West Philly Opens New Dirt Factory

This past Wednesday in West Philadelphia, University City District opened The Dirt Factory, a new composting facility in a cleaned-up lot on Market St. that used to be so overgrown you could hardly walk from one end to the other.

Attendees enjoyed free beer and ice cream (which was available in a special flavor dubbed “compost” that actually was delicious) while a bluegrass band played on a small stage between compost bins and garden beds.

With a mission to make composting more wide-spread among city dwellers, The Dirt Factory’s opening celebration was packed with enthusiastic supporters who braved the sweltering heat to join the party.

As explained by The Dirt Factory’s organizers, these large compost machines run for 20 minutes about five times a week. Leaves and wood chips (known as “brown material”) are mixed with food scraps and other organic waste (or “green material”) and pick-ups can be easily arranged. Although a relatively large-scale compost operation, The Dirt Factory works as a circuit and the compost produced is free to the community.

Seth Budick, Manager of Policy and Research for the UCD and head organizer of the Dirt Factory, has been composting for years and does so because he gets “a pang of guilt every time [he] puts a broccoli stalk, or something, in the trash,” knowing that the it will be “shipped … by trucks or trains and then get mummified in a landfill.”

There are additional perks to the compost site, as Steve Walsh, Director of Community and Business Services for the UCD, pointed out, “if you go fishing you can come here and get worms.” Fishermen can only hope that someone will dig a pond in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot across the street.

The Dirt Factory will be hosting a series of events throughout the summer and fall. Check their website for more information.

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Jesse Zucker

Jesse Zucker is a writer, musician and photographer in Philadelphia. After graduating from college in Upstate New York, he traveled abroad and worked in France. Follow him on Twitter: @Jesse_Zucker.

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