Boston will soon pick up non-food waste, along with waste and recycling for residents interested in composting their food scraps.
Food waste accounts for a third of Boston’s waste stream, according to Boston’s street manager Jascha Franklin-Hodge, and it is the country’s largest single landfill, according to FDA. When food waste rots in landfills instead of being composted, it produces methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
However, when food waste is separated from waste, it reduces the load on landfills (which is filled up in the region), and converted into either compost or an electric power supply. Bostonians will soon be able to use their food waste for free.
Open registration for the pilot pick-up service for food waste begins on June 1 at boston.gov/food-waste – space is limited. Residents of buildings with six or fewer units can sign up, and waste collection begins in August.
“We are excited to introduce this program to Boston residents to help meet our zero-waste goals,” Franklin-Hodge said. “Our goal is to educate residents on ways to reduce the amount of food waste they generate.”
In addition to reducing the city’s landfill waste, lowering emissions and creating new land for crops, the food waste program will also save money in the long run. In 2014, Cambridge launched its pilot collection of food waste, which it expanded to the entire city in 2018. The more food waste the city collects instead of waste, the more money they save, said Cambridge’s recycling director Michael Orr. WBUR last month. “We pay about $ 109 per tonne for waste, while compost costs about $ 65 per tonne,” Orr said.
What is composting?
Composting is the process of converting food scraps and carbon material (such as wood chips or newsprint) into compost, a nutrient-rich soil with a high content of elements such as. nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Home composting is possible with lots of carbon material, airflow and patience. But for city dwellers, commercial composting is much more convenient. Plus, commercial compost piles reach temperatures above 150 degrees, which means they can decompose packaging items such as bags marked “compostable”.
Composting food waste instead of sending it to a landfill to rot is one of the best steps a person can take to combat climate change as spilled food produces 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s not hard – all you have to do is sort your food waste in another bin,” said Conor Miller, CEO of Black Earth Compost. “I once saw a study on why people don’t do it, and the first thing was that they think it’s complicated,” he said. “And it is not.”
Miller recommends using compostable bags for food waste and keeping the trash can on the drying side with measures such as squeezing tea bags out.
“If you live in a city, you may want to consider not putting meat, bones or shellfish,” said Andy Brooks, CEO and co-founder of Bootstrap Compost, “because that material will attract pests.” Freezing animal products until the food waste is ready to be taken out helps fight pests in areas prone to rodents.
Boston residents who are unable to sign up for the curbside collection still have other composting options. In 2014, the city launched Project Oscar, their community compost pilot program. The project, named after Sesame Streets Oscar the Grouch, began with only two trash cans – one in East Boston and one in the North End. They now have 15 delivery bins throughout the city, with a 16 on the way, where residents can drop off their food waste for free 24 hours a day.
Project Oscar’s website shows current locations along with accepted items. In particular, rubbish bins cannot accept meat, dairy products, fish, fat and grease, pet waste or garden waste.
Other compost collection points
Boston works with farmers markets across the city to deliver several delivery points for food waste. Collaborative summer markets will be announced in the coming weeks.
Boston will also launch a partnership with local gardens next month. In June, the municipality will announce which ones communal gardens can accept food waste. The city will provide these gardens with tools and training to receive the neighborhood’s food waste and turn it into compost to grow more food.
Private composting companies
Below are composting companies that service the Boston area – for a monthly fee, they pick up food waste right from the residents’ doorstep and take care of all the dirty work.
Black soil compost
What started as a transportation company on the North Shore in 2011 is now Black Earth Compost, one of the leading full-service composting companies in New England. Vertically integrated, they are the only company servicing Boston that composts all of their own material, and they also act as a pickup supplier for Project Oscar. Black Earth’s compost collection plans, which serve the residential and commercial sectors, range from $ 7 to $ 21 per month, depending on location and collection frequency – once a week or once every two weeks. Their starter kits, including trash cans and liners, cost $ 16 to $ 38. While Black Earth serves about 1,500 customers in Boston, they have over 25,000 additional customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, mostly within the Interstate 495 area.
Bootstrap serves customers in Greater Boston, Greater Rhode Island and Greater Worcester, also with some New Hampshire services. Plans cost $ 11 for weekly visits ($ 44 per month) or $ 15 for weekly visits ($ 30 per month). On each pick-up day, Bootstrap grabs full containers from customers’ stoops and replaces them with new, empty buckets and liners. “They can bring that bucket into their home without worries, and it gives them a catchall container,” Brooks said. Bootstrap also returns to members five 6-pound shares of free compost a year, if they wish, for gardening or maintaining houseplants.
City Compost serves the Boston metro area, along with the rest of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Like Bootstrap, they provide a clean container every time. After a start-up fee of $ 10, their monthly rates range from $ 9 to $ 32 depending on location and pickup frequency, with the option to add wood shavings for $ 2 per person. service to keep the container drier. City Compost also offers services such as collecting leaves, exchanging bedding for pets and animals and removing Christmas trees.
Waste for the garden
Based in Portland, Maine, Garbage to Garden services the Massachusetts cities of Somerville, Arlington, Belmont and Medford via satellite operation. Pickups are weekly and cost between $ 8 and $ 15 per person. month. Maine resident Tyler Frank started Garbage to Garden in 2012 when he did not even have the space to compost in his urban apartment – now the compost program at the curb is one of the most successful in the Northeast, taking food leftovers to compost at local farms where nutrients are returned to the local environment. Plus, subscribers get an optional free bag of finished compost every week.