Harwich To Start Collecting Food Scraps

by William F. Galvin
Diane DiGennaro of the Garden Club of Harwich displays a type of container that can be used to collect food scraps for composting. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO Diane DiGennaro of the Garden Club of Harwich displays a type of container that can be used to collect food scraps for composting. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH – A new form of recycling will get underway on July 1 at the town’s transfer station. Food scraps, which are not currently recycled in Harwich, will be collected and composted.

The program has been initiated by the Garden Club of Harwich working with the town’s department of public works.

The food scraps will be collected and composted by a company called Black Earth, said Priscilla Perkins of the garden club. “We are very excited about this and are trying to get the word out to Harwich citizens.”

Every year the garden club’s conservation committee focuses on a new environmentally friendly initiative that will benefit the town, said Diane DiGennaro. Previous initiatives included adding 90 trees in town and making people aware of drought-resistant plants.

“Harwich is one of four towns on the Cape that doesn’t offer a food scrap collection program,” DiGennaro said.

A garden club survey received 371 responses from year-round residents and found that 59 percent of respondents take food scraps to the transfer station and throw them away in the trash. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they would like to participate in a food scrap collection program.

Club members approached Department of Public Works Director Lincoln Hooper with the proposal and he was very supportive, DiGennaro said. Currently, food scraps go with the trash to be incinerated, releasing methane and carbon dioxide, and the ash created is buried in a landfill in Bourne, she said.

Gov. Maura Healey has set a goal of reducing the amount of food scraps disposed of in trash by 30 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. With this program, Harwich can help to meet those goals, said DiGennaro. An average family of four throws out $150 worth of food a month, she added.

While the DPW has a yard waste composting program at the disposal area, it does not allow vegetables to be composted. The new food scraps program will allow that and much more.

The food scrap program will collect leftovers, spoiled food, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, seafood, even bones and shells, cooking oils and grease. Household items such as small wood items like toothpicks, popsicle sticks ,chopsticks, wine corks (not plastic), sawdust, and small wood containers can also be composted. Pet waste from rabbits, chickens, Guinea pigs, hamsters and birds can be processed, but not from dogs and cats. Napkins and paper towels, combustible tableware and utensils are also acceptable.

Items not accepted include packaging, no plastic, and no milk, juice or ice cream containers that have hidden plastic foil components. Stickers and rubber bands are also prohibited. Compostable products must be compost certified.

Black Earth does a lot of work in Eastern Massachusetts, collecting organic waste, primarily food scraps, and turning it into nutrient rich compost to grow more food, according to its website.

DiGennaro said removing 30 percent of the contents of the town’s trash, which generates methane gas and carbon dioxide, will help to combat climate change, which stands to cost the town a substantial amount in coastal resilience and other efforts. The soil created by Black Earth will also capture carbon, she added.

Hooper said the town of Dennis last year Dennis processed about 13 tons of food scraps. The scraps are placed in a tote and Black Earth comes by periodically to pick up full containers.

“A quarter of the people who recycle in Dennis participate by recycling their food scraps,” said Hooper.

While it costs $200 a ton to remove the food scraps, and it costs the town about $120 per ton to dispose of trash, Hooper said there are benefits to the program, because it gets food out of the trash.

Disposal area foreman Cody Grosse said signs at the transfer station will direct people to the totes in which the scraps will go. The plan is to see how the system flows, or whether they will have to make some adjustments.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the residents,” said Grosse.

Hooper said an informational flier detailing the program was distributed in the last quarterly water bill issued by the town.

The food scrap program encourages participation by local residents who have a sticker and make trips to the transfer station. DiGennaro said Black Earth is willing to do curbside collections if 100 residents sign up. It will cost $180 a year, she said.

DiGennaro said the garden club’s conservation committee is filled with activists who are looking to expand the food scraps program to the local school district and to restaurants in the future.