New Haven Farm’s Composting Team is working on an innovative composting program that could save thousands per year, help reduce pollution, create “green” jobs and become a model for the state.
The team is working on developing its own soil by collecting food waste and creating a composting operation. Currently the farms have to import soil from other sources because the city’s soil is contaminated with lead and arsenic. If the project receives the necessary permits from the city and state, this composting initiative will be the first of its kind in Connecticut. It could serve as a model for other composting endeavors around the state.
The project, spearheaded by Compost Team Leader Domingo Medina and Justine Appel, Yale University’s President’s Public Service Fellow and member of the composting team, have been researching and conducting surveys on the viability of launching this program in two New Haven neighborhoods, Prospect Hill and East Rock. “We want to be able to generate soil for our farm sites,” says Domingo. “It’s expensive to buy and costs us thousands per year to import the soil to our farms.”
In the past, Connecticut took away waste and dumped it into landfills, but the state has moved toward incinerating waste, Domingo says. This may appear as a solution to piling garbage in landfills, but burning it adds to air pollution and health problems, he says. The initial response from families involved in the pilot program is very positive, he says. Food waste would be gathered from about 100 families on a weekly basis and composted nearby. New Haven Farms would hire two people on a part-time basis to pick up the food on bikes.
The team still has to obtain a location for the project, permits from the city and state and work out how much families are willing to pay for this service. Cities such as Boston and Washington, D.C. charge $8 per week for picking up food waste, Justine says. “A lot of people are interested and think it’s a good idea,” she says.
New Haven Farms’ composting project falls in line with an initiative recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Referred to as the “U.S. Food Waste Challenge,” the agencies are calling on producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and communities, to recycle food waste. The agencies recognize the enormous amount of food wasted in this country and are seeking creative solutions from communities.
The amount of food wasted in the United States is indeed staggering. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food (up to 40% of our food) from U.S. retail stores, restaurants and homes were not consumed and thrown away.
The tentative launch date for the composting project is slated for the end of summer or early fall.