MDEP awards $40,000 grant to upcoming composting facility

MDEP awards $40,000 grant to upcoming composting facility

The Chickadee Compost facility is one of seven Maine composting projects that will share $129,628 of a total $461,247 in funding during the first-round grant awards.

September 11, 2020

A 51-acre wooded lot in Brooklin, Maine, is in the first phase of being developed as a composting facility that will serve Blue Hill Peninsula residents, reports The Weekly Packet.

On Aug. 26, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) announced that Chickadee Compost was awarded a $40,000 Waste Diversion Grant. The grant funds projects that will divert waste from disposal by expanding composting and recycling opportunities across the state.

“Maine DEP is providing these grants to help businesses, institutions and municipalities address solid waste management challenges,” according to a MDEP press release. “Reducing the volume of materials we consume by reusing items, and recycling products and packaging can significantly reduce our environmental impacts and help to enhance sustainability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut our overall costs.”

The Brooklin facility is one of seven Maine composting projects that will share $129,628 of a total $461,247 in funding during the first-round grant awards. DM&J Waste, Ellsworth, Maine, was awarded $34,450 through the grant program. The DEP will begin accepting a second round of grant proposals in October.

“The $40,000.00 grant award to Chickadee Compost will be used to site and develop a community-based compost operation, serving a year-round population of 12,282 residents from nine communities,” David Madore, director of communications, education and outreach/legislative liaison, said. “The operation should divert and process 22,000 pounds of food scraps during the first year of operations, and up to 330,000 pounds by year four.”

Katherine Tomkins, owner of Chickadee Compost, told The Weekly Packet, “For the past five years, I have been Director of Development for a nonprofit called SeaShare, based in the Seattle area, which sends millions of pounds of seafood to food banks across the country each year. Feeling the compounding urgency of the climate emergency, using my knowledge around food waste and its impact on the climate and, inspired by other companies in Maine and other parts of New England, I decided to pursue developing a community composting company for the Blue Hill peninsula.”

Last year, while keeping her “day job,” Tomkins began researching the need for a small community composting company in the area. In October 2019, she completed the week-long Maine Compost School course, which is a collaborative program operated by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“I am not actually composting yet,” said Tomkins. “We just closed on a large lot in Brooklin about a month ago, and will be using 2-3 acres for composting, while the remaining 48-49 acres will remain as forest. Our focus is on the Blue Hill peninsula—from Castine to Surry and down to Stonington, including the towns of Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Deer Isle, and Penobscot.”

Initially, Tomkins will run the company alone. Once the composting is fully under way, she hopes to hire one or two additional employees. Chickadee Composting will employ a process known as windrow composting.

“The process of turned windrow composting requires an initial, immediate mixing, and then turning with a tractor or loader, at least weekly, at the start, with less turning as the windrow ages and then cures,” Tomkins said. “I will be starting with a mid-sized tractor, and that’s it. Larger commercial compost operators often use windrow turners to turn their piles, and while turners are highly efficient, they are also very expensive.”

Tomkins said she does not yet know the annual volume of composting the company may eventually achieve. At this point, she is working with the engineering team on site design and flow, The Weekly Packet reports.