Recycling Know No’s: May is Learn to Compost Month

May 4, 2023

by Liz Antanavica, Trash & Recycling Administrator, Bedford DPW

Compost is a modern day buzz word, but don’t be embarrassed if you’re not really familiar or comfortable with the concept. When you hear this term, you are most likely talking about “organics diversion” or keeping food scraps out of the trash.

Composting is very much a natural process that occurs completely on its own, without human intervention. Think about all that decomposition when you walk through a forest understory. The fallen leaves are broken down by decomposers and natural processes to feed the soil and the plants that grow it in. New growth results from these added nutrients, which will eventually fall back to the forest floor to start the cycle anew. In nature, through composting, nothing is wasted. 

Because most of us get our food from a grocery store rather than grow it ourselves, that natural cycle is somewhat disrupted. Where a farmer might have a compost pile, the grocery store typically has a trash can. Although our uneaten food has taken a detour, we can still help complete the natural cycle of decomposition by composting what we don’t eat instead of throwing it in the trash. 

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This year, the theme for International Compost Awareness Week (May 7-13) is “For Heathier Soil, Healthier Food…Compost!” Composting food waste and then returning that finished material to the soil has a range of benefits including improving soil nutrition and texture, reduced need for chemical fertilizers, increasing soil water holding capacity, improving water quality and aiding in carbon storage within the soil structure. All this while also reducing the amount of trash material sent to landfill or incineration.

Diverting food waste can be a simple process. Start small – keep a bowl on your counter when preparing dinner and add vegetable trimmings, onion peels or even paper towels (without chemical cleaners). At the end of your meal, scrape off any uneaten plate waste into this bowl, too. The contents of this bowl can go directly into an outdoor compost bin, a curbside collection container or into the freezer to be dropped off at the Compost & Recycling Center later in the week. Even committing to this separation on the weekend when you may have more time is a valuable contribution. Your household trash will be neater and less smelly without food waste in it. For households that regularly use overflow bags, you may find that by composting you reduce the overall trash volume and save money, too.

How to Compost

The Trash and Recycling page has recently been updated with new resources to help aspiring composters at any level get comfortable with food waste diversion. Below are some ways you can participate:

New Age Compost bins for outdoor use are available at a subsidized price of $45 each. View MassDEP’s printable guide for step by step instruction on starting your own backyard compost pile.

Bedford Residents who sign up for curbside service with Black Earth Compost can pick up a free starter kit ($34 value) at the DPW Building, 314 Great Rd (8AM-4PM, Monday-Friday). The cost for service is currently $80.99/6 months. This price drops for everyone at the next renewal period when Bedford reaches 500 subscribers.

Public Works is looking for residents interested in a drop-off pilot program to divert food waste out of the trash. Interested residents should fill out the online interest form. Priority will be given to residents without backyard space for composting or financial hardship.

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