by Nathan Strout, Times Record staff
Times Record news story
BATH — Bath’s landfill won’t be able to take the city’s waste forever.
That’s one reason why Bath launched a public composting project nearly two years ago to prevent organic trash from taking up space and filling the landfill sooner.
“Someday the city’s landfill is going to close. I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” said Bath Public Works Director Lee Leiner. “At that time, the price is going to be a lot higher for trash disposal and the more tons we can get diverted to cheaper processing means results in a lower bill to the taxpayers. So if we can kind of get people used to the idea, get them into the habit of diverting their organic material — arguably the heaviest single portion of the average waste stream from a home–that’s going to equate to a lot of tons when that day comes.”
In March of 2017, the city contracted with Garbage to Garden to place a public composting bin near the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. Any Bath resident can dump organic, compostable material in the six public composting bins at no cost. That material is picked up by Garbage to Garden and taken to its facilities for composting.
In the less than two years since the program launched, Garbage to Gardens has collected nearly 15 tons of compostable waste. According to Leiner, the program has been a success and a welcome addition to the city’s efforts to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.
“Any amount we collect in those containers is a success. We didn’t really have a lot of expectations because we just had no experience with it at all in Bath,” said Leiner. “Every town is different and you don’t know what the culture is going to be like.”
Since introducing the first public composting bin in 2017, the city has added several more to keep up with demand. The city now has six bins at its original location and two more in the south end.
In 2017, Garbage to Garden collected 4.6 tons of compostable material. And through November of this year, the company has collected another 7.9 tons of compostable material.
While that sounds like a lot of trash, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to how much solid waste the landfill receives every year. In 2017, the city dumped 8,000 tons of municipal waste in the landfill, 1,000 tons of which came from the city’s curbside collections program. Still, every cubic foot of landfill space saved saves the city money.
“It’s cheaper than the value of every cubic yard of space we create in the landfill,” said Leiner.
Bath has spent $4,720 on the composting program for 2018.
The 15-ton figure also doesn’t account for the organic waste composted outside of the public bins. Some residents pay Garbage to Gardens for curbside pickup of their compostable materials, while other residents have their own private compost piles. The city doesn’t track how much material is composted, and therefore kept out of the landfill, through those two methods.
In addition, Bath has implemented a number of programs to divert solid waste away from the landfill and toward cheaper and greener options. Leiner said that when the city implemented its pay-as-you-throw program, the amount of waste going to the landfill from curbside collections was cut in half — from 2,000 tons to 1,000 tons annually.
“We have here the pay as you throw trashbag program. We also have a full curbside recycling program, so it’s a pretty good overall program in Bath already,” said Leiner.
As the landfill nears its end, Leiner sees composting as a growing part of the city’s efforts to find other ways to dispose of solid waste.
“Hopefully it sort of snowballs as we go into the future,” said Leiner. “That’s long-term success.”