Lisbon rolled out a new compost drop-off station at the town transfer station last month that town officials say has been very popular with residents. Contributed photo

Bath and Brunswick are looking to expand their composting programs, in part to offset fees incurred by processing waste.

“The point is to try to spread the concept of composting out into the community,” said Bath Public Works Director Lee Leiner. “It’s never too early to try to start to change the culture a little bit toward waste.”

Instead of putting organics in a landfill or incinerator, composting allows food waste to naturally decompose essentially back into soil. If organics are separated, food waste is also not factored into tipping costs, which, in Brunswick is more than $80 per ton.

“It’s important because food waste can be up 30% of the waste stream,” said Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee Chair Jamie Ecker.

Recently, Brunswick won $19,311 and Bath won $5,768 in grants to aid in composting expansion. The grant program required that recipients match up to 20% of the funds provided. Brunswick plans to match 34%, which will be sourced from the operating budget and play out through labor costs associated with the grant. Bath aims to match 30%, which will be sourced from the solid waste operating budget.

In Bath, Leiner said the town plans to use the funds to purchase 100 lobster-trap-wire-style compost bins to give away to interested residents. In turn, the residents will measure food-waste amounts and offer feedback to the DEP. The rollout for this project is expected to be sometime in the fall.

In Brunswick, according to Ecker, the funds will be used to offer home-composting bins at a 50% discount to residents, set up a second organic waste drop-off location in town and hire an intern tasked with doing survey and educational work.

While the grant won’t directly be used to pay for curbside subscription services, the educational component will look to inform the public about the two private, curbside pick-p subscription programs that service Brunswick, Garbage to Garden and We Compost It.

Garbage to Garden has 367 active accounts in Brunswick and 205 in Bath. We Compost It has 235 subscriptions in Brunswick and does not offer services to Bath.

According to the proposal document, Brunswick’s Recycling and Sustainability Committee currently estimates that rough 15% of Brunswick’s households, or around 750, are recycling food waste through subscription services and home composting, translating to an estimated 200 tons per year.

Through new well-promoted programs, according to the same document, officials believe Brunswick could increase participating households to roughly 1,350, which translates to 30% of all households and over 400 tons of food waste a year.

“I think we all agree, both staff and the committee, that any way that we can divert our waste from either landfill or incineration is a worthy objective on a number of fronts,” said Brunswick Public Works Director Jay Astle.

As for current municipal offerings, Brunswick has one organic waste drop-off location at the public works department, which is paid for by the town. “That material actually gets digested to create renewable energy,” Ecker said, referencing anaerobic digestion, a process that creates green methane from organic waste to ultimately generate electricity.

In Bath, the town sells backyard composters through the Maine Resource Recovery System and offers two organic waste drop-off kiosks in partnership with Garbage with Garden, also paid for by the town.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection did not wish to comment for this story, as a standard appeal process for the grant program is ongoing.

According to the department’s website, the grant looks to assist both public and private entities in the development, implementation or improvement of initiatives designed to increase the diversion of solid waste from disposal in the state.

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