Kennebunk High School alternative education teacher Jacquelyn Holmes hands student Caiden Gilliam a tool used in making compost bins from lobster trap material at Kennebunk Public Services on a recent Friday. The bins are being given to residents by the Kennebunk Compost Workgroup, which secured a grant for the project. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK — Caiden Gilliam and Jake Nelson each deftly arranged the wire lobster trap material in the prescribed fashion and clipped it together, creating bins folks here will use to hold the materials that make rich garden compost.

Gilliam and Nelson, with occasional help from another Kennebunk High School student, Addie Williams, have been making the trap wire bins for a while, and on a recent Friday the two teens were finishing what might be the last build of the season.

So far, they have made 40 bins, which are being given away by the Kennebunk Compost Workgroup. The workgroup secured a town grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to construct and offer the bins to residents. Kennebunk residents who want one of the free bins may call 985-4811. The bins are available in two sizes, three feet or four feet, and once reserved, are picked up at the Kennebunk Department of Public Services on Sea Road.

On Friday, Nov. 20, several residents who had signed up for a bin came to retrieve them, including John Darien, who said he had had been using an aluminum trash bin he had peppered with air holes to hold leaves, garden waste, and food scraps that over time, makes compost. Now, he will have a bin that takes in plenty of air, speeding the waste- to- compost process.

KHS Student Jake Nelson clips together lobster trap material to make a compose bin at Kennebunk Public Services on Nov. 20. Tammy Wells Photo

Gilliam, 15, a sophomore, said he was enjoying making the bins – something he had not done before.

“It’s fun, it helps out the environment and it saves the town money,” he said. Plus. he said, its hands-on, and he is a builder.

Using the bins saves the town money, proponents say, because less material arrives at the transfer station. And it may save residents a bit of cash as well, since fewer items like vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds and  egg shells are likely to go into Pay as You Throw bags.

“This project was conceived by the Kennebunk Composting Workgroup as a way that the town could contribute to the removal of methane and carbon from the waste stream and, hence, from the environment,” said workgroup chair Linda Miller Cleary, who wrote the grant, along with member Anthony Dater. “Currently about 30 percent of Kennebunk’s waste costs are generated by the food and garden waste.”

Kennebunk resident John Darien carries a new compost bin, made by KHS students, to his car on Nov. 20. The bin project, by the Kennebunk Compost Workgroup, is designed to reduce waste – and creates nutrients for the garden at the same time. Tammy Wells photo

Cleary said originally, public services crews had planned to make the bins, but with short staffing and the pandemic, the group found itself looking for help.

Enter the alternative education students from Kennebunk High School.

“They rose to the occasion,” said Cleary.

“I like that its lobster trap material,” said Nelson, 16, as he snapped the clips on the trap wire. “And they’re fun to craft, it’s sort of satisfying.”

When the project is complete, 100 bins will have been made. If the weather holds out, and the demand continues, the crew might make a few more this fall, but most of the 60 remaining bins will be made in the spring.

Kennebunk High School teacher Jacquelyn Holmes who was helping out at the site at public services during the build, said each year alternative education students undertake a class-wide project and then individual projects, along with academic work in the classroom. They also make time to talk about the value of serving in the community, she said. Some students undertake building projects like this one, others take up projects in a variety of fields, from graphic arts to photography. Gilliam, who is new to the alternative education program this year, took on compost bin-building as his individual project, and with Cleary and Holmes also put together a handout on how composting works, found here:

“This is his strength,” Holmes said. “It made him come alive.”

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