2014-11-21 / Community

Committee considers compost question

Town’s recycling, trash bid process may include compost option
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Energy Efficiency Committee wants to bring a composting service to Kennebunk.

That goal has begun to take shape, as the town will soon seek bids to contract trash and recycling services in December, in advance of the current contract expiring in June.

The option of contracting a trash and recycling service that also offers composting is a possibility, said Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, depending on what bids the town receives.

Jan Hanson, a member of the Energy Efficiency Committee, has another idea, which may be even better: enter into a contract with Garbage to Garden for curbside composting services, not through the town, but through residents.

Hanson first discovered the Portlandbased for-profit company when she attended the 21st annual Maine Recycling and Solid Waste Conference in late April. “Kendall Hinkley gave a very impressive presentation of how it came to be, how successful it is in the Portland area, and how it works,” Hanson said of one of Garbage to Garden’s partners.

Garbage to Garden was started by Tyler Frank in 2012. The operation is essentially very simple: for a monthly fee of $14, each household or business is provided with a sealable plastic bucket, which can be filled with pretty much any organic matter: vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, even meat and dairy products. Once a week, Garbage to Garden collects the compostable materials and leaves a clean bucket on the curb in its place. Patrons also have the option of receiving “matured compost,” or soil, in their new composting bucket at no charge, according to the website.

The food waste collected by Garbage to Garden is brought to Benson Farm in Gorham, “where it is professionally composted and certified organic by MOFGA, (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)” according to the website.

The privately held company operates on a subscriber basis on the schedule of each town’s trash day.

At the presentation in April, Hanson learned that the service had expanded north to Falmouth and Yarmouth, to South Portland and, most recently, Westbrook, but not to York County. “I didn’t even try to encourage them to bring their services to Kennebunk. I just told our Energy and Efficiency Committee how impressed I was by their organization,” Hanson said.

On its website, Garbage to Garden lists candidate cities, or cities that are on a waiting list, which include Scarborough, Standish, Saco, Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Windham, Lewiston and now, Kennebunk. Residents of these towns can opt to sign a petition advocating for the service to be brought to their town. So far, 54 residents in Kennebunk have signed the petition.

On Sept. 2, Hanson called Hinkley to request more information about what it would take for the town to gain the composting service.

Hinkley’s answer, Hanson said, was that families must be “persistent.”

In recent months, the Energy Efficiency Committee has also looked into the services of Mr. Fox Composting in Eliot, but rates are higher at $32 a month for weekly services.

While the committee compared both services in mid-October, Hanson attended an E2 Tech forum, hosted by the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine at Southern Maine Community College. There, she came into contact with Hinkley again. The topic: “Organics and Residuals Separation and Processing in the Solid Waste Stream.”

Hinkley spoke of a collaboration beginning in February between Garbage to Garden and Maine Standard Biofuels, “to collect and refine cooking oil from Portland restaurants for use as biodiesel fuel, which fuels the trucks owned by Garbage to Garden,” Hanson said. “A residue of the cooking oil is made into a powerful organic soap which is used for cleaning the buckets each week. The buckets are cleaned by a cadre of volunteers who get their composting service for free.”

At that forum, Hinkley also restated that, the for-profit does not contract with a municipality. This would mean more work for the Energy Efficiency Committee, who will help gauge resident interest in the service.

Hinkley provided Hanson with nearly 90 brochures to distribute in Kennebunk.

“Our committee has not taken a formal poll of residents’ desire for a composting service,” Hanson said. “The fact that 54 families, unbeknownst to us, have already signed up for it through Garbage to Garden indicates to us that interest exists.

“We just need to let people know about it when, and if, the time comes.”

The Energy Efficiency Committee is prohibited from distributing the brochures until after the town’s bidding process is complete, which will likely be in mid-February.

If no companies that return bids offer a composting service, the committee will be allowed to pass out pamphlets at that time.

Interested patrons would contact the Garbage to Garden directly to request service.

If that time comes, Hanson said, the committee will make it known throughout town. “Once people hear about their ‘perfect-environmental-circle’ service, I have no doubt that the idea will catch on just as it has in Portland and so many other towns,” Hanson said. “An indirect but very important offering will be the reduction of solid waste generated per family and it will have direct bearing on each family’s cost for trash pickup.”

Composting services, Hanson believes, really are “the way of the future.”

For more information about Garbage to Garden, visit www.garbagetogarden.org.

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