Expanding composting capabilities on the Cape is the focus of the Barnstable County Food Waste Subcommittee of the Cape and Islands Health Agents Coalition, started late last year.
The committee, headed by David Quinn, municipal assistance coordinator for Barnstable County/MassDEP and Amy L. Alati at the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, includes trash haulers, county officials and small business owners interested in food waste composting on the Cape.
“We are at an early stage to identify potential locations to have pilot compost facilities,” Mr. Quinn said.
The committee formed in response to the Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban, which went into effect October 1, 2014, that requires businesses producing one ton or more of food waste each week to divert that waste to a composting facility rather than hauling it to a landfill.
Last year, Mr. Quinn held a workshop for the Cape and Islands Health Agents Coalition to discuss the ban. A concern that came out of the meeting was that there were not enough places on the Cape to divert organic waste.
“Falmouth is different with Compost With Me and Watts Family Farm, but these are only two businesses on the Cape that compost organics,” Mr. Quinn said. The other end of the Cape lacks infrastructure to deal with food waste.”
Ms. Alati wanted to provide health agents with information and referrals if, during a restaurant inspection, they find the food waste ban applies. For many businesses this may only occur during peak season.
“It’s an example of the cart coming before the horse,” Ms. Alati said. “Waste reduction is good, but a question is how do you help local businesses achieve that under this ban?”
The committee is looking for three sites, one each on the upper, middle and outer Cape, to run smaller scale pilot projects to compost food waste. Mr. Quinn said possible locations could be municipal leaf composting sites or small farms. There are potential grants available to run a pilot project.
Lorenzo Macaluso with the Center for EcoTechnology, a nonprofit organization that has a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to support businesses and institutions with recycling programs through the RecyclingWorks program, said that he did not have the number of businesses impacted by the food waste ban on Cape Cod. However, a DEP analysis estimated that about 1,700 to 2,000 businesses statewide would be regulated under the ban.
Mary Bunker Ryther, owner of Compost With Me in West Falmouth, is also on the committee. Her company picks up food waste from local restaurants and businesses for composting. From her experience, local Falmouth businesses do not produce enough food waste to fall under the ban, but summer months may be different. She is finding that certain businesses choose the composting route to dispose of organic waste, such as Atria Woodbriar, which she has a contract with.
“Atria is not producing this level,” Ms. Ryther said. “They are motivated by their own philosophy and mission to do things in a sustainable way.”
Composting could make business sense to smaller and larger companies. Mr. Quinn estimates that food waste makes up 20 percent of a business’s waste stream. Removing food waste and putting it to good use could have a financial and cost benefit, he said.
“If we had infrastructure on the Cape, it could be more cost effective in the long run for restaurants to separate out food waste,” Mr. Quinn said.
Mr. Macaluso has found it is either cost neutral or a modest cost savings to divert food waste for companies producing a ton or more per week that he has worked with.
Overall Massachusetts has enough composting facilities to meet the state’s needs, Mr. Macaluso said, but providing more infrastructure to the Cape is a topic that has come up.
“One of the things to focus on are hauling services,” Mr. Macaluso said.
These services are key to making composting available to more customers, he said.
More help may be coming in the form of a larger scale facility. Bourne has plans to install an anaerobic digestor, which converts organic waste to bio-gas at the town’s Integrated Solid Waste Management site off MacArthur Boulevard.