Watertown residents will soon be able to compost their food waste with free curbside pickup. Registration is now open for those interested.
The Department of Public Works has partnered with Black Earth, which will do weekly curbside pickup of organic waste, said City Recycling Coordinator Anya Pforzheimer. They collect organic waste put out on the curb in 13-gallon green bins.
“Black Earth is an existing company and a lot of people in Watertown are used to them and pay for them. They have service in a lot of communities in the area,” Pforzheimer said. “(The City of) Watertown is choosing to take over those subscriptions and cover the cost of additional residents who want to enroll.”
The DPW began publicizing the curbside composting program in late June and it has already proved popular. The DPW set a goal of getting 1,500 participants the first year and as of last week more than 1,260 households had signed up, Pforzheimer said.
The program will be free for all participants, including existing customers of Black Earth, Pforzheimer said. Residents must opt-in to participate. Currently, the program is available to anyone living in a residence with one to four units.
In August, the DPW will provide starter kits, Pforzheimer said, which include a 13-gallon curbside bin, a set of compostable bags, and most likely a countertop bin.
“When we get all the bins in we will either deliver them on (trash) routes, or have them at the DPW,” Pforzheimer said. “We will also have a starter kit roll of bags.”
At first, there will likely be just one pick up day each week for composting, so it will not line up with all residents’ trash and recycling day. When enough people sign up, Pforzheimer said, the day will be the same as trash and recycling pickups.
Residents will be able to compost a wide variety of food waste, not just vegetable matter.
“It is basically anything you can think of: organics, meat, bones, dairy, cheese, vegetables, paper towels, napkins, egg shells,” Pforzheimer said.
Things not allowed to be composted are yard waste (including grass clippings) and used tissues, in addition to non organic materials such as plastic and metals.
Pforzheimer sometimes is asked about rodent problems associated with composting. She said the bins deter animals.
“They have good snapping lids, which trash totes don’t have. It seals in odor, helps keep things in, and animals are not as interested,” Pforzheimer said. “Curbside compost collection is a change from the previous focus on backyard composting. Composting in your own yard is a great option, but the process of composting is both an art and science and can be more complicated than residents may want. Having the option for curbside collection means that anyone who wants to help divert food scraps out of their trash can now participate. It also opens up the option to residents who may not have their own yard.”
One reason the DPW chose to go with curbside organics is to reduce the amount of trash being collected.
“The main reason (Public Works) Superintendent (Greg) St. Louis is interested in promoting and doing it is it puts us in line for the Massachusetts solid waste goals for 2030, in which we are trying to divert 30 percent of waste out of the solid waste stream. Now all the food is going into the trash and is being incinerated.”
The materials being composted will be picked up and taken to one of Black Earth’s locations in Massachusetts: Framingham, Groton and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Watertown’s waste will most likely go to Framingham, Pforzheimer said.
Black Earth’s full process of collecting organic material and creating finished compost out of it, contributes to nutrient recycling and food security. This cycle recovers the nutrients from food that would otherwise be lost to incineration, and allows individuals to use the finished compost to grow local and healthy food. Pforzheimer said that most likely the DPW will get a bulk delivery and residents can pick it up at the DPW Facility at 124 Orchard St.
To get more information about curbside composting and to register go to blackearthcompost.com/watertown.