The Town of Scarborough has made recent changes to the town’s food waste program, as of July 1. Please be aware that household food waste (compost) drop-off locations have been streamlined to the Scarborough Public Works facility on 20 Washington Ave. (behind Holy Donut). The Pleasant Hill Road food waste drop-off location is no longer in use, but the Town hopes to be able to return to two food waste collection locations in the future.

Limiting the food waste drop-off location to a centralized location came as a result of budget cuts in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget review process.

“Upon review, we realized that year on year, the cost of the food waste program was dramatically increasing,” said Public Works Director Mike Shaw. The $140.00 cost per ton for the program compares to $73.50 per ton for municipal solid waste, which is converted into electricity through the waste to energy (WTE) process at ecomaine’s facility. “Food waste is better used as compost, but the economics have to work for it to make sense.”

Scarborough began its food waste program in 2017, to reduce the amount of food scraps in the Town’s waste stream. Since recently identifying the significant increase in costs from the food waste drop off program, Sustainability Coordinator Jami Fitch prioritized finding a solution that would continue to serve the community and the Town’s sustainability efforts, while also staying within a reasonable budget. Through her efforts, Public Works was able to implement a food waste drop off program that is about 65 percent less expensive than the previous program.

The drop-off station at Public Works is now in partnership with We Compost It, a southern Maine-based composting service that converts residential food waste into high quality compost. When it was determined that program expenses only allowed for one centralized location, Public Works was chosen as the single site due to its proximity with other services in town. “The thought behind the current location at Public Works is that many residents travel to Oak Hill on a weekly basis for various reasons,” explained Shaw. “For example, if you’re doing your grocery shopping at Hannaford Supermarket, from there it is 1.7 miles to the Public Works facility where the food waste drop-off is located.”

In contracting with the new compost service provider, there are also changes to what can go in the bins. The material collected by We Compost It will be composted (it previously underwent a process called anaerobic digestion), so anything placed in the food waste bins must be able to decompose (used cooking oil, plastic bags, and packaging cannot go in the bins). Be sure to refer to signage at the site with any questions, and think of the phrase, “If it grows, it goes!” to help remember what can be disposed of with We Compost It.

The Town of Scarborough is continuing to look for cost effective solutions for food waste drop off. “We understand that our community wants to lead a sustainable lifestyle, and we want to encourage that behavior through Town services,” said Fitch. “We will continue to assess the food waste program and make improvements that balance sustainability goals, convenience, and cost effectiveness.”

The Town also encourages residents with yards to compost their food scraps at home. Scarborough Public Works has a variety of backyard compost bins available for purchase. Contact Public Works at (207) 730-4400 or [email protected] for more information about the backyard compost bins. Instructions for composting at home are available on Scarborough’s website at Composting food scraps makes nutrient-rich soil that is great for vegetables, flowers, and lawns.

For questions regarding the Town’s food waste program and other sustainability efforts, contact Jami Fitch, Sustainability Coordinator, at [email protected] or (207) 730-4035.

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