Dirt Factory, Philly’s Newest Composting Facility, Opens Today

We stalk with one of the folks behind the new University City facility.

My immediate reaction to a place called the Dirt Factory: first grade Crayola Factory Field Trip + mud pies = Dirt Factory. Right?

Turns out I wasn’t so far off. The Dirt Factory is Philly’s newest community composting facility, and it opens today in University City. Future plans for the facility include educational initiatives (hello, field trips) and, yes, mixing things with dirt (hey there, mud pies).

The folks of University City District (UCD) will be celebrating the first day of summer with their first load of organic compost. Join them from 4 p.m to 6 p.m this afternoon for plantable giveaways, live bluegrass from Sour Mash, and free food and drinks from Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Dock Street Brewing Company, Four Worlds Bakery and more. (Info’s here.)

Enthused by the prospect of another composting facility in the city (yay, sustainability!), I talked with Seth Budick, the policy and research manager at UCD, to find out more about what the Dirt Factory’s all about.

How did the idea for a neighborhood composting facility come about?
We have a large volume of fallen leaves every autumn in University City and there are a lot of residents and businesses who would like to compost their organic waste, but nowhere to do so. Additionally, there’s a substantial demand for compost from community gardens in University City. The Dirt Factory solves all of these problems, while creating a valuable new resource in the process.

How does the Dirt Factory work?
UCD provides the “brown” carbon rich material in the form of fallen leaves that we collect throughout the neighborhood, and the community provides the “green” nitrogen-rich material largely in the form of kitchen waste. Those materials are combined in our large Earth Tub composters, which mix the material thoroughly and help it to break down much faster than it would if left to compost on its own. The resulting compost will be distributed to the community for neighborhood gardens.

Who can utilize the facility and how can they get involved?
Any resident of University City who contracts with the Pedal Coop for compost pickup will have their waste delivered to the Dirt Factory. The Pedal Coop currently hauls compost from several local businesses. We hope that by increasing their capacity at the Dirt Factory, additional businesses will be able to compost in University City.

When can locals drop off their trash?
The site will be open, at least initially, from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays for residents to drop off up to five gallons of compostable material.

What kinds of events will go down this summer and next fall at the Dirt Factory?
The facility will be open for educational programming, including a workshop series this summer and fall presented by the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners on the first Saturday of every month from July to October.  These will focus on composting, gardening, and food-related topics.