“Taking out the garbage can be such a drag, there’s some crusty old gristle hanging off a dishrag … ” is the first line of the Garbage Song I play on my guitar. “If I hadn’t mixed it all in this bag, taking out the garbage wouldn’t be such a drag.” The chorus goes “Uh-huh, recycle it’s a better way, uh-huh, recycle. You’ve got to compact it, compress it, recycle, make less of it.”

Does your garbage start smelling in two or three days? Do you want to only have to put out your trash once a week and buy fewer bags? Brunswick residents can buy a $5 pail from Brunswick Public Works on 9 Industry Road or use any covered container and start keeping your food scraps and leftovers out of the trash. Brunswick’s Recycling and Sustainability Committee offers three ways for each residence to separate out food waste, from home composting to weekly pickup by Garbage to Garden to taking your full compost bucket to dump in town bins at the Recreation Center or Public Works building. Many more Brunswick residents are using these bins, so there are now four covered bins at the Recreation Center at 220 Neptune Drive, Brunswick Landing, and six bins at the downtown Public Works building. Agricycle from Exeter picks up these bins at least monthly and composts the contents at a local farm.

Brent Lemieux, field operations manager for Garbage to Garden, talks to a Carleton Street customer in Portland while dumping a compost container into a truck trailer. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

Seven hundred and fifty Brunswick residents now subscribe for $19 a month to pickup of food wastes at their driveway by Garbage to Garden. This composting business empties your compost can weekly and takes the food wastes to farms to compost, leaving you a clean liner for your can. This works for people who don’t have space, energy or interest in managing their own compost pile. Subscribers can ask for a weekly bag of completed MOFGA-certified compost weekly as needed for improving gardens and shrubs.

Food waste is a nutrient-rich source of fertilizer when it is decomposed in the presence of oxygen and lots of other carbon-rich organic matter. Hay, straw, dry grasses and weeds, crumpled newspapers, sawdust, chopped leaves should be added in layers with food scraps to bring air into the pile. More of these materials should layer in between 3-4-inch layers of food scraps to get the best bacterial action going to break down the material quickly.

On my organic farm in Monmouth in early the 2000s, I composted weeds, old dairy manure and any food waste with a tractor, lifting and turning it to reach the 140 degrees Fahrenheit needed for compost to fully work and mature. As much as 25%-30% of residential trash by weight is organic materials, so we can lower town taxes by not sending living material to ecomaine’s Portland incinerator. Since Brunswick pays for incinerator waste by ton, people who separate organics save the town significant tonnage fees. Recovered organics are a resource that can enrich your flower, shrub and food gardens for free. Your trash will last much longer without smelling if you get in the habit of putting food scraps in a pail or covered can, and you will save money buying fewer trash bags and less fertilizer.

The Town of Brunswick is halfway through implementing a Maine Solid Waste grant to double residential composting from 200 tons per year in 2021 to 400 tons by late 2023. Estimates of increased organic removal from trash to date are about 300 tons, so congratulations to the new and long-term composters! You have reduced Brunswick tipping fees for trash delivered to ecomaine, thus lowering town taxes. You have also kept wet material out of the incinerator, reduced methane production and saved a valuable resource. Keep up your thoughtful new habits!

If Brunswick residents have the space to practice food-waste recovery and interest in watching the composting process, the Public Works department can make it easy for you. Brunswick is using part of it’s compost grant to offer, at a very low cost, large plastic compost bins or lobster trap wire bins and $5 garbage pails to residents. I confess to being a lazy composter, who for months put food scraps in my black plastic bin without bothering to find chopped leaves or buy old mulch hay to add in layers. I am experimenting with balling up newspapers and layering them between the food scrap layers. I hope to see faster, and more aerobic composting occurring this spring and get healthier, bigger vegetables from our garden.

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

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