Composting has long been a part of Dominique Bischof’s life. Bischof can still remember, when he was young, his parents getting excited when their city began selling the ever-present black compost bins that are now known across the country.
It made sense then that Bischof would become one of the Co-Founders and the CTO of Raleigh social-impact venture CompostNow, which seeks to make composting easier. By offering subscription compost collection services for households, businesses and food service providers, the startup is making a difference in the fight to reduce carbon footprints and build healthy soil.
In 2011, Matt Rostetter founded CompostNow in its initial form. At the time, Bischof and their third Co-Founder Justin Senkbeil were still at TransLoc, which was later acquired by Ford in 2018. Back then, Bischof reached out to CompostNow, asking if the subscription compost service could come to the TransLoc office. This made TransLoc the first commercial customer of CompostNow.
Rostetter developed the idea for CompostNow from his experience living in a townhome with little space for composting. Then Bischof and Senkbeil joined forces with Rostetter as Co-Founders in 2012. Today Senkbeil is CEO, Bischof the CTO and Rostetter serves as Creative Director.
Says Bischof of Rostetter, “He got the idea that, well, maybe there’s a market out there for this. He did all the really hard initial work of creating an original idea, the brand, the basics of the original operation and got that started as a business.”
With Bischof and Senkbeil on board, CompostNow began offering services to businesses and food service providers as well. At $29 a month with around 5,000 customers, CompostNow has also expanded from serving just the Triangle. They are now in Asheville, Atlanta and Charleston as well, making a noticeable environmental impact.
“Keeping all these scraps out of the landfill where they tend to create methane as a byproduct is great,” Bischof said. “But then the other part that a lot of people don’t always realize is that the compost that’s produced is a wonderful soil amendment that helps regenerate and remediate our soils.”
Residential customers can opt to keep part of the compost formed by their waste or share it with the company’s garden partner network, while commercial clients’ entire haul goes to the garden partners. Those partners include the likes of the Raleigh City Farm and Durham’s North St. Community Garden.
“We’re constantly impoverishing our soils, and putting compost back in soil is one of the best ways to sort of mitigate that decline,” Bischof said. “We’re not yet at a scale where we’re undoing the path we’re on, but it is a great technology and great approach to get to that point.”
CompostNow is in the middle of raising a seed round and previously raised around $1 million in 2017.
Tracking Your Trash
Technology-wise, CompostNow focuses on providing a good customer experience, tailored to each different market, Bischof said. Customers also receive text message reminders and are able to skip weeks when out of town.
“It’s all about meeting people’s modern-day expectations of how they interact with their services,” Bischof said. “You can see on your bill exactly how much electricity you’re using, water, etc. Why can’t you tell how much waste you’re diverting?”
With CompostNow, members actually can tell just how much waste they are diverting on their member dashboards. Bischof said they can see it in a more tangible way, such as noting how many tomatoes their amount of compost could grow, for example.
Although composting is still not universally adopted, Bischof is fairly convinced that in time that everyone will see the value behind CompostNow. They don’t just collect basic organic waste like banana peels or apple cores, Bischof said, but also meat, bones, dairy, pizza boxes and many takeout containers. This eliminates a large amount of trash for the typical customer all while preventing the release of methane and benefiting the soil.
Bischof said, “For most, it’s just a function of they haven’t sufficiently been exposed to it. They don’t realize the negative impacts of throwing things in the trash and the positive impacts that could happen by doing something better with their food scraps than simply pretending the problem goes away in a landfill.”