Aspen, Pitkin County tackle food waste with composting
July 4, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen and Pitkin County residents and businesses now have access to local food composting pickup services, thanks to the purchase of a grinder for the county landfill.
The city and county obtained a $96,000 grant from the state for the compost grinder and related equipment, said Ashley Cantrell, city environmental health specialist. It turns out that the equipment was cheaper than estimated, so around $25,000 will return to the state government, she said.
“For years, the community has been saying, ‘I want to compost, I want to compost,’ but obviously it’s challenging to compost in your backyard with the wildlife issues we have,” Cantrell said.
“The landfill wasn’t set up to handle food waste on a regular basis. So we wrote a grant and got a grinder, and it’s at the landfill. We’ve been composting for the last two weeks,” she said.
To compost – an environmentally sound way of reducing the amount of garbage going to the landfill – residents and restaurants should separate fruit, vegetable, meat, seafood, bread, dairy, bone and paper waste products from their garbage and put it in a compost bucket. Then a waste hauler will pick it up (for a fee) and take it to the landfill, where the grinder will reduce it to a smaller mass and use it in the soil.
Businesses, homeowners and homeowner associations in the city and county that want to start composting can receive free collection bins from the city. At least three waste-haulers that currently provide local garbage pickup also will collect waste for composting. Prices and schedules vary depending on the company, Cantrell said.
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Restaurants and businesses also can realize money savings by composting, she said. Or, at least they will break even. Though they might pay an additional fee to add the composting services to their garbage-hauling contracts, it will reduce significantly the amount of noncomposted waste or “regular garbage” picked up, Cantrell said.
“Around 30 percent of residential waste could be composted, and that number can be as high as 70 percent for a restaurant,” she said. “When you think about restaurants, 60 to 70 percent of what they’re throwing away could be composted. If they start having compost picked up three or four days a week, and not as many trash pickups, they are going to see money savings. You’d rather produce compost than produce trash, from a cost-savings standpoint.”
One reason for starting the program, Cantrell said, is the large number of restaurants throughout the valley, especially in Aspen, that are eligible to participate.
“All of that food waste is just going into the landfill,” she said. “But it’s a really valuable product. If we can take it, we can make soil out of it. It’s better for the community that way – it’s not filling up our landfill.”
Aspen Meadows, Butcher’s Block, Boogie’s Diner and the Maroon Creek Club are composting already.
“We started it with restaurants; but in truth, it’s the residents that have really picked up and said this is really great,” Cantrell said.
Need help in getting your composting program running? Cantrell said she can provide the materials for training restaurant staff or family and roommates – in Spanish if necessary.
Participating waste-haulers so far include Evergreen Events, (970) 987-1364; Waste Management, (970) 384-6230; and Mountain Rolloffs, (970) 319-3453.
For more information, call Cantrell at (970) 429-1798 or email email@example.com.