Victoria startup sells dust to kill compost-bin fruit flies

A Victoria startup has created an organic dust that kills fruit flies — while saving the worms — in compost bins.

At one time, BinBreeze director Taylor McCarten said he was working on the idea of a perfect green bin as part of his Masters in Business Administration studies at the University of Victoria. “I was targeting the fruit flies and smell, trying to invent the perfect green bin,” he said.

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However, as he got closer to completing the degree, McCarten started to look beyond the bin. “My dad is a carpenter and has sawdust everywhere. We got to talking about what I was working on and we came up with the idea that maybe we should put something in the bins, rather than trying to create the perfect bin.”

From there, McCarten brought in fellow MBA graduate Sunny Tu and Harmen Zijstra, a chemistry lecturer at UVic.

“We got to looking for green bin additives and that’s when we got Harmen involved, researching the different ingredients, such as lime. Lime killed the soil. We wanted something that kills the flies, but not the maggots and worms that are required to make a nutrient-rich soil.”

What they came up with was 50 per cent untreated Douglas fir wood waste, plus some zeolite from Kelowna (the world’s most porous rock), some inert dirt with silicate from Nevada and other ingredients that aren’t widely known as the company prepares to get legal protection for the product.

The business is a small concern, with McCarten hand-mixing the ingredients in a cement mixer in his granddad’s Victoria home. But in just four months since selling their first batch, BinBreeze is now being sold in 10 Victoria stores.

“Your bin smells like lavender. You don’t have to take it out as often. You can actually fill up the bag and, of course, it kills the flies, which is the biggest value for most our customers so far,” McCarten said.

The business is also working with the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Centre at UVic — that supports entrepreneurs from concept to investor-ready — and The Project Zero Incubator — a Victoria-based seed funding group that focuses on businesses that use waste byproducts as their base ingredient. “Now we have a consistent flow through our retailers and we’re talking to some serious investors,” he said, adding the business is aiming at households and restaurants.

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