By Kelly J. Cooper
Not everyone has the time, the energy, or the space to compost food scraps, but there are options beyond the yard-based composter. Some indoor and apartment-friendly options include maintaining a worm bin or using countertop electricity-assisted composters. If those options are too intimidating, you might consider a private collection service.
Somerville is served by at least four different companies, which pick up buckets of food scraps and offer some amount of composted material in return. Getting compost back is optional of course, and if you don’t need it, you might consider donating it to your local community garden or asking friends if they need some.
In alphabetical order, these organizations are: Black Earth Compost; Bootstrap Compost; City Compost; and Garbage to Garden.
To start with the most obvious difference, there’s cost. Note that each company might have changed its price (or offered a sale price) since I last checked. At least one service offers a lifetime membership.
- Black Earth Compost: $13.99 a month or $69.99 for six months ($11.67 a month).
- Bootstrap Compost: $11 a week or $15 every two weeks.
- City Compost: $5 a week, $7 for biweekly service, or $9 a month.
- Garbage to Garden: $15 a month.
Next, there’s the container. Most services use five-gallon buckets (usually with a compostable liner), which they provide either for free or for a small fee. The exception is Black Earth Composting, which requires you to buy one of two kits from them. The $38 Starter Kit (which they strongly recommend) includes a 13-gallon curbside bin with locking lid and wheels plus 15 liners for the curbside bin and 30 liners for your own countertop container. The $16 Apartment Starter Kit includes one or two four-gallon curbside bins with lids and 24 bin liners.
What will they compost?
Black Earth Compost offers a detailed list of what they will and will not compost, but they will accept any food items (including meat) plus paper napkins and towels soiled by food waste.
Bootstrap accepts any food items (including meat) plus paper napkins and towels soiled by food waste; coffee grounds, filters, tea-bags, and biodegradable café items; compostable cutlery; and small yard clippings and flowers. They do not accept metal, plastic, rubber, or used tissues (this last due to COVID-19 concerns).
City Compost offers a detailed list of what they will and will not compost, but they will accept any food items (including meat) plus paper napkins and towels soiled by food waste; tea bags (no staples, no tags); compostable takeout containers; house plants; flowers; toothpicks; popsicle sticks; untreated pet or human hair; plain paper; coffee grounds and filters; wet or dry pet food; and bedding from vegetarian pets (such as rabbits and hamsters).
Garbage to Garden offers a detailed list of what they will and will not compost, but they will accept any food items (including meat) plus paper napkins and towels soiled by food waste; pet hair; laundry lint; and clean, non-glossy paper. They do not accept plastics; Styrofoam; chemicals; metals; glass; pet waste; diapers; plastic wrap; inorganic materials; brush or sticks thicker than a pencil.
Garbage to Garden also accepts used cooking oil if you put it out separately. They take it to Maine Standard Biofuels where it will be refined into biodiesel and Bioheat Home Heating Oil. Also created during the process of refining the waste fats and oils is Wicked Strong Soap, a powerful de-greaser that they use to wash their buckets.
Do you get compost in return?
Black Earth Compost offers an annual voucher for a 26-quart (6.5-gallon) bag of compost, redeemable at certain hardware stores and garden centers around New England, of which the nearest appears to be in Belmont.
Bootstrap delivers up to six five-pound shares of “premium soil amendment” per year, upon request.
City Compost offers compost in return on a rolling basis. Every month active composters can receive free finished compost based upon the material picked up in the previous six months.
Garbage to Garden subscribers can request a bag of compost with service every week. They bag compost at their shop, and each bag provides about two and a half gallons.
Where do they do the composting?
Each service composts in multiple locations around New England. From information on their websites it is difficult to estimate how far their trucks travel. If the subject concerns you, I suggest contacting them to discuss it.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 edition of the SGC newsletter – which is one of the many perks of being a member. If you are not yet a member, consider joining today!