City to begin food waste collection in schools

Plans are nearly complete for a new food waste collection program in the Quincy Public Schools. The program will begin as a pilot at one school this fall, expand to a second school in the spring, and continue to expand into more schools. The next step in the process is to hire a part-time K-12 Food Waste Diversion/Compost Program Manager, who will be tasked with managing the operation, conducting waste audits, and creating educational programs for students and staff. Applicants should apply online.

QCAN has encouraged the implementation of food waste collection for years. Several QCAN members served on the mayor’s task force created in 2018 to research curbside food waste pickup. The task force engaged in many fact-finding activities, including conducting interviews and onsite visits to learn how other food waste collection programs function. The results of their extensive research were compiled in a report that was submitted to the mayor’s office this spring and is tentatively scheduled for presentation to the City Council on November 21. Their report supports collecting food waste not only in the schools, but city-wide, as is done in Cambridge and several other towns and cities in the commonwealth.  

Why collect food waste separately? Quincy’s trash is sent to an incinerator and burned as waste for energy. However, due to the high water content of food waste, burning it uses more energy than it creates — and that moisture also makes it heavy, adding extra expense to the city’s trash bill. Collecting and composting food scraps instead of throwing them out is a better alternative that benefits everyone, including the planet. It not only reduces how much the city will pay for trash removal, it puts the food waste to work, reinvesting those nutrients into our increasingly depleted topsoil. Food scraps can be made into compost that feeds our gardens so we can grow more food. How cool is that?

Another option for organics separation is to send food waste to an anaerobic digester, as the City of Cambridge does, where it is then made into a biogas. Generating energy from food waste is also a better option than simply dumping food waste into the trash.

During these challenging days of severe weather due to climate change, many of us wonder what we can do to reduce our impact on the planet. A first step is to stop putting food waste in the trash; food in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The Quincy Department of Public Works offers compost bins at a reduced rate, if backyard composting is feasible for you (call 617-376-1953 or email for information). If not, consider joining the 200-plus Quincy residents who are already putting their food scraps out for curbside collection by a private company and receiving compost in return. Also, write to the mayor and your city councilors to let them know you support reducing greenhouse gas emissions by creating city-wide food waste collection.

Please help spread the word about the benefits of collecting food waste in QCAN’s Composting Fact Sheet. There is also lots of information on the MassDEP website. Be more informed so you can take action that’s appropriate for you. 

– Ruth T. Davis, QCAN Member

(Image by Freepik)