Composting pilot program planned for Westgate

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The thought of recycling her food waste gave Jillian Manning pause.

While intrigued by the premise, she worried she would do it incorrectly and then her residence would become a stench-filled haven that drew in rodents and other pests.

“I definitely had reservations about it,” said Manning, a resident of the westside.

But as time went by, the sight of excess food being dumped into the trash can and the knowledge that it was being hauled into the landfill began to burrow under her skin.

“I wanted to reduce my impact on what went into that landfill,” she said.

Harkening back to her days as a student working toward her environmental science degree, she hit the books and began to thoroughly research how to efficiently recycle and compost food waste. Eventually, she started to feel confident enough to give it a test run.

That was more than five years ago, and now the avid composter wishes she would have taken the leap sooner.

“I did try,” she said, “but some of my landlords would not let me.”

She said now that she has her own home, she is able to recycle and compost food waste without any odors or pest issues.

Manning said she knows that there are many people out there who want to try to recycle and/or compost food waste, but are inundated by doubts: Will this stink? What items can be composted? Where am I going to put this? Well, one company is ready to give residents a glimpse into what it would be like free of charge.

Next month, The Compost Exchange will be launching a city-wide pilot program in the Columbus area and the Westgate community has been selected to be a part of it. The curbside composting service will run from July 19 to August 16 for residents who sign up.

According to Ray Leard, the chief composter at The Compost Exchange, approximately 40 residents have signed up to participate thus far. He said their goal is to have at least 100 residents sign up before the July 16 deadline, but the program will not be canceled if that threshold is not met.

Leard explained how the service will work.

“They sign up, we drive out to their residence on July 19 and drop off a five-gallon bucket with a liner, a rubber band, and an educational component about composting and why it is important,” he said.

Then, when they bring the repurposed bucket into the house, they start the process of recycling their food waste.

He added that if they have any questions about what can go into the bucket, all they have to do is look at the list of what is acceptable (bones, cheese, eggs and milk, coffee grounds and filters, fruit and vegetable scraps, meat and fish, paper towels, pasta, rice and grains, stale bread, shells from eggs, peanuts and nuts) and what is not (animal waste, chemicals, oils and fats in bulk, plastic, glass and metal, and wood and aluminum foil).

“We try to make it really simple,” Leard said.

When their designated collection day comes, all the resident has to do is to put the bucket at the location where it was dropped off. Then someone from The Compost Exchange will come out to swap out the liner and the process will begin over again. If the liner is not full, Leard said it can still be swapped.

He also said residents who participate in the pilot program will not receive compost. That aspect of the exchange is reserved for paying customers who request the service.

“This pilot is a way to give people a test run of food waste reduction,” he said. “I want them to be excited about it.”

He said while the ultimate goal of his company is to generate enough interest to establish a curbside hub (or even a small team of households) in the community, he would consider it a success if participation in the pilot program put someone on the path toward food waste reduction.

According to the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, over a million pounds of residential and commercial food waste enter the landfill in Franklin County every day. Leard said food waste reduction efforts can help reduce methane gases from being released in the landfill, improve soil and water quality, reduce the use of harmful chemicals and reduce landfill growth.

He added that he believes if more people were also conscious about their shopping habits, it could lower the price of groceries for those who could least afford it.

“Food waste reduction has so many benefits that would help improve our world,” he said.
Residents of Westgate who are interested in signing up for the free pilot program can find additional details and the application on The Compost Exchange’s website at www.thecompostexchange.com/citywideproject. The deadline to sign up is July 16.

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