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Mar 11, 2008 06:24 PM

Food scrap collection for composting?

Cambridge, MA is running a trial of providing household containers for food scraps that residents can bring to a recycling site to be composted. Some restaurant and health food stores are participating in the program for businesses. If you live in Cambridge, consider participating. They run the trial until July and then decide whether to continue. If you live elsewhere, does your city/town offer this. Consider suggesting they do so. We live in a very small house with an even smaller yard so we're not in a position to compost at home and my husband has said I can't have a worm bin :-) I'm currently using the program as part of my exercise program. It's a 5-mile round-trip walk, so I do that rather than drive my Prius or take the bus.

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  1. SF does residential and commercial composting; they pick up the green compost bin from the curb.

    5 Replies
    1. re: xanadude

      Lots of places pick up yard waste, but I don't think many take food scrap. Does SF do food scrap? Do most people participate?

      1. re: lgss

        Here in Berkeley we do food scrap. We can also put food stained paper and compostable silverware in it. Everyone I know participates, but I'm sure that's a very biased sample. Food scrap recyclng goes in with yard waste and is picked up weekly.

        1. re: milklady

          Did you know that you can go down to the Berkeley Marina and pick up the finished compost -- for free?

        2. re: lgss

          Yep, food scrap + yard waste + food-contaminated paper (eg pizza boxes)

        3. re: xanadude

          Yup, several cities in the Bay Area, not only SF and Berkeley, do food scrap collection.

        4. Here in Toronto the city collects organic trash in our 'green bin' program. So basically food scraps, dog poop, stained paper. That gets collected weekly as part of regular garbage pickup. Inorganics and recycling are picked up every other week.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cecilia

            NoNONo.... dog poop is NOT compost material. People who are doing that are WRONG! Only vegetable scraps are to be composted. No meat or dairy is allowed!!!

            W e have a program here where I live... only green material may be added to the city compost heap and or collected curb side. Yard waste, tree prunings, leaves, that sort of thing. Then beginning around the first week in June the finished compost may be picked up at the City Yard. The yard stuff is actually composted for three years in a city owned area. This is the black gold we get to pick up and spread on our gardens.

            1. re: Gio

              Most commercial composting is totally 100% fine with meat or dairy. Home composting isn't.

              1. re: xanadude

                Manure from farm animals can be used after maturing/composting for at least 3 years. At Master Gardener courses I have taken we were told that meats & dairy products were not to be composted. However, I suppose commercial enterprises may use high heat to achieve the result natural composting does???????

                1. re: Gio

                  My understanding is that what can be put into the compost does have to do with the size and age of the compost "pile." You can read more about San Francisco's program here:

                  It's pretty great and along with the curbside recycling program really amazingly reduces the total garbage waste we throw out each week.

                  1. re: Gio

                    I think meat and dairy products tend to smell bad and attract insect/rodent pests. These would be a bigger problem in a home compost pile than an industrial one.

                    I think they don't want feces b/c the compost is used to grow food--nightsoil (especially animal waste from carnivores or people) is generally a bad idea for food products. Herbivore waste decomposes much more easily.

            2. I live in Edmonton where the majority of the garbage (excluding hard things) ends up in an industrial composter. So even if I forget to save my coffee grounds or vegetable peelings for my backyard compose, I can rest easily knowing it will get composed and end up in some farmers' field.

              Before this system, the city did a test run with separating yard waste, but does not need to now as it all goes in to the industrial composter. They also pick up Christmas trees and shred them for use of park trails.

              But the sad thing that even with composing and recycling, huge amounts still end up in the land fill and most people don't seem to care.

              1. lgss, I live in Boston and hadn't heard about this yet. It sounds intriguing! But a five mile You're good. Anyway, is there only one site for all of Cambridge? Do Cambridge residents get to use the finished compost if they want? How does that work? Would love to get updates from you.

                5 Replies
                1. re: powella

                  Why no worm bin? It's a cinch to use. I'm a renter with a small yard and I have a worm bin right outside my back door. We had one growing up, and my mom loved to hand the scrap container to any visiting kids and tell them to go feed Bobby and Susie and their friends...

                  In my case, I'd get charged to belong to the local food waste program, so I just compost my own stuff. I wish the city would just pay for the program, but it involves another trash can and so another round of picking up cans...

                  1. re: Vetter

                    We live in a tiny house with an even tinier yard. Sidewalk in front, sidewalk and perm paver patio on the side we have access to (we have to walk around 2 houses to get to our "back" yard ,a 17" strip and the neighbors on the other side have a sidewalk which abuts our house, partially on our tiny strip of property on that side) and only a postage stamp worth of soil. We're vegan (think lots of banana peel, broccoli bark, etc) so would make more than we could deal with.

                  2. re: powella

                    During the trial phase there is currently only one drop-off location. I've suggested a location closer to us in case they get enough participation to expand. I don't know if Cambridge residents get to use the finished compost, I don't think they've gotten that far yet.
                    Here's a link with details. Maybe you can get Boston to do it, too! I heard about it from Cambridge Green Decade. MCAN (MA Climate Action Network) might be a place to look for others in Boston who would be interested.

                    1. re: lgss

                      This doesn't really help in Cambridge, but Boston sells compost bins -- it's listed as $45 for the compost bins right now but I would swear when I bought mine l(along with a closable bucket for in-kitchen use) last spring it was cheaper so there may be better deal closer to gardening season. The bins can be adjusted for size -- I used the smallest size because the yard is small and the amount of sun limited. I compost most vegetable scraps (not banana or citrus peels) but am scrupulous about avoiding dairy and meat scraps because of rats. No problems so far, and I don't want any...


                      1. re: Dizzied

                        Cambridge is giving the food scrap containers for free.