Thursday, December 5, 2013
For less than a month, Sable Sanborn (pictured above) and her partner Tyler Frank have been seeking customers for their new venture Garbage to Garden that picks up food waste outside people's homes and then transforms it into compost. The business began accepting customers during the August First Friday Art Walk and already has more than 100 households participating in the program.
"We run on donations," Sanborn said. "The minimum is $11 a month and that covers gas. A lot of people donate more. If you can't afford that, you can come in and volunteer."
The program serves customers in Portland, Falmouth and South Portland.
"We'll probably move to Cape Elizabeth soon," Sanborn said. "And I've had three people ask for Scarborough."
Participants receive a covered plastic bucket in which to place all food scraps, including meat and dairy products (which are typically not compostable on a backyard scale). Homeowners then place the bucket outside their home along with garbage bags and recycling bins on their designated trash pick up day.
Frank and Sanborn pick up the buckets and leave a clean one in its place. Currently Garbage to Garden is hauling the food waste to Durham for composting, but the company is seeking a site closer to Portland. Participants can request buckets of finished compost any time they need it.
Garbage to Garden intends to donate compost to community gardens and has partnered with the University of Southern Maine to do a service learning project. Others! coffee shop in Monument Square has agreed to be a place where customers can pick up buckets.
Ecomaine, the recycling and incinerator company for 45 municipalities in Southern Maine, is currently seeking proposals from consulting firms to conduct a feasibility study exploring ways to remove food scraps and yard debris from the waste stream. The studies could recommend any technology, including composting and anaerobic digestion.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 13.9 percent of municipal waste is made up of food scraps and 13.4 percent is comprised of yard waste, on average. Food waste that is tossed into garbage bags is currently incinerated at Ecomaine, which is not an ideal material to burn because it is so wet and wastes a valuable resource that can be used to build soil fertility.
The proposals are due by Sept. 20.
Anyone interested in signing up for the Garbage to Garden service, can visit http://garbagetogarden.org to register or find the company's representatives at the Wednesday and Saturday farmers markets in Portland.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod