A food waste recovery project begun four years ago on the Vineyard is ramping up again after the pandemic interrupted the bulk of the collections. When restaurants and school cafeterias closed last year, the Martha’s Vineyard Food Waste Recovery Initiative lost the main source of the food scraps it turns into compost at Island Grown Initiative’s Thimble Farm. Volumes dropped dramatically, project director Eunice Youmans told the Gazette in a recent interview. “We had planned to collect 540 tons in 2020. We ended up collecting 200 tons,” she said.
Begun in 2016 as a pilot project with a borrowed pickup truck, seven businesses and a grant from the Betsy and Jesse Fink family foundation, the initiative set an ambitious goal of reducing food waste on the Vineyard by 50 per cent by 2030. The project quickly expanded. In the first year, 17 tons of food waste were processed. Two years later the number was 360 tons.
And while last year’s total was less than half the pre-pandemic goal, it represented a significant increase in household participation — from five per cent in 2019 to 25 per cent in 2020, Ms. Youmans said. “That’s a huge shift in the percentage of our sources of waste, but still only a fraction of residential food waste,” she said. Nationwide, 43 percent of food waste comes from households, Ms. Youmans said.
Today the food waste project has collection barrels at all Island transfer stations, as well as at the Chappy Point ferry landing and outside the gate at Thimble Farm. There is a small fee to drop the waste at transfer stations; the dropoff at the farm is free.