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ESF, Town of Newcomb, Newcomb Central School District Team-Up on Community Composting Initiative

Community composting is coming to the town of Newcomb, thanks to a partnership between the town, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), and the Newcomb Central School District (NCSD).

The grant was awarded in 2021 to promote community-scale compost business development in the North Country including manufacturing, food scrap hauling, compost sales, and retail.

Students from ESF’s Environmental Resources Engineering program worked with the town to develop feasibility study and design plans for the composter. Students and faculty from ESF and NCSD will be involved in the design, operation, data collection and public communications efforts surrounding the composter.

ESF’s Newcomb Campus, which hosts classes from ESF and other colleges and secondary schools from across the northeast, will use the community composting initiative for education and research demonstration.

“We are looking forward to how this entire initiative will enrich and expand the educational and research opportunities to students and instructors,” said Associate Professor Doug Daley.

“This initiative is a fantastic multi- and inter-disciplinary opportunity for students at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate level to have hands-on, real-world projects and to interact with and learn from peers, near-peers, and professionals while helping to build sustainable systems at a community scale,” said Paul Hai, associate director of ESF’s Newcomb campus who also works to advance and implement Strategic Initiatives for the town of Newcomb.

The town plans to have the composter operational by April 1, beginning with feedstocks from local businesses, including ESF and NCSD, the Lake Harris Lodge, and the Newcomb Café. Residents will be invited to supply their food scraps once the microbes within the composter are acclimated to their new home and smoothly turning food waste into compost. 

The 20-foot x 4-foot drum composter, designed by CfG co-founder John Culpepper, can process several hundred pounds of food scraps per week into rich soil-amending compost. While there are four of these composters currently in the North Country, Newcomb is the first community-led, community-scale initiative.

Food scraps and other feedstocks are fed into the drum and 14 to 28 days later exit as nearly finished compost with billions of microbes and fungal bodies doing the hard work of decomposition. These composters have diverted hundreds of tons of food waste from landfills and have created thousands of cubic yards of nutrient-rich compost. The design is available to anyone with machine-shop experience and tools to replicate.  

The unit will be located at the town’s existing transfer station, making residential drop-off easy and convenient, as well as pick-up of finished compost. Newcomb will build an enclosure for the composter, develop community communications and guidelines, and train staff, volunteers, and students to safely and properly operate the composter.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.