Portland Kicks-off Composting Program

3/6/2008 - NEWS RELEASE
City of Portland
389 Congress Street
Portland, Maine 04101
CONTACT: Nicole Clegg, 207-756-8173, 207-272-4477 (cell) nicoleclegg@portlandmaine.gov

March 6, 2008

Portland Kicks-off Composting Program
Riverside Recycling Center asks residents to compost - a cost saver and environment protector

PORTLAND, Maine – This month, the Riverside Recycling Center kicked-off its composting promotion making compost bins and kitchen waste pails available at discounted prices for purchase. In line with Portland’s sustainability goals, the City has endorsed compost as an environmentally responsible alternative to fertilizing lawns and gardens and composting as an efficient way to reduce waste management costs.

Last year, the Riverside Recycling Center received 6800 tons of yard waste and brush from Portland residents costing the City more than $335,000 to manage. Composting yard waste and non-meat food scraps at home instead of disposing of them will reduce waste management costs and provide homeowners with a valuable soil amendment.

Sustainable lawn care practices such as yardscaping (which includes reduced mowing and aerating along with the use of compost) help the environment by growing lawns that are less dependent on chemicals, fertilizers and watering. These practices could also significantly reduce costs to the City associated with managing yard waste.

“Our goal is to educate the public about the environmental and economic costs of managing organic waste,” remarked Troy Moon, Solid Waste Program Manager for the Department of Public Works. “If we can get Portland residents to consider yardscaping practices and using compost as an alternative to chemical fertilizers for their lawns and gardens, we can remove toxins from our storm water and reduce waste management costs at the same time.”

In addition to composting organics, residents are encouraged to “mow high,” generating shorter grass clippings that compost better. It is estimated that the average American spends forty hours a year mowing their lawn, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing air pollution. In fact, a lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as an automobile driving 350 miles.

In 2004, 3 million pounds of yard care pesticides were purchased in Maine, more than three times the amount purchased ten years ago. The use of pesticides and fertilizers pose health risk to Portland’s water ways. For example, excess nitrogen, a component of most fertilizers, can cause nuisance algae growth in Casco Bay.

It is estimated that 25 percent of the average household’s waste consists of yard trimmings and kitchen scraps, which can easily be composted. Home composting combined with recycling and yard waste programs can reduce household waste by up to 80%.

Reducing yard waste and pollutants entering the water system are components of Sustainable Portland, a taskforce established by then Mayor Jim Cohen and chaired by former Mayor Jill Duson and former Mayor Nathan Smith. Sustainable Portland will be releasing its report addressing environmental, economic, and community sustainability later this month.

The 2008 home compost bin and how-to guide is available at a reduced cost of $37.50 (original price $80) and can be purchased at the Riverside Recycling Center until April 11, 2008. The bin is black, has a 10 year warranty, made of 100% recycled plastic and large enough for a family of five. Kitchen Waste Pails, for kitchen food scraps, are available for $8.00 each and the wingdigger compost turner can be purchased for a discounted price of $16.50.

Contact Donna Rooney at 797-6200 or djr@portlandmaine.gov for more information or to obtain an order form.

For more information about yardscaping, please visit the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District webpage at http://www.cumberlandswcd.org/ or contact Tamara Lee Pinard at 892-4700.

Composting Q&A

What is Compost?
Compost is a nutrient-rich amendment, created by the natural decomposition of kitchen and yard waste by microbes, worms and other organisms. When mixed with soil, it will revitalize it, make it healthier and more productive and increase moisture retention.

Kitchen greens (fruit and vegetable scraps, houseplant cuttings, coffee grounds, rice and pasta, egg shells and tea bags), kitchen browns (coffee filters, stale bread, paper napkins & towels, dryer lint), yard greens (flowers, vegetables, plant trimmings, hedge clippings and grass) and yard browns (leaves, straw or hay, small twigs and dried grass and weeds) are excellent waste products for producing compost.

You should not compost meat, fish or bones, dairy products, oils, fats, ashes, pet waste, diseased plants or mature weeds with seeds.

A family composting can divert more than 500 pounds of kitchen scraps and yard waste a year.

How do you Compost?

Spread compost in your vegetable or flower garden in the spring or fall and work it into the soil. Top-dress your lawn with compost in the spring or fall. This will help maintain healthy soil structure and build your topsoil.

Download an order form today.

For more information, download the Home Composting Handbook.

For more information on composting or yardscaping, check out these websites:
The Earth Machine

Maine YardScaping

Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District