By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Julie Rose has a free compost bin with your name on it.
Although about 625 households have signed up for the city’s pilot program for curbside pickup of compost, which began in April, Rose is on a mission to boost that number by year’s end.
“We’re hoping for 1,500,” she said.
That’s how many 12-gallon compost bins a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection provided for the program, in which participants collect biodegradable items like food scraps and eggshells for weekly pickup. The bins that haven’t been distributed by 2015 will be turned over to the state, though the program itself will last for two years.
Rose, business manager for the Salem Recycling Committee, said the program’s been going great so far and has resulted in 2 to 3 tons of waste being diverted from the trash stream each week, for a total of 26 tons. Since the city pays $64 a ton to dispose of waste in a Haverhill combustor, that’s a savings of about $1,700.
Composting is also good from an environmental standpoint, since it reduces the amount of trash that is incinerated and turns a potential waste into a resource, Rose said. The compost material is picked up by Black Earth Compost of Gloucester and distributed among six farms on the North Shore.
“The farmers love it because you’re adding nutrients again,” Rose said. “You’re taking it, and you’re actually making more earth.”
A lot of people participating in the program were already backyard composters, but now they can compost materials they weren’t able to before, like meat scraps, bones and fat, Rose said. Those items typically aren’t composted at home because they take so long to decompose and because they can attract animals.
“People love the program,” she said. “People have been incredibly cooperative.”
Other items that can be composted include seafood shells, coffee grounds and filters, gum, cooking oil, houseplants, human and animal hair, chopsticks, wine corks, wax paper, popsicle sticks and even fireplace ashes.
Rose said the program has run into only two problems so far, the first being that a handful of bins apparently have been stolen. They are bright green and orange and feature lockable lids and wheels.
“They’re cute,” said Rose. “They probably use them for storage.”
The other problem is that bags of dog waste have been in bins, likely from people dropping the bags into the bins while they are at the curb.
“Dog and cat waste are not compostable or recyclable,” Rose said.
Next April, people who have participated in the program for a year will be able to get some free finished compost, though how much remains to be seen. The program expires in 2016, after which it will be up to the mayor and City Council to decide whether it should become a permanent offering, Rose said.
People who are interested in the program can contact Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-619-5679.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at email@example.com or reach via Twitter at @NeilDempseySN.