Composting Initiatives Growing Across New England

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Composting programs are on the rise across New England and the country, according to a recent report by BioCycle magazine.

The report shows growth in both curbside collection programs and food-scrap drop-off sites. Two important caveats: the survey looked at residential programs and only those affiliated with or run by a city to town. The municipality may contract with a food-scrap management service, but programs not affiliated with government weren't considered.

Although Rhode Island has a handful of food-scrap programs, none are run by or with a municipality. Therefore, Rhode Island had zero programs referenced in the recent report.

Here are several findings from BioCycle:

Residential food-scrap collection programs are growing nationwide. Since 2014, the number of programs increased 87 percent, to 148. The number of communities with access to curbside or drop-off services increased 65 percent, to 198.

5.1 million residents in 29 states have access to curbside collection. More than 90 percent of the programs accept meat, dairy, and fish.

Massachusetts has the most food-scrap drop-off programs in the country, with 22. Rhode Island is the only New England state without a municipal food-scrap collection program.

New York City started with drop-off programs in all five burroughs before offering curbside service. Some subway stations serve as collections sites.

Falls Church, Va., population 14,000, started with a drop-off program at City Hall. Curbside collection started last year for $6 a month. The city paid the rest of the cost knowing that the expense would go down as participation increased. Currently, 15 percent of households participate in the pilot program at a cost of about $20,000 to the city.

California has the most curbside collection programs in the country, with 98, followed by Washington with 69 and Minnesota with 52. In New England, Massachusetts has 10, and both Maine and Vermont have two.

Nine curbside programs have mandatory participation: five in California, and one each in Seattle, North Barrington, Ill., North Liberty, Iowa, and Wenham, Mass. Many curbside initiatives were created by expanding existing yard-waste collection programs.

Cambridge, Mass., recently expanded its food-scrap curbside collection from 5,000 to 25,000 households.

Ideal sites for drop-off spots are recycling centers/transfer stations, community gardens, and farmers markets.

A community garden in Washington, D.C., offers drop-off service for residents after an hour of training and a promise to volunteer at the garden for eight hours a year.

Although the BioCycle report doesn't offer reasons for the spike in food-scrap collection services, it noted that many respondents found that such programs helped achieve waste-diversion goals.

It’s not mentioned in the report, but Dover, Mass., offers free weekly food-scrap collection. The organic material is used as feed at a local pig farm.