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Leverett composting program at transfer station will benefit local farms

Transfer station supervisor Orson Jones explains how the program will work to a resident who has arrived to dispose of other trash.

Transfer station supervisor Orson Jones explains how the program will work to a resident who has arrived to dispose of other trash.

LEVERETT — The Leverett transfer station will begin a composting program this month that will allow residents to dispose of their organic waste for free in special bins.

The material will be sent to local farms for processing and use in the fields, said Neil Brazeau, the station’s coordinator, who added he expects the program to be a money-saver.

“It’s a great opportunity to move into the 21st century with proper disposal of organic material,” Brazeau said. “It shouldn’t be rotting away in landfills.”

Towns are charged by the ton to send their trash to local landfills or waste plants and last year Leverett paid about $13,000, Brazeau said. Removing organic waste, which tends to be heavy, could result in a substantial reduction, he said.

In addition, Leverett residents pay 10 cents per pound to dispose of their trash in the compactor, and must package it in special bags that cost $2 each. By separating and dumping organic waste for free, they save money, he said. It will cost the town about $1,200 to empty the two-cubic yard composting bin each week.

Farms and businesses that will receive organic waste from Leverett’s program include Martin’s Farm in Greenfield, Clearview Composting in Warren and Farmer’s Friend in Belchertown.

The program’s success will hinge on the volume of organic waste people bring each week, he said. To reap the full benefits, the two-yard composting bin must be filled on a weekly basis.

“From the trash I see coming in, I know at least part of that volume is there. It’s just going to be about getting people to separate it,” Brazeau said.

If demand exceeds the capacity of the bin, Brazeau said the town may consider purchasing a three- or five-cubic yard bin.

Even those who compost their organic waste at home can benefit from the town program as it will take items not suitable for the typical compost bin, he said. Industrial composters have equipment that can process materials such as cat litter, bones from meat and fish, cardboard and paper.

According to Brazeau, the Leverett transfer station collects between 20 and 30 pounds of cat litter per household each month. Other compostable materials include vegetable and plant matter, dairy products, eggshells, sawdust bedding and other non-recyclable paper products, such as the fibrous material egg cartons are made from and wax-coated cardboard.

Materials that are not compostable include plastics and plastic-coated paper products, metals and glass. Brazeau said certain plastic bottles that are labeled biodegradable will not be accepted either because farm operations cannot distinguish them from typical plastic.

“They just reject them, so we want to stay away from those,” he said.

Additionally, cardboard cartons that contain milk and juices also are not compostable, due to the plastic coating inside.

If the program is successful, Brazeau said, he would like to see the elementary school included by either having the organic waste generated there brought to the transfer station bin or placed in additional bins on the school grounds.

Four of the 22 towns that are in the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District that Leverett belongs to already have implemented similar programs at their own transfer stations.

Whately, Northfield, New Salem and Orange have composting programs, according to Amy Donovan, the district’s program director. Greenfield, though not a member, has a program based on the district’s model, she said.

Towns that have started programs have experienced a decrease in their trash-hauling costs, said Donovan. “We’re seeing a savings in significant amounts of money, because towns are paying up to $75 a ton to dispose of trash, whereas compost facilities charge just a fraction of that.”

Donovan said that the state’s new commercial food waste disposal ban takes effect on Oct. 1. It requires businesses and institutions that dispose of at least one ton of organic material per week to donate or repurpose the usable food, with the remains shipped to an anaerobic digestion facility to be converted to energy or sent to composting and animal-feed operations. Along with the ban, she said, will come a number of state grants for organic waste management projects to help more towns develop their own composting programs.

“There’s a big push from the state to do more, and they’re really putting some funding behind this,” she said. “They don’t want to see this stuff go to trash or landfills.”

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