No Compost Bin? No Problem: An Alternative Way to Turn Your Food Scraps into Compost

I really want to compost. I even bought this functional plastic bin with a lid and some compostable biodegradable bag liners. I shoved the bin under my sink and threw in some scraps. Then the scraps got stinky and moldy because I couldn’t get to the next step, so I threw them in the garbage, wrought with guilt and confusion. Does this sound familiar? It’s all too familiar for me and I often think: Wouldn’t it be great if I could wave a wand and “poof” those scraps were turned into compost?”

While wand waving doesn’t work in our Muggle world, there is an alternative for the compost-challenged. EcoRI (ecoRI.org), a local news sources for all things environmental, started the state’s first residential composting program. For a reasonable fee, ecoRI’s compost service will come to your door and pick up your food scraps. They send those scraps to local urban farms in Providence and Pawtucket, which turn them into compost. And you, responsible citizen, receive a five-gallon bucket of compost each spring as a thank you. Customers can choose from weekly or bi-weekly pick-ups, the latter being a mere $16 per month. They couldn’t make it any easier, making me giddy at the genius of this operation. But does anyone actually buy in?

I spoke to the program’s director Kevin Proft. He told me that the program, which has been in operation for almost three years now, has a consistent base of 100 to 110 customers, all located in Providence, Pawtucket and the Edgewood and Pawtuxet neighborhoods of Cranston. Many customers live in apartments and therefore have no space in which to compost on their own.  And some, like me, just can’t take that next step from scrap collection to compost bin, for whatever reason.

When I first heard about the program, I assumed customers would be motivated by the end product: the compost. Not so, Kevin tells me. Most of his customers don’t even collect their compost; instead they’re motivated by environmental concerns and a desire to financially support ecoRI. Given that our landfills are overflowing with trash, they will, according to ecoRI, reach capacity within our lifetime. Aside from space concerns, all that garbage breaks down and releases methane into the air, contributing to poor air quality and global warming. Since approximately 14% of that trash is food scraps, composting those scraps instead of throwing them in the trash helps lessen their environmental impact. To date, this compost service has turned over 55,000 pounds of food scraps into compost – not shabby for less than three years  of work.

While there are companies that handle commercial food scraps, ecoRI’s compost service seems to be the only of its kind for residential consumers. Unfortunately for those of us living in the ‘burbs, the program is limited in both size and scale. As a matter of fact, they currently have a waiting list, though I hear it moves quickly as turnover is fairly consistent. Maybe one day the program will be expanded and offer statewide coverage. In the meantime, however, the rest of us need to head to Home Depot and pick up our own composting bin since sadly, those food scraps aren’t going to compost themselves.

If you’re looking for composting tips, check out the EPA’s website: epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

And check out these other unusual ways you can recycle!

Eco-Depot

Maybe you’re gearing up for some spring cleaning or maybe you’re just jumping on the decluttering bandwagon. But after you’ve determined that the half empty container of pesticide sitting in your garage does not bring you joy and before you casually toss it in the trash, think carefully. The things in your garage or under your sink might be more hazardous than you realize. There are the obvious ones you know should stay out of landfills — fertilizer, paint and pool chemicals — but things like your pet’s old flea collar or that nearly empty bottle of last year’s nail polish also need to be disposed of properly. Unfortunately, too many people embrace the “a little bit won’t hurt” mentality when getting rid of their hazardous trash. But small bits of household waste add up to be a major threat to the environment. For example, Americans collectively dump 192 million gallons of used motor oil into the environment every year. Quick trivia question: How many gallons of oil were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Reported totals vary, but it wasn’t much more than 192 million gallons. That puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?

We know you want to do the right thing even though there isn’t a 24-hour oil spill cam broadcasting from your basement (ahem, BP). Luckily, Eco-Depot is here to help. Eco-Depot provides a free service to Rhode Island residents who want to get rid of their hazardous chemicals responsibly. They have several drop-off locations in the state and all you have to do is make a Saturday appointment to shed your hazardous waste. Their appointment model allows you to get in and out in 15 minutes — plenty of time to make your brunch reservation — and Eco-Depot will recycle or dispose of your waste according to state and federal regulations. To make an appointment, go to rirrc.org/ecodepot.

Recycle-a-Bike

Even the thought of getting rid of that dusty old bike in your garage hurts, doesn’t it? But who do you think you’re kidding? You’re not riding that thing again. Why not give that bike new life by donating it to Recycle-a-Bike? As long as it isn’t too rusty and looks like it could be repaired, Recycle-a-Bike will accept your donation and either use it to teach others the fine art of bike repair or refurbish it and give it to those in need. Your donation will keep trash out of the landfills, teach people a new skill, and get more bikes (and hopefully fewer cars) on the road.

 

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