The City of Athens, Ohio initiated an “opt out” curbside food waste collection program in July. Residents received a 5-gallon lidded container delivered to their address; the fee for the service — $6.33/month — appears on the monthly bill that households receive. All food waste, as well as soiled paper towels and napkins, are accepted. Because they are not required to participate, residents can opt out of the service by emailing the city and then putting the compost container out with their recycling and trash containers to be taken away by Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, Inc. (AHRC), the contracted hauler for Athens. “About 1,500 residential customers subscribed,” reports Bruce Underwood, Executive Director of AHRC, a nonprofit corporation that provides both municipal and private pick up for trash, recycling and organics in certain areas of the 2-county Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District. “In the City of Athens, AHRC does all of the residential and a good chunk of the commercial collection. We have been offering food scraps collection to commercial and residential customers for a number of years prior to the city starting its full-scale program.”
Residents in the solid waste district also have the option of dropping off food scraps for free at the AHRC composting facility. To date, only a few are using the drop-off. A number of residents who decline to participate in the curbside service compost their food scraps at home — although some have opted for the city program where they are able to include their proteins (e.g., meat, fish, dairy). A heavy-duty pick-up truck pulling a dump trailer is used for collection.
Composting is done in a 3-bay aerated static pile system; each bay can accommodate about 140 cubic yards (cy). “We have blowers attached to the bays, but we haven’t used the aeration very much because we haven’t had enough feedstock to push through the system more quickly,” explains Underwood. “Composting, from start to finished product, is typically a 4 to 6-month process. We mix the food waste with wood chips supplied by a local tree trimming service.” Finished compost is sold in bulk to landscapers, farms and residents.