Black Earth Officially Opens Regional Compost Facility, With a Vision


It’s taken years of considerable planning, cooperation with the town of Manchester, and substantial state and federal investment. And last week the North Shore Regional Compost Facility—designed and operated by Black Earth Compost—officially opened its doors at 201 Pine Street.
The grand opening ceremony, held on Friday within the expansive 9,000-sf. facility in Manchester’s Limited Commercial District, drew a crowd of more than 100 attendees, including officials from Black Earth Compost, local and state lawmakers, and federal agency representatives.
The turnout is a testament to the successful public-private partnership between Black Earth—founded by three Cape Ann residents, including Manchester’s Andrew Brousseau—and the town of Manchester, which partnered with the company six years ago by offering municipal land on School Street in exchange for curbside composting services.
Today, Black Earth serves communities from Salisbury down to Boston’s South Shore, and it will now operate from the nearly $3 million state-of-the-art facility built on a site that formerly was the town dump.
Brousseau told the crowd Friday that the Northeast Regional Compost Center is a model that, if replicated, promises a high impact to farming, food, and global warming.
“Thank you, Manchester, for choosing composting and believing in us,” said Brousseau, the former Eagle Scout in Manchester’s Troop 3, who emphasized the importance of composting in addressing the state’s landfill closures. “We’re turning food and yard waste into compost, and we’re grateful for the support.”
He said composting produces a rich agricultural product that enhances soil fertility and resilience, calling it “a pivotal solution to the climate crisis, emitting fewer greenhouse gases than other waste processing methods and sequestering carbon in agricultural fields.”
Black Earth received more than $800,000 in state funding and a $1.7 millin from a US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) grant against the total $2.9 million project cost. Federal funding was pivotal, said Scott Soares, the Massachusetts director for the USDA’s Rural Development Department.
“Black Earth Compost’s experience in food scrap recycling is reflected in their operation of 35 collection trucks, three active compost sites, and a workforce of approximately 70,” Soares said, emphasizing that solutions like these will always find federal funding.
Massachusetts Sen. Bruce Tarr lauded the project’s swift development despite challenges. He said others see food waste as a problem, but Black Earth sees it “as a viable solution.” State Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante said the world is rife with seemingly insurmountable problems like global warming, and solutions like these from Black Earth “offers a powerful hope” for future generations.
Both Tarr and Ferrante presented Black Earth with citations from the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives.
MBTS Select Board member John Round said the company has made “impressive” progress since its founding, and said Manchester is proud to have incubated the organization. He also said the seagulls that were a mainstay of Black Earth’s former location will miss out on the “all you can eat buffet,” since the new facility’s state-of-the-art design manages odors and the composting process indoors.
Looking ahead, Brousseau anticipates producing approximately 4,000 cubic yards of compost in the facility’s first year of operation from up to 40,000 lbs. of organic waste per week. He hopes the newly minted North Shore Regional Compost Facility will be a beacon of sustainable innovation that can play a significant role in the region’s environmental sustainability.
That’s important because Massachusetts has seen a notable increase in composting efforts, particularly in municipalities. For instance, the town of Hamilton now mandates composting for all residents, the first in the state to do so. Elsewhere, composting programs continue to gain traction. The city of Cambridge has offered free curbside composting since 2018, supported by a $1 million
investment, which is credited with significant cost savings (from removing organic material from the waste stream) and environmental benefits.
Black Earth benefited from then Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s move to composting mandates for restaurants gave the local company a boost in clients outside Cape Ann.
Many predict a similar mandate for private homes is only a matter of time, and if that happens, Manchester will be in the catbird’s seat since it already provides free curbside compost service from its 20-year deal with Black Earth. Three years ago, when it was considering whether to extend its deal with Black Earth, the Manchester Select Board priced out compost services based on weight-based transport estimates, and the lowest option came in from the Waste Management Company at $90,000/year.
Besides cost, community composting has an environmental benefit. The Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection has long pushed for diverting organic materials from landfills to compost facilities. It’s considered a win-win since reducing municipal waste through recycling and composting costs less and reduces plastic and paper waste.
But Brousseau said the real power of regional composting comes in creating organic and local fertilizer. Commercial fertilizers in America’s food supply are often made from petroleum and are being shipped in from other countries (as it is now). A tight network of compost facilities that turn municipal and commercial waste into “black gold” fertilizer can be sent to Massachusetts farms out west, which can return the favor by feeding us organic produce. And, he said, since compost is a proven carbon sequestration tool, it’s also a weapon against global warming.
“The promise of composting is to treat the food waste and yard waste as a resource of carbon and nutrients to grow new food,” said Brousseau, whose young son was scampering below him on the dais. “We reduce the total fuel and fertilizer we need to extract from the rest of the world. I believe that this will nudge us a little bit closer to world peace.”