On a steamy Friday afternoon in July, Amanda Rauktys and her husband, Joseph, are up to their knees in garbage in their backyard.
Flies, mosquitos and other airborne pests hover over the heaps and mounds. Joseph upends one of the totes on the trailer he pulled to the rear of their property, behind his truck, and a pile of scraps tumbles out. Then, he grabs a pitchfork and digs into one of the piles.
It’s not accurate to call it garbage. Not really. It’s the beginning of something else entirely: an effort to reduce waste through their business, Naples Compost.
“There is a need for this. People are interested. We want to do this the right way,” Amanda said.
Naples Compost was started in 2018 by Hannah Rinaldi. The Rauktys duo bought the company in May, and they run six pickup routes a week for both residential and commercial clients, averaging about 10 clients per residential route.
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The routes often mean crisscrossing through Naples, buckets in the back of the car, picking up full buckets from clients and replacing it with a clean, empty bucket into which folks dump their food waste. They then return to their home in the Golden Gate Estates for the dirty work.
“You can take all this food waste and turn it right back into nutrient-rich soil,” Joseph said.
The National Resources Defense Council defines composting as the process of recycling organic matter into fertilizer for soil and plants.
Composting reduces waste, cuts methane from landfills and conserves water, according to the council. It requires greens (like fresh organic material) for nitrogen, browns (like dead leaves) for carbon, oxygen and water. Together, with aeration, moisture and proper temperatures, organisms can break down the waste.
“Anything that grows decomposes eventually; composting simply speeds up the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria, fungi, and other decomposing organisms … to do their work,” reads the council’s website.
The result: compost, which is “rich in nutrients and can be used for gardening, horticulture and agriculture,” according to the council.
Stephanie Bunnett, who co-owns Kunjani — a speciality coffee roaster, shop and art gallery — said she started working with Naples Compost when under previous ownership and continues to compost through them today.
“It’s really hard to be zero waste in the business,” she said. “They’re really great at what they do, and they generally kind of do good for the environment.”
The Rauktys’ efforts through Naples Compost are in addition to their efforts through Sun-Leaf, an apparel brand the Illinois natives started in 2018 that donates proceeds to various nonprofits. The brand also sells an alternative to plastic straws made from wheatgrass and bamboo.
Thus far, the couple is limited in how much compost it can produce. In the future, they’d like to obtain a separate, dedicated location for their composting efforts as they continue to grow.
“I think we’re making a difference,” Amanda said. “Your garbage is our treasure.”
Andrew Atkins writes about food and features for the Naples Daily News. Contact him via email at [email protected]. To support work like Andrew’s, please consider subscribing: https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/