Food fodder: Garbage for the greater good in Norway and Paris

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NORWAY/PARIS — Residents in Norway and Paris now have another way to reduce, reuse and recycle – this time by the way of their food scraps.

REDUCING WASTE — Warren Sessions, manager of Norway/Paris Solid Waste and Oxford County Recycling, stands in front of the two new compost bins from We Compost It! as the two towns have recently undertaken composting. Residents can bring their food scraps free of charge to the transfer station.
REDUCING WASTE — Warren Sessions, manager of Norway/Paris Solid Waste and Oxford County Recycling, stands in front of the two new compost bins from We Compost It! as the two towns have recently undertaken composting. Residents can bring their food scraps free of charge to the transfer station.

Roughly three weeks ago, Norway/Paris Solid Waste began offering composting to residents at the Brown Street transfer station through We Compost It! free of charge.

Two 35-gallon green plastic bins rolled in next to the hopper and are steadily being used more as time goes on, according to Warren Sessions, manager of Norway/Paris Solid Waste and Oxford County Recycling.

“The first week people were interested in it,” he said. “The second week we filled both bins. We have to get more bins.”

Sessions said the program costs $79 a month “no matter how much we compost, whereas a lot of programs the more you put in, the more it costs you, so it’s a pretty good deal.”

The road to composting began in January when Norway/Paris Solid Waste Committee members Janet Jamison, Scott Vlaun and Tony Giambro visited the Auburn facility for We Compost It! Vlaun said via email he “was really impressed by their operation and final product.” Jamison echoed those sentiments.

“It’s clean, it’s beautiful. They’ve got some other communities doing it. They’ve been at it for a while and worked out the bugs so to speak,” she said. “Their end product is like black gold. It is just fantastic.”

Jamison added the operation is large-scale composting, which includes laying down a layer of leaves then food waste. The temperatures of the large compost piles are checked regularly and the piles are turned over, which are covered to keep the rain and snow out of the future black gold.

WE COMPOST — The large compost pile at the Auburn facility for We Compost It!, which is now taking food scraps from Norway and Paris and turning it into "black gold."
WE COMPOST — The large compost pile at the Auburn facility for We Compost It!, which is now taking food scraps from Norway and Paris and turning it into “black gold.”

We Compost It! General Manager Brett Richardson said the large compost piles “cook very hot” and take between seven and nine months to transform from raw food to finished compost.

“We take everything from meat and fish to veggies to lobster shells. Anything that’s been alive is compostable. The average household can typically divert 30 to 40 percent of their kitchen waste through composting,” he said. “It is really a huge opportunity for the towns of Paris and Norway if the residents get behind it to reduce the amount of trash going to the incinerator. It’s a big opportunity to save tax dollars.”

Jamison explained getting the wet weight of food scraps out of the trash stream will save both towns money because the biggest expenses include trucking and the weight of waste. The two towns split the cost of trash operations.

“It’s over half a million dollars a year to get rid of our waste. … That is a lot of money for 10,000 people essentially,” she said. “We could really make a difference, I think. … This is a win-win all the way around. Even though I compost in my yard, if I didn’t have that option I would be there in a heartbeat. … It’s just another avenue for the members of our community to make a difference in the environment and I know that people care about this stuff.”

Richardson said it’s important for residents to participate in the composting efforts.

“It is very easy to do. If you get a separate bucket, you put the food scraps in it and bring it to the transfer station,” he said. “And it’s free to residents. That is pretty exciting.”

Currently, the towns’ compost is picked up once a week. But Jamison said the contract with We Compost It! is pretty flexible and additional pick up can be added as the program takes off.

We Compost It! started out as a small, pilot program in the Portland area and has grown substantially over the past four years, according to Richardson. More than 15 million pounds of organics have been removed from the waste stream since the company’s inception, he said.

Richardson said the composting operation first came to the Oxford Hills neighborhood when Norway’s Stephens Memorial Hospital signed on to the program. Currently We Compost It! has contracts with 37 schools across the state and hopes to team up with SAD 17 in the future.

The compost is certified organic through Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Richardson said.

FOOD SCRAPS — Composting is now available for residents of Norway and Paris and local officials say tax dollars can be saved if people get on board in recycling their food scraps ... unless the spider eats it all.
FOOD SCRAPS — Composting is now available for residents of Norway and Paris and local officials say tax dollars can be saved if people get on board in recycling their food scraps … unless the spider eats it all.

“It’s really high-quality stuff organic growers can use,” he said. He added the compost isn’t limited to organic growers, but is also used by backyard gardeners, landscapers and others.

This is why Vlaun – who’s the executive director of Norway’s Center for an Ecology-Based Economy – is eyeing that black gold to possibly get it available locally.

“Since they are coming this way with trucks, we will look into purchasing a load for the Food Forest and Edible Main Street programs and perhaps for local gardeners to purchase,” he said, noting nothing has been confirmed yet. “Ideally it would be a collaboration with either the [Alan Day] Community Garden, Roberts Farm [Preserve] or both.”

For more information about We Compost It!, visit www.wecompostit.com/.

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What can I compost?

Anything that was living including meat, bones, coffee grounds, egg shells, plant matter, seafood shells, corn husks, grains, baked goods, sweets, etc.

What does it cost?

It is free for anyone with a Norway or Paris dump sticker.

What do I have to do?

Separate food scraps into a container and bring to transfer station and deposit in green containers with orange bags. These are near where the trash goes.

Will it smell?

If you keep food scraps in a tightly sealed container their odor will not seep into the room. You can also keep them in a container in the freezer until ready to take to the transfer station.

Can I get free dirt?

You will need to buy the dirt through We Compost It!

What will happen to my food scraps?

They will be trucked to Auburn to We Compost It! Where they will be layered with leaves, and other vegetation. Compost is fully “cooked” during a 12-week active composting phase, when pile temperatures are maintained at 131 to 150 degrees. Following the active phase, piles are screened and then allowed to “cure” for an additional 12 to 16 weeks until the product is fully stable and ready to add nutrients and soil structure to lawn or garden.

Where can I get more information?

Norway-Paris Solid Waste – 39 Brown St., Norway 743-8518

We Compost It! www.wecompostit.com or 797-6200

When is the transfer station open?

Transfer Station Hours:

Monday – Closed

Tuesday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wednesday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursday – Closed

Friday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.