2016-03-25 / Front Page

Composting a key component of Scarbourgh’s waste plans

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Last month, the energy committee presented a list of recommended ways for the town to increase recycling and limit solid waste disposal. Recommendations included a composting program for residents, better education regarding what can and cannot be recycled and a renewed look at a pay-as-you-throw approach to solid waste disposal and the hiring of a part-time sustainability coordinator.

“We are making advancements on (the recommendations). We thought many of them would be delayed to the next budget year,” Town Manager Tom Hall said.

Composting is among the town’s top priorities.

“We are really interested in advancing the idea of composting,”

Hall said. “It’s a really important component.”

Next month, the conservation commission will hold a free public forum on backyard composting. The event “Backyard Composting: Jump Start your garden and save money while healing the Earth, will be held Monday, April 11 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at town hall. It is cosponsored by Kitchen Gardeners International, WormMainea, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the high school’s Environmental Club of Scarborough.

“I think it is apropos given what we have been talking about regarding the waste stream,” said Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, who serves as the council’s liaison to the conservation commission.

Caterina said approximately 28 percent of the waste stream – approximately 2,200 tons of material – is compostable organics.

For many years, the town has offered backyard composting bins, along with rain barrels, through the Scarborough Public Works Department.

Soon residents will be able to bring their compost material to centralized drop-off locations through an arrangement with Garbage to Garden.

“At this point we have not solidified the three drop off locations we will be servicing,” said Garbage to Garden customer services representative Phoebe Lyttle.

Hall said one of the locations will be just off Route 1 by the Maine Veterans Home. He has been in touch with representatives from Wal-Mart about locating a drop-off container there. He would also like to have one in the Pleasant Hill area of town, perhaps by Pine Tree Waste on Pleasant Hill Road.

“As soon as the drop-off kiosks are installed, Scarborough residents will be able to drop off their food scraps – including meat, bones and food spoiled paper products – in toters, which will be serviced and cleaned by Garbage to Garden once or twice a week as needed,” Garbage to Garden Marketing Director Emily Qualey wrote in an email to the Leader.

Lyttle said because the receptacles would be located in urbanized areas, there is little concern about animals getting into the compost materials. She said Garbage to Garden often tells residential customers to put a brick or heavy rock on top of the bin if pests become a problem near their compost containers.

The service would be free for residents to participate in but the town would have to pay Garbage to Garden $50 a ton to remove the organic compost material. It could be a cost savings for the town because it pays Pine Tree Waste $70 a ton to remove curbside solid waste. According to statistics from the energy committee, in fiscal year 2014-2015, Scarborough residents threw out 947 tons of recyclables, 2,044 tons of compostable material and 1,994 tons of other waste. Just more than 2,515 tons of material was recycled.

According to Garbage to Garden, composting reduces “stinky, dripping trash,” lowers trash bag costs and helps the environment. Composting may very well be the wave of the future. Qualey said although centralized compost site are only found “here and there” in communities across the state, Garbage to Garden anticipates “seeing far more interest in centralized and curbside composting with the recent upswing in awareness about food waste.”

“Towns all over Maine are starting to talk about how to support reaching the state’s (currently failed) recycling goals. Armed with the knowledge that 40 percent of what ends up in landfills is actually compostable, towns like Scarborough are looking at options to ease their communities into source separated organics. For Scarborough, providing free composting to their residence in the form of a drop off option is a great place to start a conversation about recycling organics,” Qualey said.

At a Feb. 17 council workshop, in which the energy committee report was presented, Council Chairman William Donovan said “composting is where recycling was 20 to 30 years ago.”

“If you want to move the needle, you have to look at composting,” he said.

There may be a possibility of having curbside compost pickup like is done with recycling and solid waste through Garbage to Garden or We Compost It! Both have expressed an interest in servicing Scarborough in that way. Garbage to Garden has teamed up with the high school’s Environmental Club of Scarborough (ECOS) to collect and compost food waste from all of Scarborough’s schools.

One of the other recommendations from the energy committee was to have the town lead by example by having recycling and composting bins at municipal buildings and events. The schools have in recent years been much more active in recycling and composting, thanks to advocacy work ECOS..

“As we looked around, recycling bins were hard to find in our municipal buildings, yet the schools have recycling bins in most of the classrooms and offices,” Energy Committee Chairman Deb McDonough told councilors in a workshop session last month.

Hall said there have been arrangements made to have recycling and compost bins at town hall for employees and visitors to use, as well as similar receptacles at events such as WinterFest and SummerFest, which is scheduled to take place this year from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 at the high school sports complex.

Recycling and composting containers may eventually be placed on town beaches as well.

“The beaches are a challenge we are working through,” Hall told councilors. “It’s a logistical challenge, but we are advancing that as well.”

In an effort to better educate the public about recycling, the town will be attaching stickers to recycling bins with information about what material is most suited for recycling, composting or waste to energy disposal through ecomaine.

The stickers, Hall said, are intended to “be a constant reminder every time they go to the can and lift the lid.”

Other recommendations for enhanced education include inserting information in tax bills, creating a packet for new residents, including information in the town’s newsletter or local newspapers or posting messages on community access television.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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