Harpswell to offer central collection of compost

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen on May 25 approved an at-will agreement with a Portland-based company to a pilot a central composting program at the Recycling and Transfer Station.

“Ideally, this will really increase the recycling rate,” Phoebe Lyttle of Garbage to Garden told the board, explaining that food waste compromises 40 percent of disposed waste. “That’s really, what it’s all about.”

Garbage to Garden started five years ago as a curbside composting company, encouraging residential homeowners to compost food waste for collection when they put out their weekly trash.

Since then, the company has expanded to new commercial models, Lyttle said, serving hundreds of southern Maine businesses, 37 schools, and a handful of municipalities.

However, not all towns are conducive to curbside pickup, Transfer Station Manager Chuck Perow said.

“Just the geography of (Harpswell) makes curbside composting difficult, if not just unfeasible,” he said.

Consequently, he and Lyttle developed a pilot program that creates a central drop-off station at the recycling center, and borrows portions of its model from the neighboring town of Bath.

“We’ll be the collection entity,” Perow explained. “… Garbage to Garden in turn will pick up the totes (of compost) as they’re full.”

Garbage to Garden will install four, 54-gallon compost receptacles at the Mountain Road transfer facility, where residents can drop off their food waste. Garbage to Garden will then pick up, clean, and transfer composted waste to a farm in Gorham, leaving little work to the transfer station employees.

Based on how much compost it generates, the town will received an allotment of composted soil on a quarterly or annual basis.

Calling it a “win-win,” Perow said the program shouldn’t incur a cost to the town because the program simply redistributes waste. As far as overhead investments, the pilot won’t cost more than a few hundred dollars in deposits for the waste receptacles, which would be refunded if the program isn’t successful.

Perow described the pilot as the next step in his effort to increase the town’s rate of composting, building off last year’s publication of a home composting guide.

The goal for the upcoming year is to compost 10 tons of waste, or “10 tons we don’t put in the compactor,” he said.

“There are things in here I wouldn’t even think of composting,” Selectman David Chipman said, flipping through the proposal Perow provided, pointing out items like wax paper and wine-bottle corks.

The proposal said that if nearly 40 percent of trash were compostable, Harpswell could have composted roughly 300 tons of waste in 2016 at a cost of about $19,000.

Going forward, Lyttle said her team will immediately begin community outreach to publicize the new service. Hopefully, she said, its success among residents will anchor the company’s presence in the area, and set the stage for greater commercial expansion.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Harpswell will establish a compost pilot program with Portland-based Garbage to Garden in an effort to increase the town’s recycling rate.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.