Portland will launch a pilot program Thursday in an effort to further reduce the city’s waste volume stream by converting food scraps into compost.

City officials will hold a press conference and demonstration of how the pilot composting program will work at 10:30 a.m. at the Boyd Street Community Garden.

The kickoff event will coincide with Earth Day, a global day of awareness aimed at fighting climate change. Earth Day will occur on the same day as the Biden administration’s global climate summit. President Biden has invited 40 world leaders to participate in the summit in the hope of reaching deals with some of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. Biden is also expected to unveil a new emissions reduction target for the Paris climate accord.

The city’s pilot compost program, which will remain in effect for one year, will allow residents to drop off food scraps at five locations in Portland – the North Street Community Garden, the Boyd Street Community Garden, the Clark Street Community Garden, the Libbytown Community Garden and the Riverside Recycling facility – according to a news release issued by the city.

Each drop-off site will have two covered containers for residents to use. Residents should collect food scraps at home in an airtight container and bring the container to one of the collection sites when it is full. The collection program will be able to accept any household food scraps, including fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat and bones. In neighboring South Portland, which launched a pilot food waste recycling program in 2017, the general rule of thumb governing what constitutes food scraps is: “If it grows, it goes.”

“Even though we’re Maine’s most urban community, we have had one of the most successful waste reduction programs in the state,” Troy Moon, Portland’s sustainability director, said in a statement. “Adding a food collection program will further reduce waste by diverting food scraps from the trash to create valuable compost.”

“When we think about climate action we usually think of solar panels and electric cars, not food waste,” Moon noted. “But producing and transporting food that is never eaten accounts for over 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year, more than any single country in the world except for the United States and China. In order to tackle climate change we need to reduce food waste.”

“Food scraps and other organic materials make up almost 40 percent of the waste Portland residents throw away each week,” Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said. “By offering a compost program, we’re providing residents with a way to reduce their environmental footprint while reducing the number of city trash bags they need to buy.”

Portland joins several other southern Maine municipalities that already offer residents the opportunity to dispose of food scraps. In addition to South Portland, communities with food composting programs in place for residents include Freeport, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Brunswick.

Since Portland began its pay-as-you-throw trash collection program and curbside recycling in 1999, the city’s residential waste disposal stream has fallen over 60 percent, from more than 23,000 tons to about 9,300 tons in 2020. During that same period, Portland’s recycling tonnages have increased from less than 1,000 tons per year to over 5,000 tons last year.

Data collected from the food composting pilot program will be shared with the University of Maine’s Mitchell Center. Researchers at the center will use the data to evaluate the environmental and budgetary benefits of food waste collection.


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