Schools Could Test Composting Program


A pilot initiative to measure the effectiveness of a municipal composting programming in Quincy could begin in one of the city’s eleven elementary schools.

John Sullivan, a member of the task force that has studied the feasibility of bringing a municipal composting program to the city for the past seven months, said the initiative would be a “win-win” because it would cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and potentially save the city money.

“If we break even, it’s a no-brainer,” Sullivan, who oversees the waste management program for the Department of Public Works, said in a phone interview.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

The task force has been meeting with various vendors who would help run the program, he said. Members have also visited schools in Cambridge, a community that runs a municipal composting program.

“Right now, we are just talking to people in the industry and getting numbers together to make sure it works,” Sullivan said. “We’re simply talking to vendors in the business and trying to get as much information as possible.”

There is no timeline yet for when the pilot program could begin, he stated. It would likely begin in one of the elementary schools because those students would learn about composting at a young age, Sullivan explained. Volunteers would be needed at the school to help students sort food waste from other trash in the cafeteria.

After the pilot program in the school, the initiative would likely be tested in a section of the city, Sullivan said; the goal would be to see if the composting program would be feasible.

“We will be able to tell if it is a serviceable model,” he said.

Cambridge began its municipal composting program in 2014, collecting food waste and other compostable material from 600 residences in the North Cambridge area. In the first year of its citywide program, 2018, Cambridge collected 1,800 tons of food scraps and reduced trash collected by 8 percent.

Cambridge sends it food waste and other compostable materials to a Charlestown facility where it is screened and blended into a slurry. The mixture is then placed in an anaerobic digester that breaks down the material into fertilizer. The methane released during the process is captured and burned for energy instead of being released into the atmosphere, which can happen when food waste is left to rot in a landfill.

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