Recycling Coordinator, Kim O’Rourke is encouraging residents to compost their food waste in an effort to meet the city’s goal of reducing and recycling 60 percent of its waste by 2024. The majority of the humus created from these scraps will be taken to Quantum BioPower in Southington. The company turns the organic material into biogas, which can be used as a fuel to generate electricity, or further processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuel.
“All municipalities are looking for additional ways to reduce their waste. This is one way we’re trying to educate the public that they can do something with their food waste other than putting it in the trash. This is a great option,” she said. Every year the average person in North America may waste around 231 pounds of food, which, if converted to energy, could power a 100-watt light bulb for two weeks, according to saveonenergy.com.
The initiative makes it convenient for those who can’t afford a composter and want to recycle organic materials, which comprise approximately 40 percent of the municipal waste stream, according to O’Rourke. “Compost is the dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling by-product of decomposed plant and/or animal materials. Soil microorganisms transform these organic materials into their original elemental components to be reused by successive generations of plants and other life forms,” according to the UConn Extension Center.
Banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds and the like will be taken to an anaerobic digester in Southington and turned into clean energy and compost. Also, a food scrap drop-off area will accept breads, pastas, fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. The only bags allowed to carry the waste are paper or compostable bags.
At home, O’Rourke uses large yogurt containers to compost her organic waste, and washes them out regularly. Companies such as Blue Earth Compost offer pick-up for a fee. Blue Earth charges $20 a month for 25 pounds of compost ($30 for 50 pounds), while twice weekly pick-up is $20 a month for 25 pounds. Some people share the service with a neighbor or two to keep down costs, O’Rourke said.
On average, each individual produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste per day, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. This adds up to almost a ton of trash per person annually.