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Posted on: April 21, 2021

City Launches Food Composting Program

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On Earth Day, April 22, the City of Portland is kicking off a year-long food composting pilot program, which will provide residents with five convenient locations to drop off food scraps.  

“Food scraps and other organic materials make up almost 40% of the waste Portland residents throw away each week. By offering a compost program, we’re providing residents with a way to reduce their environmental footprint while reducing the number of City trash bags they need to buy,” said Mayor Kate Snyder.  

Councilor Belinda Ray, Chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee noted, “the One Climate Future Climate Action Plan identified residential composting as an important strategy to help Portland meet its climate commitments. I’m really pleased that the City is offering this pilot program to help residents handle their food scraps in a more sustainable way.” 

“When we think about climate action we usually think of solar panels and electric cars, not food waste,” said Troy Moon, Sustainability Director for the City of Portland. “But producing and transporting food that is never eaten accounts for over 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year -- more than any single country in the world except for the US and China. In order to tackle climate change we need to reduce food waste.” 

The compost drop off sites are at the following locations:

  • North Street Community Garden (available 24/7)
  • Boyd Street Community Garden (available 24/7)
  • Clark Street Community Garden (available 24/7)
  • Libbytown Community Garden (available 24/7)
  • Riverside Recycling Facility (available during facility operating hours)

Each site will have two covered containers for residents to use. Residents are advised to collect food scraps at home in any airtight container; when full, bring it to one of the collection sites and empty it into one of the containers. The City recommends rinsing the container before using again. The collection program will be able to accept any food scraps from a household including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and bones. 

Since beginning its “Pay As You Throw” trash collection program and curbside recycling in 1999, Portland’s residential waste disposal has fallen over 60%, from over 23,000 tons per year to about 9,300 tons per last year. During the same time period, the City’s recycling tonnages have increased from less than 1,000 tons per year to over 5,000 tons per year. 

“Even though we’re Maine’s most urban community, we have had one of the most successful waste reduction programs in the state,” noted Moon. “Adding a food collection program will further reduce waste by diverting food scraps from the trash to create valuable compost.”

The City will share program data with the University of Maine’s Mitchell Center, whose researchers will help evaluate the environmental and budgetary benefits of food waste collection. The City of Portland Sustainability Office will also collaborate with the Mitchell Institute and Maine DEP to promote the Food Recovery Hierarchy, which prioritizes reducing the amount of wasted food through careful purchasing, then donating edible food to feed hungry people, feeding animals, composting, and finally disposing of unwanted food in a waste-to-energy plant or landfill. 

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