Brunswick Defenders: Composting can help both the planet and your wallet
A Brunswick campaign to promote food waste recycling could help residents save money and help the environment, according to members of the city’s recycling and sustainability committee.
Since the Maine Department of Environmental Protection awarded Brunswick a $19,000 waste diversion grant last year to help fund the town’s food waste reduction and recycling initiative , the number of Brunswick households participating in composting efforts has increased significantly, according to Recycling and Sustainability Committee Chair Jamie Ecker. .
“I think subscription services are the real indicator,” Ecker said, referring to a 34% increase in the number of Brunswick households paying for commercial compost pickup programs. “At the end of June, we made great progress.”
Promoting take-back programs is just one part of the city’s three-pronged strategy to increase the number of Brunswick households that compost by 15% to 30%, according to Ecker. With the DEP grant, the city offers home composting bins at subsidized rates, while public food waste drop-off points at Public Works and the Brunswick Recreation Center allow residents to participate in the effort at no cost. .
According to experts, keeping food waste out of landfills can have major benefits that go beyond limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
“There is a tremendous win-win opportunity in food waste,” said Susanne Lee, faculty member of the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine. “There is a huge economic benefit for both the community as a whole and the residents of the community. There’s a huge social benefit in terms of food insecurity and in terms of health for communities that manage their food waste better, and there’s obviously a fantastic environmental impact.
When food waste sits in a landfill, it produces methane, which is 28 to 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. But food waste deposited at the two Brunswick drop-off sites will be digested anaerobically, a process by which microorganisms help convert the waste into biogas, which can be burned as a renewable fuel.
“Most of these efforts are aimed at doing good for the environment,” said Recycling and Sustainability Committee member Stephen Wood. “There is no ‘Planet-B.’ We have to take care of this one.
Removing organic waste from the waste stream will also save Brunswick residents and the city of Brunswick money, according to Ecker. He said the average Maine household generates about 10 pounds of food waste each week — a noticeable burden for individuals who pay for every “Pay-As-You-Throw” they use and for cities that pay for each ton of waste collected.
Brunswick budgeted more than $1.1 million for garbage and recycling collection and disposal last year, including nearly $300,000 for waste disposal, according to Director of Public Works Jay Astle . While that number will likely increase next year thanks to changing market conditions and Casella Waste Systems’ impending transition to a more environmentally friendly eco-friendly, composting efforts could help offset the increase.
“Disposal fees are expensive,” Astle said. “If there’s a way to do something else with this material and get it out of the waste stream, then there’s real money to be saved.”
For members of the recycling committee and Public Works recycling intern Eliza Blood, who led outreach efforts to promote composting, recycling food waste is a tangible way to impact both the bottom line of Brunswick and around the world.
“I just think we need to take action instead of sitting back and letting other people take action for us,” Blood said. “People can recycle their food and it has a bigger impact than I think.”
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