BIDDEFORD — The city of Biddeford is one step closer to enacting curbside collection of unused food waste.

The city’s Solid Waste Management commission is in the final stages of preparing a request for proposals for vendors to implement a curbside composting program.

The City Council unanimously voted in October to approve a recommendation by the SWMC to pursue an exclusive agreement with a qualified vendor to collect, transport and compost food wastes from residential properties within the city.

Currently, many commercial properties in the city subscribe to a composting service that some residents can also latch onto if they live in close proximity.

However, the option has not been made available across the community.

As proposed, for a cost, residents would be able to partake in the program and receive a clean compost container by the vendor to then leave out for collection.

The compost vendor would in return provide participants with compost, which they could use for gardening, which residents can opt out if they want.

The SWMC began discussing curbside compost pickup in fall f 2015, having considered several free-market, exclusive agreement and “free-for-all” options with various vendors.

Director of Public Works Guy Casavant on Tuesday said following the council’s vote, he was directed to prepare the RFP to seek an exclusive agreement with a composting vendor, which should be put out for bids in the next three to four weeks.

Once the RFP period concludes, the responses will be evaluated by the SWMC and the commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council for a potential award.

The goal of  curbside compost pickup is to lower the amount of waste processed by the city. The city pays by the ton for trash shipped to a waste transfer station in Westbrook.

“The pickup won’t reduce price per ton, but the concept is, if we take all this food waste out of the waste stream, the tons will be less so there will be less disposal of trash,” Casavant said. “It has the potential of reducing the amount of tons we have to send (to Westbrook).”

The city currently pays $57.33 per ton — $5,733 for every 100 tons — of waste it sends to landfill. If the compost service can reduce landfill waste by even 10 tons, that could mean a savings of just over $570, Casavant said.

The proposal would call for residents who use the service to pay the compost vendors, Casavant said.

“It’s kind of like a subscription service,” he said. “One firm would be able to serve all the residential properties in Biddeford, and they bill individual customers for their service.”

The service, which he said is not mandatory, is similar to one implemented about two years ago in neighboring Kennebunk.

Kennebunk Assistant Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the program was designed to reduce town waste going to a landfill. The town pays Casella Waste Systems $73 per ton to transport its waste.

“About 23 percent of your waste is compostable,” Tibbetts said Tuesday. “The premise was that if you offered a service to the public that was reasonably priced and efficient you could see a reduction in the amount of waste that was going to the burner or to the landfill, and be put in as a different end-product.”

Tibbetts said there are about 300 Kennebunk residents currently using the service provided by Scarborough-based We Compost It! to compost their kitchen waste.

While he couldn’t specify the exact reduction in trash going to a landfill since the program was implemented, he did say there has been a difference.

“I would say that they are definitely putting out less trash,” Tibbetts said. “There’s definitely that confirmation.” 

Casavant said that, while the city will not be directly involved in the physical compost pickup, the SWMC will take an active role in spreading the word about it.

“The city’s role is the SWMC will be involved in promoting, educating and trying to convince people this is a good idea,” he said.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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