The single largest source of waste in the state of Maine is food waste, which makes up 30 percent of our waste stream. And while our priority should be to reduce our consumption and redistribute food to hungry Mainers, it is still important to dispose of the food that does go to waste in a climate-friendly way. Luckily, South Portlanders have options when it comes to keeping our food waste out of landfills.

Coffee and Climate: Food Waste Recycling edition

Join the Portland and South Portland Sustainability Offices on Friday May 13 at 9 a.m. for Coffee and Climate: Food Waste Recycling edition. We will be joined by Phoebe Lyttle of Garbage to Garden and Holden Cookson of Agri-Cycle to learn how to get started recycling your food waste and what happens to our food scraps when we recycle them.

Sign up for the free event at If you cannot attend the event, a recording will also be posted at a later date.

Food waste and climate change (and anaerobic digestion)

Mike Patalano of Agri-Cycle loads food waste from Hannaford Supermarkets into a truck in April 2021. The waste is taken to Agri-Cycle’s plant in Exeter where it will be converted into a gas to produce energy. South Portland offers a free food waste recycling program in partnership with Garbage to Garden, ecomaine and Agri-Cycle. Shawn Patrick Ouellette photo/Press Herald

Up to 33 percent of household waste consists of food scraps. When our food waste goes in our trash cans, it ends up in landfills and creates methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Methane emissions from landfills are a significant contributor to climate change.


Alternative methods of food waste disposal can result in beneficial outputs, such as being converted into compost or turned into sustainable electricity through anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is a food waste recycling system that breaks down organics in the absence of oxygen. Because this process occurs in a digester, a capped system, gasses that are produced as a result of this process are captured and combusted to create environmentally beneficial outputs.

Anaerobic digesters can generate electricity to power, heat and cool our homes, and the outputs can be used as fertilizer and animal bedding. Anaerobic digestion is actually better for the planet than composting because it contains and eliminates all green house gas emissions that are created during the decomposition process, preventing them from entering the atmosphere and instead turning them into useful products.

Recycle your food waste (for free) in South Portland

South Portland offers a free food waste recycling program in partnership with Garbage to Garden, ecomaine and Agri-Cycle. When residents participate in this program, their food waste does not end up in landfills, but rather is anaerobically digested and turned into sustainable electricity, farm fertilizer and animal bedding.

To get started, pick up your free bin at the city’s Municipal Services Facility (929 Highland Ave.) Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then, choose your disposal method.

Residents have two options when recycling their food waste. Food waste can be dropped off free of charge at one of the city’s six drop off locations:


  • Transfer Station (929 Highland Ave. 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday)
  • City Hall (25 Cottage Road)
  • Golf Course Maintenance Building (221 Westbrook St.)
  • Planning and Development Office (496 Ocean St.)
  • South Portland High School (along Highland Ave.)
  • Redbank Community Center (95 Macarthur Circle West)

Residents can also participate in curbside pick-up with Garbage to Garden, a private food waste hauler, that will empty your bin for you. The city has negotiated a reduced rate for this service at $12/month. Contact Garbage to Garden at 207-332-0277 or [email protected]

New food waste drop-off site

There is a new food waste drop-off site in South Portland. Residents living in Redbank Village, Brickhill Apartments, Olde English Village and Liberty Apartments can now conveniently drop off their food waste for free at the Redbank Community Center.

The Sustainability Office will also have a few Neighborhood Champions doing door-to-door outreach regarding the new site and how to get started recycling your food waste. Say hello if you see them out and about.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability.

Mia Ambroiggio is a Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps Fellow serving in the Sustainability Office. She can be reached at [email protected]

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