Maine municipalities begin testing curbside food waste pickup projects

Maine municipalities begin testing curbside food waste pickup projects

South Portland and Scarborough residents will place food waste in collection bins that will be picked up alongside trash and recycling.

March 28, 2017

Two Maine municipalities are preparing to launch the state’s first municipal food waste collection programs, which will offer free, weekly curbside pickup of food scraps, a report by the Portland Press Herald says. The goal of both projects is to reduce the amount of waste sent to an incinerator or landfill.

Select South Portland and Scarborough residents will be able to divert their bread, coffee grounds, dairy products and meat by sending it to ecomaine, a Portland-based waste processing company collectively owned by more than a dozen towns and cities, the report says. The processed waste is then sent to Exeter Agri-Energy, an anaerobic digester in Exeter that converts organic waste and cow manure into electricity, compost and animal bedding.

According to the report, ecomaine began accepting food waste in September 2016 in exchange for reduced tipping fees.

South Portland is testing the project for one year on 600 households in the Knightville and Meetinghouse Hill neighborhoods, the report says. The homes will receive a white, 6-gallon lidded bucket in the beginning of May to dispose of their food waste. The buckets will be collected on the same day as trash and recycling. Residents are able to put the food scraps in a clear plastic bag before disposing of it in the bins.

Scarborough’s pilot project will last for nine months and will include around 180 homes in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. According to the report, residents will be given green, 35-gallon bins that will also be collected every week alongside either trash or recycling.

Garbage-to-Garden won the bid for the new service in South Portland and will be paid $43,700 for the service, including the cost of the bins and outreach and education services. South Portland will also open large compost bins to the public at its transfer station.

Pine Tree Waste, the company that provides trash collection services for Scarborough, uses a dual-body truck and can only pick up two types of material at a time, the report says. Compost bins will also be provided at transfer stations in Scarborough for residents who are not part of the pilot program.

South Portland is expected to get closer to its goal of 40 percent diversion by 2020 if the program is implemented, the report says. Travis Wagner, an environmental policy professor at the University of Southern Maine, will analyze the data produced by the two programs with the goal of coming up for the best practices for municipal organics recycling based on participation and cost.