Newton adds three more food waste drop-off sites

Composting in Newton just got a little more convenient.

On Feb. 19, the city announced it was making more food waste drop-off sites available around Newton. The new bins will significantly expand drop-off access and convenience for residents in Newton Highlands, Oak Hill, Newton Centre, Newtonville, and Nonantum.

In addition to the one established in Fall 2020 at the Resource Recovery Center on Rumford Avenue, there will be three more at these locations:

  1. Albemarle Road, north bound, just past the baseball diamond
  2. War Memorial Circle, Newton City Hall, by the bike rack
  3. Wheeler Road, directly across from Oak Hill Middle School (130 Wheeler Rd) next to two Helpsy bins

Unlike the drop-off site on Rumford Ave., these new bins will be kept locked to prevent them being used as trash cans. So before heading straight there with food scraps in hand, complete the brief online registration form to get the lock combination.

How were the locations chosen?

While the city wasn’t hearing specific demand for more sites, the single site on Rumford Ave. was getting a lot of use. Waneta Trabert, Newton’s Director of Sustainable Materials Management Division for the Department of Public Works, told the Beacon the two 64-gallon bins fill up fast enough to require two pick-ups every week.

City staff considered many factors when choosing the locations, including available parking, already traffic-congested areas, and adequate lighting.

“[T]he recycling center is in a far corner of the City and only accessible during business hours” she said. “We added the three new drop-off sites in a pilot program with hopes that they would get used if residents had 24-hour access and the locations were more geographically spread throughout the City.”

Affordability is another factor. The initiative is aimed at making composting easier for more residents who don’t want, or can’t afford, to pay for curbside compost collection. The larger goal is reducing the amount of organics (including food waste) in regular trash collection.

How composting can help everyone

A 2019 study from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection showed that food waste accounted for about 30% of waste at Wheelabrator Waste-to-Energy plant (which Newton contracts with). Organics in general accounted for 38%, the single largest category.

Source: Setting the Path to Zero Waste: Recommendations on the Future of Residential Curbside Waste Management in Newton

“When managing any type of waste or discards, it’s important to consider the best use of that material,” said Trabert. “Food waste can be composted to replenish nutrients into the soil or food waste can be anaerobically digested to make renewable energy. These are both better uses of this material than putting it in the trash.”

Composting also reduces costs for the city. Newton pays by weight for trash, so removing 30% could significantly lower the price tag.

“Overall, turning organics into compost is good for the earth, and is much better than burning it (which is what happens to Newton’s trash) or putting it down the drain,” Green Newton Board Member Alan Gordon told the Beacon. “And for Newton, reducing our trash volume will reduce the city’s carbon footprint and reduce the city’s costs for trash services.”

Tips for storing and dropping off food scraps

Green Newton recommends collecting food waste in a reusable container lined with a certified compostable (or paper) 3-gallon bag. For transporting, try using a kitty litter bucket, or a 5-gallon bucket.

Gordon uses the Black Earth curbside service, but said his family has a bin in the kitchen they empty every 2-3 days into the Black Earth bin in their garage. He mentioned some people keep compost in a bag in the freezer, and continue adding to it until they drop them in the bin each week (which is what the city recommends).

“My wife has a very keen sense of smell,” Gordon said, “and odors have never been an issue.”