Letter: Composting will save the town thousands

Posted 8/27/21

I am writing this letter in response to the editorial of Aug. 11 “The cost of composting." I believe that your criticism of the Barrington Town budget allocation of $5,000 for a composting …

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Letter: Composting will save the town thousands


I am writing this letter in response to the editorial of Aug. 11 “The cost of composting." I believe that your criticism of the Barrington Town budget allocation of $5,000 for a composting initiative is both uninformed and short sighted.

Barrington citizens also approved an annual budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 that includes $1,006,795 for refuse and recycling pickup and additional tipping fees of $379,500 totaling close to $1.4 million. Over time, these fees are likely to increase. Compounding this troubling reality is that Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation estimates that the landfill where the refuse from RI goes is expected to reach capacity by 2034. We are running out of time and are late in the implementation of solutions.

Waste, like food scraps and yard debris, makes up 30-35 percent of the material filling up our landfill. These organic materials are compostable. That does not mean they will decompose in a landfill, since they get compacted and buried deep in refuse where decomposition cannot occur. A cabbage can survive for decades in these anaerobic conditions.

The relatively small investment in Barrington Community and Farm School Composting is intended to reduce waste, increase composting, increase food scrap collection, and increase awareness about food waste reduction. The program will be administered by the Barrington Farm School and endorsed by the Barrington Conservation Commission (of which I am a member). According to Tim Faulkner, President of Barrington Farm School Board of Directors, the all-volunteer compost program at BFS has been in operation for several years and saved the school district and town at least this cost ($5,000) and educated dozens of students of all grades and ages about food and the environment. Sustainability and education are part of the mission of BFS so using an e-bike is another tool for helping students think in new ways.

An example of an initiative that began with volunteers and 74 families and evolved to town-wide composting is that of Hamilton, Mass. In 2008, Hamilton initiated a volunteer-led pilot program to compost organic waste. Data generated from this pilot found that organic materials amounted to 30 percent of the solid waste stream. On Oct. 1, 2009, SalemNews.com reported the new waste reduction program helped reduce waste by 30 percent and saved the town of Hamilton an estimated $70,000 in the first year of the waste reduction program. The program has undergone several revisions since and continues to meet the town’s waste reduction goals of reducing both waste and costs.

Planning for the new Community/BFS composting program is ongoing and nearing the point where an official announcement and invitation to all to participate will be given. I encourage everyone to consider joining in this worthwhile effort. It is hoped that in the future, Barrington will have adopted multiple ways to reduce additional waste and costs by composting most degradable items.

Jorie Allen, Ph.D

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