- Two southern Maine municipalities will become the first of ecomaine's 58 member communities to offer free curbside food waste collection through pilot programs starting in May, as reported by The Forecaster. The material will be taken to ecomaine's facility in Portland and weighed for study before it is driven north to an anaerobic digester.
- The city of South Portland will offer free curbside service to about 600 households in two neighborhoods, as well as drop-off at its transfer station, for one year. Local company Garbage to Garden has been awarded the collection contract.
- The town of Scarborough will offer free curbside service to about 150 households, as well as drop-off service, during a nine-month pilot program. Pine Tree Waste Services, a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, will collect the material weekly and reduce refuse collection to a bi-weekly schedule.
While area residents currently have access to food waste pick-up options through private companies, this is the first time that municipalities have offered the service for free. In addition to new curbside carts, participating residents will receive countertop bins and educational tools. Residents will also be encouraged to use bags to line the bins in an effort to make participation more palatable.
In the spirit of its other landfill diversion efforts, food waste processing has been a goal of ecomaine's for years. Last fall, the nonprofit signed a five-year processing contract with Exeter Agri-Energy and began offering a lower tip fee for food scraps. Once the material is driven north it goes through de-packaging equipment and is co-digested with animal waste. Any bags that are sorted out are sent back to ecomaine for processing in their waste-to-energy facility.
Organic waste diversion is a growing priority, especially in New England, though the economics of collection programs can sometimes be hard to square. Composting and anaerobic digestion facilities are seen as a generally safe investment, but the vagaries of participation and material quality can't always be predicted. Because Exeter Agri-Energy doesn't rely solely on food scraps it is a safer bet and the small scale of these pilot programs make it unlikely that overwhelming volume or contamination will be an issue.