Falmouth food waste-to-compost program makes a difference

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FALMOUTH — The town says a pilot program to test the viability of getting residents to separate food waste from their household trash has been fairly successful.

Jay Reynolds, Falmouth’s public works director, said since being launched in fall 2015, the free food waste drop-off and composting program offered at the transfer station has been steadily adding participants.

The goal of the program, he said, is to reduce the amount of material going into the waste stream, which is beneficial both in terms of conservation and also in terms of the costs to the town to dispose of residential trash.

Along with the free drop-off of food waste, We Compost It!, based in Scarborough, also offers Falmouth residents a fee-based curbside service for food scraps that get turned into compost.

Between the two programs, Reynolds said residents were able to divert 11 tons of food waste in 2016.

“This exceeded my initial expectations of how much would be diverted in the program’s first full year,” he said this week.

Studies estimate that between 25 and 33 percent of all residential trash is composed of food waste that could be composted, Reynolds said.

“Removing the food waste is important for a number of reasons. Most notably, it costs both the resident and the town to dispose of food waste when it’s in the form of trash,” he said. “For the resident, a (direct) cost savings can be accomplished by diverting food waste. Removing it from the waste stream altogether results in less (need to) purchase trash bags.”

Reducing the total amount of municipal solid waste that the town must pay to get rid of could also mean fewer tax dollars going toward trash disposal.

“Food waste is turning into a marketable commodity,” Reynolds noted. “(Some are) using food waste as an energy source or a reusable commodity, such as compost.”

The free food scrap service offered by the town is “quite simple,” according to Reynolds: food waste is brought to the transfer station and disposed of in a designated area. 

He said We Compost It! then collects the barrels of waste each week and returns compost, which residents can use for their own gardens or lawns. Anyone with questions can contact public works at 781-3919.

What’s great about the program, Reynolds said, is that “it allows for all types of food waste to be dropped off. This is one of the main benefits of the program, as one does not need to separate the meats and cheeses from the fruits and vegetables.”

“If it’s been alive, it’s compostable,” according to a flyer created by the town to promote the food waste program.

Food items that can be composted range from rice and pasta to eggshells and baked goods. Other compostable items also include paper napkins and coffee grounds and filters.

Falmouth already has a high recycling rate, Reynolds said. Even so, the town could do more to reduce its overall tonnage of household trash, he said.

That’s “one of the main reasons I initiated this pilot program,” Reynolds said. “To find new methods of reducing the waste stream, increasing the town’s recycling rate and also providing savings opportunities to the residents.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

With Falmouth’s food waste drop-off program there’s no need to separate meat and dairy from fruit or vegetable scraps.

Falmouth residents can bring their food waste to the transfer station on Woods Road and have it turned into usable compost.