2016-10-21 / Front Page

Compost program is in the works

Most recent effort to cut town’s solid waste will begin next spring
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

In 2007, the town introduced curbside recycling in an effort to reduce the amount of money Scarborough was spending on solid waste removal and now, almost a decade later, is on the verge of starting a pilot curbside compost, or food waste, collection.

The pilot program is being launched by the town in collaboration with ecomaine, which receives the town’s solid waste and recycling and Pine Tree Waste, the company the town contracts with to haul the solid waste and recycling away.

Public Works Director Mike Shaw said the pilot will take place in a 180-home neighborhood between Highland Avenue, Fogg Road, Pleasant Hill Road, although most likely not until March or April. The first step before than happens, Shaw said, is reaching out to residents in the pilot project area.

“Prior to any of this happening, we will be hosting public meetings, probably in that area. We won’t make them come to us. We will also be sending information out,” Shaw said.

The partnership is made possible through a food waste recovery program ecomaine launched this summer in which Exeter Agri-Energy transports food waste collected at ecomaine to its anaerobic digester and compost facility in Exeter. According to ecomaine, the facility uses cow manure and the organic compost materials to “generate enough biogas to power approximately 800 homes.”

Lisa Wolff, ecomaine’s communication manager, said the goal of the food recovery program, is aimed at “pulling food waste out of the waste stream and putting it toward its higher purpose.”

Since the program launched this summer, Wolff said ecomaine has primarily collected food waste from industrial sites and large-scale businesses, but is interested in pushing it further and working with communities to make it viable for individual residents, like the ones in Scarborough that will be part of the pilot.

How Scarborough program will exactly work is still being discussed.

“We are still in the planning stages to figure out what’s going to work and what’s not,” Shaw said.

The initial idea, he said, is the town will provide a separate, smaller container for people to collect their organic, or compostable waste in. According to ecomaine, items that can be accommodated through its food waste program include fruit; vegetable; meat; bread, pasta, rice and grains, as well as egg shells; dairy products; jellies and sauces; fats, oils and greases; coffee grounds and used tea bags. Unacceptable items include yard waste; tissues and paper towels, seafood remains; pet waste and cat litter and medicine, as well as metal, plastic and cardboard.

The collection for trash and recycling, Shaw said, would be the same, but instead of both being picked up every week, the recycling and food waste would be picked up one week and the solid waste and food waste the next week. Shaw said because the Pine Tree Waste trucks only have two hoppers, all three cannot be collected every week.

Residents will be able to put their food scraps in clear plastic bags – like the ones for produce at supermarkets – inside the food waste container because Agri-Energy has the ability to remove the waste out of the bag before it is turned into energy.

This, Wolff said, makes it a much cleaner process and takes the “ick” and stink out of the experience for residents.

Shaw said in order to give the program enough time to work and have residents get acclimated to it, he anticipates the pilot to last roughly six months.

As Scarborough works to put its program in place, officials at ecomaine will also be ironing out any kinks in their food waste recovery program.

“Much like it was 20 years ago when we got into recycling, we are working through what this will look like,” Wolff said.

It has been years in the making. Wolff said for several years ecomaine has been “looking into the feasibility of adding food waste recovery to our suite of offerings.”

Scarborough’s focus on food waste collection and composting, Shaw said, is a result of a proposal last year the town’s finance committee eventually passed on that would have switched the town’s solid waste removal system from the way it operates now to a pay-as-you-throw approach. This approach, which is used in many other communities around Scarborough, requires residents purchase a specially marked trash bag for their waste. After the committee passed on the idea, the town council asked the energy committee to look into other ways the town could reduce its solid waste costs while boosting recycling and composting rates. In February, the group released a report recommending additional outreach and education regarding recycling and composting, establishing drop-off sites for household organic waste, providing recycling and compost bins at municipal facilities and events, hiring a part-time sustainability coordinator and continued research on pay-as-you-throw and curbside composting options.

Three sites for residents to drop off compost materials – by Maine Veterans Home on Route 1, Wal-Mart in Gallery Place and Pine Tree Waste on Pleasant Hill Road – were launched in May. Those sites are regularly picked up by Garbage to Garden, a Portland-based company that also collects the takes away food waste from Scarborough schools.

Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan said food waste is “the largest piece that needs to be removed out of our waste stream.”

“If you are going to make a dent in all this, it is going to be in composting,” Donovan said.

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

Return to top