Essex’s New Food Scrap Collection Program Starts April 5
On Monday, April 5, the Town of Essex will start accepting food scraps from all residents, free of charge, at the Essex Transfer Station.
Hartford-based Blue Earth Compost will collect the food scraps on a weekly basis, and transport them to Quantum Biopower in Southington, which operates an anaerobic digester. This facility captures the methane that is released as the food decomposes and converts it into electricity. Any leftover solids are used as fertilizer.
The new initiative at the transfer station aims to reduce the town’s municipal solid waste (MSW), as upcoming changes to the state’s garbage disposal system indicate the potential for an increase to municipal tipping fees, or the cost paid per ton of MSW disposal.
In 2019, the Town of Essex sent a total of 3,316 tons of MSW to the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, or MIRA. In 2020, it was 2,595 tons, according to Alyson Finnegan of the First Selectman’s Office.
The program will also help the town earn points toward silver certification with Sustainable CT, according to Susan Abbot, co-chair of the Sustainable Essex Committee, which is spearheading community outreach.
“Twenty percent of our garbage, approximately, is made up of just food waste that we could easily compost and that will help reduce the tipping fees and will reduce the amount of the methane and carbon dioxide that are produced when it rots in a landfill,” said Abbot.
To help educate residents on the benefits of participating with the town’s new program, the Sustainable Essex Committee will host Alexander Williams, owner of Blue Earth Compost, on Wednesday, March 31 at noon for its first virtual talk of the Committee’s Sustainable Essex Environmental Discussions (SEED) series in 2021. Registration is available at sustainableessex.com/events/.
Blue Earth Compost
Blue Earth Compost was started in 2013, with Williams assuming ownership in 2014. The company currently offers residential and commercial food scrap collection services, with plans to expand its municipal offerings.
“We definitely are focused quite a bit on municipalities at this stage in the game,” said Williams, by phone. “We really do see it as not only a good avenue for growth, but an untapped source of food waste as well.”
Williams said that his company fills a gap in municipal composting programs.
“There are not a lot of municipal programs, whether that be curbside collection or transfer stations, in the state right now, so trying to move that in the right direction is definitely a goal of ours,” said Williams.
The infrastructure for food waste composting in the state is sufficient to successfully implement programs on a large scale, which is something that detractors of the concept frequently cite as a problem, according to Williams.
“This has been a quite talked about topic lately, about infrastructure being an impediment to food waste diversion happening on a large scale,” said Williams. “We at Blue Earth do not agree with that assessment at all.”
“The main thing that is holding it back is more action, whether it be from the state or municipalities, commercial generators, whatever it is. If you’re willing to divert food waste, we’re willing and able to collect it and process it and do the right thing with it, for sure,” he continued.
There are three food waste composting facilities in the state and two anaerobic digesters, according to the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). DEEP is currently reviewing permits for two new anaerobic digesters, planned for construction in North Haven and Southington.
Although the concept of food scrap composting is new to some in the community, Williams said the benefits are numerous.
“Food waste as a whole topic is sort of like the last recycling frontier, if you will,” said Williams. “[W]e don’t even look at it as waste, honestly. It’s a resource and I would argue even more so than plastics and paper recycling because it can be processed locally. It can be turned back into something that completes the food cycle. It’s a really circular process.”
More information on the town’s food scrap collection program can be found at sustainableessex.com/food-scrap-collection.