Gardening with garbage: Bath launches citywide composting initiative

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BATH — It was Taco Tuesday at Bath Middle School, and what hadn’t been consumed by the sixth-graders finishing lunch wasn’t being dumped in the trash.

Instead, it went into green, plastic composting containers.

The city and Regional School Unit 1 are working with Garbage to Garden, a Portland-based curbside composting service, to reduce the amount of food waste going to the city landfill and redirect those food scraps to renew garden soil.

The program launched last week, and a program at Morse High School will begin next month. The city in the coming weeks will also install a compost kiosk at a location to be determined, where residents will be able to deposit organic material at no charge.

“We have two major goals,” City Planner Andrew Deci said in an interview Monday. “First is preservation of landfill space, because that saves the city money in the long run. And secondly is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the less things we put into the landfill, that are going to degrade over time and produce methane, the better off we all are.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection about 15 years ago awarded the city a license to build and run a landfill. The second phase of the project is expected to be full late this year, which then requires Phase 3 to get underway this year. A new disposal cell is to be opened this fall, and provide space for about 12 years.

“There are many different ways to get the organics out of the landfill,” Deci said, noting his goal of removing 25 percent of compostables from the waste stream before the end of the year.

Bath will hold workshops at City Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, and Wednesday, Feb. 8, to get the word out about composting and educate residents about what Garbage to Garden offers. The city will likely ramp up its efforts closer to Earth Day in April.

“We’re really excited about being able to tell people about all the different ways they can compost,” Deci said, including backyards piles or composters, dropping off organic material at the city’s kiosk, or subscribing to a service like Garbage to Garden.

Holden Cookson, an account manager with Garbage to Garden, reaches out to places that produce high volumes of food waste, he explained during lunchtime at Bath Middle School Tuesday. The school uses 10, 32-gallon green buckets through Garbage to Garden.

“We approximate that each gallon of food waste weighs around six pounds, so any time they divert an entire container-worth of food waste, they’re diverting 180-plus pounds,” Cookson said. “That’s almost a ton a week. … That’s a ton of food waste being diverted from the landfill, at the very least.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sixth-graders Riley Dunn, left, and Connor Dever dump what’s left of their lunches into a compost container at Bath Middle School Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Holden Cookson, of the Portland-based Garbage to Garden curbside composting service, with one of the 32-gallon containers for organic waste at Bath Middle School.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.