Rust Belt Riders Composting

“Those guys already have finished black gold,” says Michael Robinson as he sips his iced coffee at Spice Kitchen + Bar.

“If they would have bought that and had it delivered,” continues Dan Brown, “you’re talking $200 to $300 right off the bat that they got for free.”

The “black gold” is exactly what the Rust Belt Riders ride for: food scraps for compost.

Rust Belt Riders Composting (RBRC), started by co-owners Robinson and Brown, made its first pickup in June of this year. One man’s trash is another man’s, well, black gold.

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According to RBRC, waste is what closes the loop in the local food movement in Cleveland.

“There are the purveyors, people who transport the food to restaurants and markets, people who grow it, and those who consume it,” says Brown. “All of those create waste, so the question is, how do you capture it to continue fueling everything else?”

The riders transport the food scraps on — you guessed it — bicycles. The apple cores, potato peels, toilet paper rolls, and whatever else Clevelanders are composting, are picked up on a rickshaw-like setup by Brown and Robinson. Each load usually weighs over 200 pounds. The goods are then delivered to eight community gardens around the city where it is churned until it slowly decays into fertile soil.

Businesses make up the greatest number of subscribers but residential clients are starting to inquire more about the service.

“I would like to think people are thinking more about the end result of what happens to their waste,” says Brown. “Because coffee grounds aren’t waste, eggshells aren’t waste, but plastic forks are.”

“And to start thinking about waste in general,” adds Robinson. “You toss something in the dumpster — that’s it, it’s in the dumpster. Not everyone thinks about where it goes next.”

Rust Belt Riders Composting has a “big picture” idea: a city full of people who understand why composting is so important to soil fertility. “We don’t function through the lens of competition,” says Brown. “The idea is to promote health and wellness through soil fertility.”

So where do you begin? When you subscribe to RBRC, you receive a five-gallon bucket as well as a list of the community gardens that your scraps go to, and cheat sheet explaining what is compostable with RBRC and what is not. [Hint: think vegan.]

“We are making someone’s first introduction to a garden a lot easier,” says Brown. “They’re donating something to that garden that has brought value to it, without even stepping foot there.”

You can learn more about Rust Belt Riders Composting by visiting