One Man’s Trash...

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: May. 14 | Modified: May. 14
One Man’s Trash...

An aerial shot of Jay Carter’s now defunct compost facility on Hardin Road in Deep Gap.

Photo submitted

Jay Carter is the only man in the world with a patent on the process of composting, but by law, he cannot take out his own trash.

Carter’s fall into waste obscurity came after decades of perfecting an accelerated composting process that he claims is cheaper, more potent and can rival any store-bought chemical mixture.

Unlike name-brand fertilizers or other farm-made remedies, Carter harnesses the literally raw — but decaying — power of animal remains to intensify the number of bacteria per sample.

“Let’s just say you take an inch of compost with 1 million bacteria on a normal pile,” Carter said. “I take that same pile, and I go to 1 billion in one square inch of compost. It’s like having three people in a 10-foot-by-10-foot room. The air wouldn’t get warm, but if you put 100 people in there, it would get extremely hot.”

That is exactly what Carter has done with composting by manipulating the anaerobic and aerobic chemical processes.

Today, Carter’s sophisticated system on Hardin Road in Deep Gap sits unused and tainted with a hint of bitterness, he said, from a person he claims sold him out to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources over a dispute about paving a road — he wanted the road to remain gravel — and a court order that he said has stolen his livelihood.

At the other end of this argument concerning the composting issue is DENR. The agency said Carter didn’t abide by certain rules concerning setbacks from roadways and streams, as well as the contamination concerns that come when dealing with animal carcasses, in running his operation.

“The fact that he has a patent doesn’t allow him to do something outside the set of rules or standards,” said Jason Watkins, DENR’s western district supervisor. “The crux of the issue was that Mr. Carter was operating an illegal composting facility. Our office was never able to issue him a permit. We had to go through legal proceedings to shut him down.”

Carter maintains that the regulations are “arbitrary,” because he has been composting professionally since 1982, and because no rules on the matter were on the book until 1996, he should be “grandfathered” into allowing recommencing his business.

There has since been some confusion as to rather this clause would apply to environmental issues, as well, Carter said.

He also claims that his system did not cause any pollution or contamination near his site and further maintains that a nearby creek is in better shape downstream from his operation that upstream.

“They say they don’t recognize my system because it has not been approved by the federal government,” Carter said. “They just picked all of these rules out of the air.”

In 2005, Carter’s time sifting through waste and turning into something usable once again would be nearing a close. DENR had been alerted of his activities, he said, resulting in Carter being charged with the illegal burial of a dead bovine.

By 2008, his earth-toned hands would be cleansed of the composting business and forced to move onto other affairs.

Today, Carter does odd jobs and anything else to keep money in his pocket. He most recently put to use his masonry skills.

“We are not against him pursuing other interests,” Watkins said. “He could not meet the appropriate buffers or meet a process or procedures detailed in the rules. That is where ultimately the conflict still exists.”

Following a court decision, Carter was prohibited from taking his trash to the landfill.

Watkins said litigation was the only recourse they had after Carter refused to follow DENR’s regulations. What amounted to a restraining order between Carter and trash was handed down in Watauga County courts.

“I can’t handle waste products none whatsoever,” Carter said. “This is just an ongoing story.”

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