By Trevor Anderson
Published: Saturday, August 17, 2013
PHOTO: Joseph McMillin, left, founder and president of Junk Matters LLC, inspects a container of recycled food material with his vice president and fellow Wofford College alum Eric Breitenstein.
Courtesy of Junk Matters LLC
Joseph McMillin only cares about one thing — growing green.
The recent Wofford College graduate has returned to his old stomping grounds to pioneer a project that could eventually help area restaurants and schools turn food waste into something beneficial for the environment.
McMillin, 22, who launched his waste disposal company Junk Matters LLC while he was still a student, has partnered with Wofford to install an organic waste dehydration unit behind Burwell cafeteria.
"This is very exciting for us," said McMillin of Inman. "We will be looking to implement these at strategic locations across the county in the future in order to help reduce food waste going to the landfill."
The unit was designed by environmental entrepreneurs Jim Gosnell and Scott Harke, co-owners of Upstate-based Industrial Integration.
It resembles a large oven with a hatch where food waste is fed into a chamber with two double helix blades. The waste is churned and heated via a condenser to a temperature that reaches up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
The process takes about 8 hours and essentially accelerates the decomposition of food, including bones, and compostable plastic and paper products through indirect heating, drying and grinding. The byproduct is a sterile material that resembles coffee grounds and has the distinct smell of gingerbread.
McMillin said the material is too rich in nitrogen to be planted in directly, but it can be used as a soil additive or in vermicomposting, the process of composting using worms.
Vermicomposting typically uses red wigglers, white worms and other earthworms to break down organic material. The worms create casting as an end product of breaking down organic matter. The castings have low levels of contaminants and a high saturation of nutrients than organic material before processing. The castings can act as a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer or soil conditioner, McMillin said.
Water collected during the process is called "greywater," which is safe to drain into sewers or to be used for watering gardens or crops.
"It's pretty amazing to see how it's possible to have so many benefits that can be used for so many applications," said Eric Breitensten of Valle Crucis, N.C., one of McMillin's former classmates who he recently hired to serve as vice president of Junk Matters.
"This is just the first step in our mission to help Spartanburg County residents become more aware of new technologies that can help improve the environment, reduce costs and improve their quality of life."
McMillin said the machine can process up to 1,000 pounds of food waste per day running on three cycles. The machine reduces about 90 percent of the bulk, meaning roughly 100 pounds of byproduct could be produced per day. Right now, the machine is handling 650 pounds of waste each day.
According to McMillin, the dehydrator is one of only two units in operation in the Southeast. The other is used by Greenville Technical College, but it's a smaller unit.
In the coming weeks, McMillin said he will purchase and install a newer dehydrator at Wofford that will increase capacity by about 50 percent per cycle.
The machines replaced a 30-yard compactor that used to sit behind the cafeteria. Junk Matters is also handling a pair of 6-yard Dumpsters in trash and six Dumpsters of recycling each week at the school.
Jason Burr, associate vice president of facilities and capital projects at Wofford, said the school has benefitted from the partnership with Junk Matters.
"We're trying to go to a zero-waste program," Burr said. "We want to move in that direction. It has been a really good partnership. (McMillin and Breitenstein) are pushing us to do some really innovative things."
Burr said the college started working with McMillin when he was still a student.
Last year, the young entrepreneur helped Wofford coordinate and motivate sustainability efforts on campus.
"This was the next phase of that effort," Burr said.
He said the college sat down with Junk Matters and its vendor Aramark to make sure that all of the products used in the cafeteria were compostable.
While the dehydrator is only being used at the main dining facility, Burr said he can foresee it becoming a campus-wide effort.
"At the end of the day, we've become a lot more sustainable because of the partnership that we have with Junk Matters," he said. "The work they're doing, the passion that they have is just amazing. … It's a true win-win-win. It's good for their business; it's good for local agriculture and saves us money."
During his sophomore year, McMillin took part in the school's Success Initiative, a program open to students of all majors that emphasizes innovation and creative problem solving through experience.
He was mentored by Wofford alumni and local business leaders Nick Wildrick and John Bauknight, who started their entrepreneurial careers with the document destruction company Shred First LLC.
During his junior year, McMillin decided to quit the football team and focus solely on launching his business with resources provided by Wofford's Mungo Center for Professional Excellence.
In April, he claimed the top prize from the school's "Ten students, Ten minutes, $10,000" competition. The expo-style event showcased The Space at Wofford's Mungo Center for Professional Excellence on Evins Street, as well as the work of nearly 50 students.
Part of his winnings included startup space for a year at The Iron Yard LLC's facility in downtown.
Like many of his classmates enrolled at the center, McMillin, who earned his bachelor of science degree in psychology, wanted to develop a concept that would be successful and make a positive impact on the community.
Over the past few months, his business has grown rapidly to 30 recycling accounts, as well as School Districts 1, 2, 3 and part of 7. McMillin has also added several zero-waste clients, including The Coffee Bar, Magnolia Lofts, The Iron Yard, Carolina Harvest House and RJ Rockers brewery.
"We have been very busy and are growing quickly," said McMillin. "It's exciting. People are calling us now."
For more information, visit: www.junkmattersllc.com.
Copyright © 2013 GoUpstate.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.