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Boston Pilots Composting Program

boston skylineBoston is piloting its first public composting program, inviting residents to drop off compostable food scraps for free at three city farmers’ markets.

The program was inspired by feedback during community presentations around the city’s urban agricultural zoning amendment Article 89, and contributes to the city’s “Greenovate Boston” initiative, which seeks to educate the public on climate actions like recycling and waste management.

Times available for drop-off are limited: at the Harvard-Allston farmer’s market on Fridays between 3 p.m. and 7 pm. from August 9 to October 25; at Egleston Square on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. from August 10 to October 26; and at Bowdoin-Geneva on Thursdays between 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. from August 15 to October 31.

The composting program is being operated out of the Mayor’s Office of Environment and Energy and the Office of Food Initiatives, and supported by the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. For the three-month duration of the program, full-service waste hauler Renewable Waste Solutions will donate supplies and hauling services for transport to Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus, Massachusetts, where the collected scraps will be transformed into fertile soil for use in commercial and personal farming and gardening projects.

Food waste and organics make up 20% to 25% of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators, according to information put out by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. But consumers are just one source of food waste; a large portion of waste comes not from consumers but from the food industry.

Food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers threw away 4.1 billion pounds of food waste in 2011, according to data collected from the industry. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association conducted the study to provide a comprehensive assessment of the industry and to identify barriers to recycling food waste. The organizations ultimately want to reduce the volume of food waste sent to landfills.

With commercial food waste in mind, Massachusett’s Patrick has proposed a food waste ban that it hopes will help the state reach its goal of reducing the waste stream by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Starting in July 2014, when customers eat at a restaurant in Massachusetts, wasted food will not head for the trash, but will be converted into energy via anaerobic digesters, according to the proposed plans.

The commercial food waste ban will help the state reduce the volume it sends to landfill and will be in effect for any organization that sends a minimum of 1 ton of organic food waste per week. Under the new rules, such companies will be required to donate or re-purpose the food.

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a similar effort to reduce food waste, the Food Waste Challenge. The new program is aimed at reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. The initiative is expected to help meet NYC’s goal of diverting 75% of solid waste from landfills by 2030.

Food waste comprises one-third of New York City’s more than 20,000 tons of daily refuse.

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