "art with a food function."

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He said reclaimed wood will be used for the frame, beer bottles will contain the plants and beer caps will be used as decoration.

Jason Twist, a 30-year-old co-owner of Midnight, said he likes the idea of not only having something beautiful for the community to enjoy but also having something that can actually be used.

"Chris is a very driven guy," he said. "He's got a lot of things on his plate but also a lot of enthusiasm."

As a website developer, Cano said he was looking for a job that was more rooted in the Gainesville community. He said this small-business initiative has given him a chance to play a small part in building the local economy in a sustainable way.

"Every morning I wake up, and I go to my garden, and it kind of grounds me," he said. "Any gardener will tell you there's nothing like eating a homegrown vegetable."

Chris Cano gives 5-gallon buckets like these to businesses to fill with scraps. Cano runs Gainesville Compost out of his home.

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