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Cultivating Success: A Conversation on Compost Operations, Management, and Best Practices.

Introducing Cesar Mendoza: A Seasoned Industry Professional and Technical Manager - Service and Sales at Sustainable Generation, Providing Invaluable Insights into Composting Facility Operations and Maintenance.



Can you describe your experience in compost operation and management? What drew you to this field, and how long have you been involved in it?


Cesar: I joined SG in 2022, and before that, I was the Organics Supervisor for Burrtec Waste Ind from 2016 to 2022. From 2009 to 2014 I was the MRF Supervisor at Athens Services. I was first exposed to organics while at Athens, where they had a small conveyor line processing approximately 150 tons of green waste per day. That very same green waste line at Athens started the interest in organics. I was able to see a full-scale windrow operation in the high desert area of Southern California, where the cleaned material was shipped for composting. For the last 15 years, I have been in the waste industry in one form or another whether it was an MRF, Transfer Station, C&D Line, Digester, or GORE Cover ASP system.


Equipment maintenance is essential for smooth operations. Can you outline your approach to equipment maintenance and the preventive measures you take to avoid breakdowns and downtime?


Cesar: Consistency plays a huge role in equipment maintenance to maintain a smooth operation. As redundant as it may seem you have to be consistent with daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly scheduled inspections and reports. By establishing a constant routine with facility mechanics, you can stay ahead of any unforeseen and unscheduled breakdowns and downtime. The real secret is training the day-to-day operators who see and touch the equipment day in and day out. They are the true preventative measure.


Collaboration with regulatory agencies and community stakeholders is often necessary for composting facilities. How did you engage with these entities to address concerns and ensure compliance with regulations?


Cesar: Transparency and honesty are key with regulatory agencies and or stakeholders. With that comes a great responsibility in maintaining documents and records that show accuracy and proper composting procedures. Any concerns that would, if any, arise from the process would be addressed promptly and documented. Followed by training as well as documentation to establish compliance with regulations.


Continuous improvement is key to enhancing composting operations. Can you discuss any recent initiatives or innovations you’ve been a part of to optimize processes and increase efficiency at facilities?


Cesar: When I was first given the responsibility of the compost system at Burrtec it had an established process for inbound green waste and food waste tonnage of 35,000 tons/year. Within 3 years that process had involved three times. The tonnage grew three times over. Procedures were adjusted for staging the material. Grinding and screening sizes were also changed to accommodate the increased tonnage before loading it into a bunker.  Personnel was not changed, and we were able to continue running the facility at its most efficient capacity even with the growth.


When it comes to keeping components in good condition at compost facilities, what specific maintenance routines or schedules do you follow to ensure all equipment is operating optimally?


Cesar: Daily inspections and proper maintenance programs are important to ensure that all equipment is operating optimally. Any additional training for both maintenance and operators ensures that nothing is missed at a facility.


Could you elaborate on the types of equipment or components that are most prone to wear and tear in composting operations, and what measures you take to address and prevent potential issues?


Cesar: This is a great question and one that is dear to my heart as I started as an operator and am very familiar with all types of equipment. From beginning to end, bucket loaders, grinders, power screens, and a CASP system are all susceptible to day-to-day operation and prone to wear and tear in composting operations. By far training, training and more training of the facility operators is the most important measure to prevent potential issues.


In your experience, what are some common challenges faced in maintaining equipment at compost facilities, and how do you overcome these challenges effectively?


Cesar: Poorly trained operators seem to be the biggest factor in maintaining equipment. Daily pre and post-inspection of equipment is vital. Accountability to report an issue or a defect is discovered, and the equipment is operated regardless.


When encountering unexpected breakdowns or malfunctions, what strategies do you employ to minimize downtime and swiftly restore operations to normal?


Cesar: I have always been a huge advocate of spare equipment and or parts. But when and where that is not possible having a great mechanic and department is a great strategy to minimize downtime.


Best practices for utilizing SG Systems and Gore covers can significantly impact composting operations. Could you outline some specific methods or techniques you've found to be particularly effective in maximizing the performance and lifespan of these covers?


Cesar: Proper storage and handling of the covers is part of the training I give when I first commission a new site or even the sites that I have been to several times. For example, it is very easy and quicker to just lay the cover across the yard and leave it there till it is utilized again, but if you simply tri-folded the cover at the end of another bunker or heap you can easily expand and maximize the performance and lifespan. Repair the cover right away if a tear is found or reported to avoid additional damage.


How do you ensure proper installation and setup of SG Systems and Gore covers to optimize their functionality and achieve the desired composting outcomes?


Cesar: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are the best repeatable process to ensure both proper installation and achieve the desired composting outcome.


When dealing with adverse weather conditions or environmental factors, such as heavy rain or high winds, how do you adjust your approach to maintaining SG Systems and Gore covers to ensure they remain effective in containing odors and regulating composting conditions?


Cesar: If from the beginning you establish the proper procedure of installing and fasting the covers to an SG Bunker, SG Heap, or SG Mobile system there should be no need to adjust. If additional fastening or weight is required, we supply additional super sacks and sandbags to deploy.


Regular inspections play a vital role in identifying potential issues before they escalate. Can you describe your process for conducting routine inspections of equipment and components at the compost facility, including any specific checkpoints or indicators you prioritize?


Cesar: Having complete and proper inspection forms or checklists can establish the routine for a compost facility. Identifying the frequency of the inspection for each piece of equipment and its components will help with redundancy as well as avoid missing any key parts and or areas.


About Cesar Mandoza

Sustainable Generation Technical Manager - Service and Sales


Cesar brings over fifteen years of experience in the waste and recycling industry as an Operator, Foreman, Supervisor, and Management. Previously, he was the Organics Supervisor for Burrtec Waste Industry utilizing the Gore Cover technology system since 2016. He’s also completed USCC classes in 2019 and 2022 and has a Quality Control and Quality Assurance Manager background in EPS, EPE, and EPP manufacturing. Cesar has been an SG team member since March 2022 as the Technical Manager for Service and Sales.

 

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