Landfill saturation and food vulnerability are two problems that, at first glance, do not seem related. However, a Puerto Rican company found a way to serve them simultaneously through the same effort.
“Recicloponía” is the name of the methodology developed by the TAIS company (Trito Agro-Industrial Services, Inc.), through which Organic waste is collected in a fermented way to be processed by compost, which is then applied to agroecological crops.
In this way, waste that usually ends up in landfills is diverted and, at the same time, the production of local food is increased, highlighted Oscar Meléndez, Business Development Manager of TAIS in an interview with El Nuevo Día.
“The composting process is a type of recycling, but the connection is rarely seen. What we do is rescue organic waste, divert it from landfills and give it another life, a new purpose. The implications of this are very great, "he said.
The only study of characterization of waste in Puerto Rico, carried out in 2003, found that 35% of what is received in landfills is organic material. 22% of that is vegetative material, while 12% corresponds to food waste.
According to Meléndez, these figures mean that a third of what reaches landfills can be diverted and used to generate quality compost for the farmers. He explained that the compost that combines vegetative material and food residues contains more nutrients.
“Puerto Rico is highly dependent on food imports because agriculture has not risen. But, for that very reason it is that we want to take advantage of these residues, rescue the nutrients and direct everything to local agriculture, "he stressed.
In 2018, the College of Certified Public Accountants revealed that 80% of the food basket consumed in the island comes from abroad. Emergencies such as Hurricane Maria, the January earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the food vulnerability of many communities.
How does it work?
Meléndez explained that the process of collecting organic waste Fermented originates from Japan and is known as “Bokashi.”
He said that the president and founder of TAIS, Carlos Pacheco Irizarry, adapted it to market it and “put it to work” as a household waste management system, shops and industries. Pacheco Irizarry named his innovation “Borikashi.”
“Borikashi” is a multi-piece “kit”, which is placed in the kitchen or food preparation area, both domestically (households) and industrially (restaurants, for example).
The first of these pieces is an “organic receiver”, which at the domestic level is a one-gallon container, while at the commercial or industrial level it is four gallons.
“But the concept, in both cases, is the same. The receiver is to put all food waste, without limitation (except liquids). This is one of the strongest components of the system, because users do not have to segregate, but all waste goes to the same sites, "said Meléndez.
The" organic receptor "must be covered at all times to avoid, among other things, for flies to arrive and deposit their eggs.
When filled, the material must then move to the “fermenter,” which is another four-gallon container domestically and 35 gallons commercially or industrially.  “You deposit the organics there and cover them with an additive that TAIS manufactures. This additive is also recycled material, because its base, the inoculant that begins the fermentation process, has as its raw material the parchment or the husk that comes out when peeling coffee. This material, which activates the fermentation process inside the container, we provide to customers as part of the service, "he added.
" You put the organics in the container like lasagna: you put a layer of waste and, on top, he waters a layer of 'Borikashi'. The ‘kit’ also includes a compressor to densify the material inside the container and, in this way, achieve better fermentation. In turn, we made the fermenter hold more food, and that helps a lot in the efficiency of the process, "he explained.
Meléndez said that, contrary to what may be thought, when the residues are fermented, no odors of putrefaction are generated . The material of the coffee husk inhibits these odors.
Collected at home
TAIS is responsible for the collection of fermented residues, and the frequency will depend on the volume generated.
Residential level, for example , the collection can be once every two or four weeks. The company offers service memberships, whose prices range from $ 15 to $ 35 a month. In the case of shops and industries, said Meléndez, the agreements are by contract.
"At the domestic level, there can be a lot of variation in the frequency of collection because everything depends on consumption, but in a restaurant or cafeteria typically what we do is measure the amount of dishes served and, accordingly, we establish a cycle. This makes us more efficient and reduces, for example, transportation costs, "he explained.
As part of the collection, TAIS exchanges empty and clean containers with its clients so that they continue with the collection process until the next visit.  The fermented organic residues are taken to the TAIS compost, in Salinas, where they are mixed with vegetative material, which are almost always tree trunks, although they can also be leaves and grass.
“From the fermenter, as such, no A compost comes out, but a fermented pre-compost. As we have a fermentative compost, there is a difference with other systems. By introducing the fermented material into our compost bin, we only have to move it every 30 days. In other composters, which have systems that consume a lot of energy to introduce air, you have to move it every four or seven days, "he illustrated.
Meléndez said that, after 90 days and having turned the material three times, the compost "is already cured". "In this time, it has already gone through all the heat processes to kill any pathogen that may arise," he said.
"This material has the benefit of being an additive to the soil, which introduces carbonic material present in the vegetative. Organic or food residues introduce the nitrogen component into the process. Compost that only has organic material does not have the same amount of nutrients as this. In the end, with our compost, farmers do not have to depend on agrochemicals, fertilizers, to introduce nutrients to the soil, "he emphasized.
For now, the vast majority of the compost produced is used on the TAIS demonstration farm, next to the compost bin. It is an agroecological farm, highlighted Meléndez.
The company also donates compost to farmers in the area and entities such as the Madre Tierra Organic Cooperative.
"What we are seeking to create is a circular economy … which, at the moment From collecting the organics in a home or restaurant, we can offer them an agro-ecological harvest and thus we all win. We come and go loaded with other material. People have to change their perspective and start to understand that what they used to see as garbage are now resources for the land, "he pointed out.
For more information, visit the page www.taispr.com.