South Portland, ME’s Food Waste Recycling Program just hit the one year mark and there is some great progress to report. South Portland kicked off its Food Waste Recycling Program in the summer of 2018 after a successful pilot the year prior. The two neighborhoods participating in the pilot program increased their overall recycling rate from 28 to 38 percent. Seeing a lot of opportunity to replicate this impact throughout the city, as nearly one-third of household waste consists of food scraps, we took the program citywide. Under the program, the city will provide a free bin to residents who wish to recycle their food scraps.
Residents then have two options for disposal, drop-off sites or curbside collection with Garbage to Garden. Food scraps diverted through the program head to Stonyvale Dairy Farm in Exeter, Maine. At the farm, the food scraps are mixed with cow manure in an anaerobic digester to create sustainable electricity, farm fertilizer, and animal bedding for dairy cows. In other words, your food scraps feed and power Maine.
In the first year of the Food Waste Recycling Program, more than 1,000 households in South Portland opted to receive bins from the city. Those households participating in the program diverted roughly 60 tons of food waste from the solid waste stream. And, the trend is up. In the first month of the program, participants diverted just over 3 tons each month. Now, with a year under our belt, that total is up closer to 7 tons/month. This marks steady progress towards our near-term goal of recycling 40 percent of municipal solid waste through recycling and food waste diversion.
In addition to celebrating the growth of the program over the past year, the sustainability office is also looking to improve for the future. Existing drop-off sites are located at the transfer station, city hall, Redbank Community Hub, and the golf course maintenance building. We plan to grow this network of drop-off locations by establishing a new site at the high school.
This will make participation more convenient and accessible to residents passing by the high school, community center and transfer station. Keep your eyes out in the coming weeks for a pair of large green bins and a big green sign to mark the spot in the upper parking lot along Highland Avenue.
Along with the installation of a fifth drop-off site, the city is also teaming up with the Environmental Club at the high school to spread the word to more residents. These students will lead a big outreach campaign to increase participation in the program. They will table around town with 12-gallon and 1-gallon bins as well as helpful information about what can go in the bin.