WATERVILLE — A curbside food waste collection program designed to reduce the amount of organic, compostable material in the solid waste stream is coming to Waterville.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to approve a contract with Garbage to Garden and spend up to $10,000 to introduce the program and pay for the first month of collection.

Garbage to Garden will pay for the second month, and residents wanting to continue with the program would pay $15 a month for the service.

As part of that $15, Garbage to Garden provides clean buckets each week to households for the food waste, which would be collected at curbside one to two days a week initially, and on regular city trash collection days after that. A clean bucket will be left each week at the curbside for participants.

City Manager Steve Daly said Thursday a start date for the program has not yet been set, but he hoped it would be soon.

“I see this program as a valuable step in the direction of responsible citizenship in Waterville,” Daly said. “Not only does it benefit the subscribers who will receive usable compost in return. It also has a positive impact on the environment by not landfilling food waste, and a cost-lowering benefit to the city whose waste disposal costs are based on weight — food waste being by far the heaviest component of municipal solid waste.”

Garbage to Garden will also collect fats, oils, and grease in separate containers, to be turned into biodiesel and biodegradable degreaser used to clean the buckets. As part of the program, a bag of finished compost will be delivered upon request to any resident each week, at the time of service.

The program is separate from, but will piggyback on, the Waterville Community Food Recycling Drop-Off Site that has opened at I-Recycle on Armory Road, according to Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7. Residents may drop off their food waste at that site, free of charge.

Thomas said he has been working for several years on the effort to divert food waste from the trash system. Mayor Jay Coelho said the two programs will save the city money in tipping fees.

“I think they complement each other well,” Coelho said.

Tyler Frank, president of Garbage to Garden, based in Portland, said people who volunteer for his program will be able to have their food waste collected free of charge. Most people who start with the curbside collection program opt to continue with it, he said.

“We have a really good retention rate,” he said.

The $10,000 will come out of the city’s Public Works Department budget.

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, asked how animals will be kept away from the food waste. Frank said the lids on the buckets are tight and some people opt to keep them inside their houses, such as under the kitchen sink.

“We don’t have a widespread problem with animals in bins,” Frank said.

The city expects to save an average of $2 a month for each household that starts composting. The average household generates 600 pounds a year of compostable waste, which represents nearly one-third of a ton of municipal solid waste, according to officials.

Based on the $70-a-ton tipping fee the city pays for municipal solid waste and the hauling of that waste to Waste Management’s Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, officials estimate the savings from one household composting would be $24 a year.

Garbage to Garden plans to work with the city to spread awareness about composting and its benefits to households and the community. The company plans to help educate people about the specifics of the program, including what can be composted and best practices for an easy, convenient and trouble-free experience, according to Frank.

The launch of the separate, free drop-off program at I-Recycle on Armory Road was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the George J. Mitchell School playground on Drummond Avenue, according to Matt Skehan, director of the city’s Public Works Department.


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