Solution 6: Divert Food from Landfills

Why Solution 6?

Food recycling has the potential to generate $1.2 million dollars annually in savings for Maine. Additionally, food recycling could decrease CO2 emissions in Maine by 27.7 thousand mega tons every year. 

To prove that food recycling works, we launched four 1-year long pilot programs in the communities of Winslow, Waterville, Portland, and Readfield/Wayne and Fayette.

“Nearly 70% of surplus food is treated as true “waste,” meaning it is either left in the fields after harvest, incinerated, dumped, deposited in the sewer, sent to landfill, or applied to the land – much of this could have been used for other purposes. In fact, recycling offers one of the largest opportunities for decreasing the amount of food going to waste in our food system.”

-ReFED(Website)


Solution 6 Pilots: 

Pilot 1: Portland

Portland is the largest city in Maine with a population of 66,600 thousand people. It is located in Southern Maine along the coast. Portland is a well known tourist destination, and is home to a myriad of restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Portland is unique in another way, the are committed to landfill diversion.

Project Goals:

  • To measure the potential of a community food recycling program to divert food out of landfills.

Methodology: 

  1. Select diverse range of Maine communities based on size and location.

  2. Identify community-based leadership for food recycling program.

  3. Develop food recycling program infrastructure.

  4. Promote community food waste education program.

  5. Measure and track community landfill diversion of food waste and related cost savings.

  6. Identify opportunities to increase food recycling and landfill diversion of food waste.

Results: 

Maine has the potential to save $1.2 million dollars annually by diverting food waste from landfill and reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 27,736 megatons annually by diverting food waste from landfills.

Portland uses a dual model. They have 5 community collection sites, serviced by Agricycle, and a curbside collection program serviced by Garbage to Garden.

Portland’s program has been extremely successful. Their program generates monthly savings of more than $10,000, and they recycle around 150 tons of food scraps every month.

What we learned:

  1. The provision of multiple types of opportunities for food recycling (e.g. community and curbside collection) brings in more participants.

  2. Two methods of food recycling will not create competition. Instead, they complement each other.

  3. Savings has a direct relationship with participation and recycled food. 


Portland Community Collection Sites

  • image of Libbytown Transfer Station, Portland

    Libbytown Transfer Station

  • Image of Clark Street Transfer Station, Portland

    Clark Street Transfer Station

  • Image of North Street Transfer Station, Portland

    North Street Transfer Station

  • Image of Boyd Street Transfer Station, Portland

    Boyd Street Transfer Station

  • photo of Riverside Transfer Station. This photo depicts two green bins

    Riverside Transfer Station


Pilot 2: Waterville 

Waterville is a small city in Maine of 15,828 people located on the west bank of the Kennebec River. They are well known for being the home of Colby College. In 2020 Waterville started working with the Mitchell Center on a pilot project dedicated to diverting food out of landfills.

Project Goals:

  • To measure the potential of a community food recycling program to divert food out of landfills.

Methodology:

  1. Select diverse range of Maine communities based on size and location.

  2. Identify community-based leadership for food recycling program.

  3. Develop food recycling program infrastructure.

  4. Promote community food waste education program.

  5. Measure and track community landfill diversion of food waste and related cost savings.

  6. Identify opportunities to increase food recycling and landfill diversion of food waste.

Results:

Maine has the potential to save $1.2 million dollars annually by diverting food waste from landfill and reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 27,736 megatons annually by diverting food waste from landfills. 

Waterville gives residents access to curbside collection through Garbage to Garden and community collection at I-Recycle, picked up by Agricycle.

This program has generated a lot of success. The community is recycling high and increasing amounts of food waste and have generated positive savings in the first year of the program.

What we learned:

  1. The provision of multiple sources of food recycling generates higher levels of participation.

  2. Food recycling generates savings for individuals in a PAYT community, incentivizing more participation.

  3. Savings has a direct relationship with participation and recycled food.

Image of waterville food recycling drop off sign hanging over bins
Waterville Transfer Station

Pilot 3: Readfield, Wayne, & Fayette

Project Goals:

  • To measure the potential of a community food recycling program to divert food out of landfills.

Methodology:

  1. Select diverse range of Maine communities based on size and location.

  2. Identify community-based leadership for food recycling program.

  3. Develop food recycling program infrastructure.

  4. Promote community food waste education program.

  5. Measure and track community landfill diversion of food waste and related cost savings.

  6. Identify opportunities to increase food recycling and landfill diversion of food waste.

Results:

Maine has the potential to save $1.2 million dollars annually by diverting food waste from landfill and reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 27,736 megatons annually by diverting food waste from landfills. 

Readfield uses a community compost method, where food scraps are brought to a central location every month where they are turned into compost for the community members to access for free. As we have seen in Skowhegan, this model has immense potential. The program in Skowhegan generates the town more that $20,000, and generates individuals more that $32,000 in savings on compost.

What we learned:

  1. The success of Skowhegan’s program shows that community compost is an incredibly viable option for towns who want it.

  2. This program has a lot of time and management associated with it and is best suited for towns with the means to delegate responsibilities to a multitude of people.

  3. This program generates the highest level of savings for individuals.

  4. Long term, this is one of the more cost effective programs because the operation and maintenance costs are low.

Readfield, Wayne, and Fayette Transfer Station sign
Readfield, Wayne, & Fayette Transfer Station

Pilot 4: Winslow

Winslow is a town in Maine of 7,948 people located along the Kennebec River. In 2020, in partnership with the Mitchell Center, Winslow began a pilot program focused on landfill diversion of food scraps.

Project Goals:

  • To measure the potential of a community food recycling program to divert food out of landfills.

Methodology: 

  1. Select diverse range of Maine communities based on size and location.

  2. Identify community-based leadership for food recycling program.

  3. Develop food recycling program infrastructure.

  4. Promote community food waste education program.

  5. Measure and track community landfill diversion of food waste and related cost savings.

  6. Identify opportunities to increase food recycling and landfill diversion of food waste.

Results: 

Maine has the potential to save $1.2 million dollars annually by diverting food waste from landfill and reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 27,736 megatons annually by diverting food waste from landfills. 

Winslow uses a community collection model whereby community members bring their excess food scraps to their local library. The level of food waste diverted has grown since the start of the pilot. This trend is mirrored by the savings generated by the town, and we expect the increasing trend we can see to grow in the future.

What we learned: 

  1. In the upstart of a food recycling program it may take a while to generate savings. There is a certain level of participation necessary to generate savings for a community.

  2. Communication, education, and outreach programs are crucial to the success of a program because they help drive awareness and participation.

  3. Adaptation is vital and should be expected when starting a new program.

picture of three composting bins standing in a row
Winslow Transfer Station

Solution 6 Tools & Resources:

  1. Community Food Waste Proposal Presentation Template 

  2. Community Education and Outreach Portfolio

  3. Community Startup Guide

  4. Food Recycling Providers in Maine

Click the images below to learn more:

Want to Get in Touch with Us?

Want to get involved? Take a moment to fill out this quick form so that someone from the Food Rescue MAINE program can reach out to you.
  • Please select the box above that best applies to you so that we may better assist you in your food rescue goals!

Picture of student intern, Ellie Hunt, putting household food scraps in a composting bin

“My family gets our food scraps collected by Jackson Regenerational Farm. My work on Solution 6 allowed me to understand the food waste diversion work that my family was doing in our own home. I enjoyed learning more about the process of food waste diversion, and am proud that my family was contributing to the effort.”

– Ellie Hunt, Mitchell Center Student Intern