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story.lead_photo.caption Tex Sirisawat does prep work in the kitchen at Khao Noodle Shop near Turn Compost bins on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Dallas. Turn Compost is a DFW-startup offering a service to pick up buckets compostable items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Dallas-based Turn wants to change the way you think about banana peels, coffee grounds and even stale Goldfish crackers.

The company sees the overlooked food scraps as a business opportunity. The subscription-based service picks up filled buckets from customers' homes and businesses each week and swaps them out for clean buckets. It takes the gallons of scraps to farms where they're eaten by animals and transformed into nutrient-rich soil.

Founder Lauren McMinn Clarke said she hopes to spark sustainability by making it easier for households, businesses and restaurants to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill.

The 41-year-old Dallas native said she realizes her hometown is better known for fashion and shopping than eco-friendliness. "In a way, that's exactly why I want to do it," she said. "Because I think we need to do better."

She pointed to businesses around the country turning reclaimed food into an industry. Impossible Burger produces plant-based meat substitutes, and Misfits Market sends customers boxes of misshapen organic produce that stores wouldn't be willing to sell. Many of them have attracted millions of dollars of venture capital and huge valuations.

She said Dallas' population growth means it's attracting people from other countries and cities where composting is common.

If wasted food was a country, it'd be the third largest producer of greenhouse gas after China and the U.S., according to the United Nations. About a third of food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year. It goes to landfills where it decomposes and produces greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, all of which are linked to global warming.

Donny Sirisavath, the chef and owner of Khao Noodle Shop, bundles used bamboo chopsticks for pickup with compost buckets by Turn Compost at the restaurant on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Dallas. Turn Compost is a DFW-startup offering a service to pick up buckets compostable items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Some cities, such as Austin and Portland, Ore., offer curbside collection of food and yard scraps, along with picking up bins of recyclables. Curbside composting isn't available in Dallas.

Clarke started Turn on Earth Day in 2018. The master gardener and mother of two has a backyard of fruit trees, raised vegetable beds, an herb garden and a chicken coop. She composts her own trash, which nourishes her vegetables and feeds her four chickens.

She thought of the idea for Turn after attending culinary school and noticing the large amount of food that winds up in the trash bin. She'd see tossed heads of romaine lettuce and think to herself, "Man, my chickens would love this."

"When you become a gardener, you understand how valuable waste is," she said.

Clarke's previous company influenced her idea, too. She and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Clarke, co-founded Mend, a health care startup of doctors and nurses who made house calls in North Texas. It was acquired by Children's Health in 2017. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

She said she wanted to bring similar convenience to another market and provide "doorstep service for the environment."

Clarke began with her own East Dallas neighborhood. She got her first customers by word of mouth and through a post on Nextdoor.

Since then, Turn has grown to 17 zip codes and about 1,000 residential and business customers. It has more than 20 commercial clients, including Google's office in Addison, architecture firm Perkins and Will's Dallas office and some of the city's buzziest restaurants, including Homewood. It has four full-time employees and 10 part-time employees, including Clarke.

Clarke said the company is profitable and its third quarter revenue grew 648% from the same period a year ago.

Subscriptions cost $35 a month for weekly food scrap pickup or $50 a month if customers want monthly pickup of yard waste, too. Customers can also drop off their buckets at designated places, such as farmer's markets, for $20 a month.

Donny Sirisavath (left), the chef and owner of Khao Noodle Shop, helps Wes Fitch of Turn Compost carry full buckets and bags of compostable materials to his vehicle during a pickup at the restaurant on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Dallas. Turn Compost is a DFW-startup offering a service to pick up buckets compostable items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The collected scraps go to a composting pile on an urban farm in Deep Ellum that's run by Farmers Assisting Returning Military or F.A.R.M., a nonprofit that supports veterans.

For businesses, the monthly fee starts at $100, but varies depending on the amount of food scraps and whether they include oil, meats or dairy that require a commercial composting facility, Clarke said.

All customers get a monthly perk, such as a jar of locally-made pickles, a bottle of honey or a bag of compost that they can use or donate to a local farm. They get a quarterly impact report that tallies the amount they diverted from the landfill.

Blenda Lozano, a stay-at-home mom in Bluffview, signed up for Turn after she said her own attempts at home composting became a smelly mess.

She said she wanted to start composting, especially after seeing how many vegetable and fruit peels she generated when cooking meals for her husband and 4-year-old twins. She was also motivated after visiting her sister in Vancouver, a city that requires composting of all food scraps.

Khao Noodle Shop, recognized by Bon Appetit as one of the country's best new restaurants, was Turn's first restaurant customer.

Chef Donny Sirisavath said his mother, Phaysane, who died of cancer several years ago, inspired the Laotian restaurant's menu and his approach to minimizing waste. Her framed photo hangs on the wall of the tiny East Dallas restaurant.

Composting with Turn helps contribute to a virtuous cycle, he said. His restaurant's buckets of banana leaves, eggshells and cabbage pieces help the soil at local farms — and the vegetables they grow may later be served at the restaurant.

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