Turning waste into money: A compost story

Eric Steiner plans to take advantage of the growing popularity of gardening to grow his composting business, and he's using free coffee grounds from Starbucks to do so.

Heather Brady

WASHINGTON – Eric Steiner’s brown, ankle-length work boots sank a few inches as he climbed a pile of decomposing horse manure and coffee grounds that was twice the height of an average person.

He picked a spot halfway up and dumped out the bags of used grounds he carried with him, sifting and turning it all together with his pitchfork. Each swing of his arms mixed the pile farther into itself. Steam rose from the dent as he folded and tossed the newly added grounds.

The pile had no distinct odor. Even though compost piles have a reputation for smelling terrible, healthy compost piles don’t have a bad odor when they break down. Steiner’s pile only released a rich, earthy smell