Clutch Delivery Brings Composting to Houston's Masses

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I live in a loft and I love to cook. I also try to be as green a consumer as possible. A few years back, our little community got those large green recycling bins, the kind where you don't have to separate glass, and I was adamant that we all use them, lest they be taken away. But there's one thing I don't have ― a backyard. I've long dreamed of having a house just so I can garden and compost, because with as much cooking as I do, I create a lot of food waste.

Now there's a solution for city dwellers like me. Liam Musgrove, who earlier this year founded the bicycle business Clutch Delivery, has recently started a compost pick-up program, Clutch Compost. For $30 a month, Musgrove will provide households with a bucket and weekly pick-up of compostable materials. That's a cost of $1 a day.

Musgrove originally founded Clutch Delivery on Valentine's Day. The avid cyclist once worked for Frank's Pizza, one of the few businesses in Houston that have delivered food by bike for years. A bike delivery company "was a topic people floated around in the Houston bike community for years," he said. It just took somebody to get it started.

Right now, Clutch is just Musgrove, his cell phone and his fixie. But he'll deliver almost anything, from groceries to takeout, for a fee starting at $5. The idea for Clutch Compost was inspired by a company in Austin, East Side Compost Pedallers. East Side Compost Pedallers was born out of a law passed in Austin earlier this year requiring restaurants in the state capital to develop composting programs by 2017.

Musgrove said Clutch Compost is a way to supplement his new business. And it's frankly a genius idea, considering much of Houston's young professional population is growing, Many of those new residents are moving into condos and apartments as opposed to houses with back yards.

Customers who sign up for the composting program will get a large bucket that can be filled with coffee grounds, veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells and various starches (meats, dairy and oils cannot be composted). Musgrove will swap the bucket out every Wednesday for an empty one. The service costs $30 a month, but new customers can get a discount of $20 for the first month. Sign up for six months, and at $150 you get one month free.

Live in an apartment complex or duplex? Musgrove encourages neighbors to "collaborate."

"The average household will only fill about 1/3 to half a bucket in seven days," he said.

Musgrove also offers a free-of-charge program where the compost buckets can be dropped off at one of Houston's farmers' markets, but customers must qualify for this program and can contact him for details. He also offers other pricing plans for irregular pickup and special one-time events (such as parties).

Musgrove picks up all the buckets by bike (his has a trailer attached), and composts all the material in his back yard. He then delivers the compost to customers at a return of about 5 percent.

"So if you compost 20 pounds of veggie scraps, you'll get one pound of compost in return."

Though compost is not the same thing as soil, it can contribute greatly to the soil in container gardens and potted plants.

"It really improves the microbial level and adds nutrients," Musgrove said.

And for people like me, with no room for plants? My 5 percent share of soil would be going to Urban Harvest, one of the city's largest organic community gardens.

Musgrove even has some business clients. Double Trouble and Bodega's, among other restaurants, are participating in Clutch Compost.

Right now, though, the business is in its infancy. Musgrove is currently using horticultural composting, which uses only plant matter. In the fall, once the weather cools, he plans to switch to vermicomposting, which uses worms such as nightcrawlers and red wigglers to more efficiently move the composting process along. Those worms, which can compost ½ their body weight each day, cannot be shipped during Houston's high summer temperatures.

Musgrove also hopes to expand by the fall, once he gets a better idea of the scale of his business. Though it's just a one-man gig right now, he said he has a waiting list of cyclists eager to join him once he's ready to expand.

Musgrove sees Houston moving, perhaps slowly but surely, towards a greener future. He hopes his business can help encourage that movement.

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