, Salem, MA

November 12, 2013

City to launch compost program

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — Got compost?

The city of Salem will launch a pilot program for curbside pickup of compostable organic matter this spring.

Up to 1,500 Salem households will receive a 12-gallon bin to collect kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, pizza boxes and other biodegradable items to put them out to the curb with their weekly trash and recycling.

The pilot program — similar to ones already in place in Hamilton, Wenham and Ipswich — comes after 220 residents expressed interest in curbside composting in an online survey organized by the Salem Recycling Committee.

Like recycling, compost pickup is a way to reduce the city’s trash tonnage.

“It really helps preserve resources,” said Julie Rose, the recycling committee’s business manager. “It eventually would reduce costs down the road (and) take things out of the waste stream. Environmentally, it’s the right thing to do, and people have shown an interest in it.”

The compost bins, covered by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, will have wheels and locking lids. Participants will also receive a smaller countertop container for collecting kitchen scraps.

Details — such as how soon the program will begin, where the compost would go and what items could be composted — are yet to be worked out. Rose said a team at City Hall will begin meeting this week to organize the program.

In Hamilton, Wenham and Ipswich, compost is picked up by the town’s trash hauler and taken to Brick Ends farm in Hamilton. Residents, in turn, are able to get free finished compost for their gardens from Brick Ends.

Salem’s director of public services, John Tomasz, was previously the public works director in Hamilton, so he’s familiar with the program.

Salem was awarded MassDEP grants this fall to cover the cost of compost bins and a liaison to plan and carry out the pilot program.

The city’s recycling committee will spread the word about the compost program this spring, Rose said.

Salem’s newly adopted mandatory recycling policy took effect July 1. The program’s initial 90-day grace period has lapsed, and the city has sent “several hundred” letters to households that have failed to recycle or have put nonrecyclable items in their bins this fall, Rose said.

Recycling Coordinator Jeff Cohen has also distributed 6,000 door hangers, in English and Spanish, explaining the program.

With mandatory recycling in place, curbside composting is “the next step” to remove items from Salem’s waste stream, Rose said.

“People have responded pretty positively (to mandatory recycling),” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity for the city to help educate people. People, in general, want to do the right thing.”

The policy, adopted by the City Council in May, carries a $25 fine for residents who repeatedly fail to put recycling on the curb. Households are fined only after they fail to put recycling out to the curb for eight consecutive weeks, which means the first fines couldn’t be issued until December.

Residents interested in participating in the composting pilot program this spring should take the survey posted at or contact Julie Rose at or 978-619-5679.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.