Ben Parry, CEO of Compost Crew, is on a mission to make composting and recycling organics mainstream in communities across the country.
Ever since his friends, family and colleagues remembered, he has been focused on building social enterprises that have a direct impact on the health of the planet.
Although he entered the industry just five years ago, Parry has already made Compost Crew one of the largest composting companies in the Mid-Atlantic region through his dedication to wellness, to the dynamism and autonomy of its community. It’s no surprise that the Waste360 40 under 40 recipient has put his skills and values learned over decades of working in the solar and clean energy industry towards building circularity into his own garden.
Waste360 recently reached out to Parry to discuss his business and how composting should be an essential service across the United States.
Waste360: How did you become so involved in ways to make our planet more sustainable?
Ben Parry: I have had an intimate relationship with nature since I was young. I grew up on a few hundred acres of land in a county park. We had no neighbors, computers, smartphones or video games. I spent my childhood outside at the creek or in the woods. We had a garden and a composter. We picked wild berries and hunted deer and small game. So I built a deep respect and admiration for our natural ecosystem. Eventually, I decided to literally make it my business to protect our planet and all living beings that inhabit it.
Waste360: How have you seen the concepts of sustainability and circular economy evolve since you started started your career?
Parry: These terms did not exist when I started my career. I was taught that the purpose of business was to “maximize profits for shareholders”, which is a greedy and short-sighted lesson. Today, the number of new circular economy businesses and other developments is dizzying. It’s exciting, but we still have an uphill battle against entrenched interests that make it difficult to operate profitable businesses focused on building circular economies.
Waste360: What does it mean to create community wealth in a sustainable way?
Parry: We need to change the way we measure growth and success. We need our businesses and institutions to work together to allow people to earn a comfortable living while solving meaningful problems that will allow humans and all living things to thrive.
Waste360: How did you go from solar and clean energy to compost?
Parry: I spent over a decade with companies that were at the forefront of advancing the global clean energy industry. Solar has quickly grown from birth to maturity in several markets, and I was happy to be a part of it. I have always been interested in recycling and composting organic materials. In fact, my high school science project involved testing how various types of manure affected plant growth. When the company I was with was sold in 2017, I decided to jump into a new industry and do my part to help make composting a mainstream service.
Waste360: What skills have helped you advance circular concepts in your community?
Parry: We cannot build circular solutions if we reward win-win approaches. We must humbly collaborate with existing businesses, advocates and institutions in our community to advance circular solutions.
Waste360: What challenges and opportunities do you see in advancing composting and circular economy concepts in the United States?
Parry: The federal government has spent more than $5 trillion to fight the pandemic and support the economy. The government has proven that when needed, it can act decisively and inject incredible sums into the economy. Meanwhile, hundreds of municipalities across the country are applying for a handful of tiny $50,000 grants for community composting systems. We need to help our leaders in government take seriously allocating a lot more money via grants and revenue contracts to regenerative agriculture, composting and other circular practices.
Waste360: Where do you see Compost Crew going in the future?
Parry: Compost Crew has been growing at around 40% per year, and we expect the trend to continue for the foreseeable future. We’re on a mission to eliminate food waste and revitalize Earth’s soil through convenient and affordable composting systems available to everyone. We achieve this by establishing turnkey food waste recycling programs for municipalities and communities with an emphasis on decentralized composting.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.