Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Banana peels, coffee grinds and egg shells: Making Portland prettier

Bradford Spurr

Posted on May 02, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Bradford Spurr

By Matthew Craig, Free Press Staff

Today, Portland’s Garbage to Garden service offers an easy way to compost food scraps, as well as to obtain compost for growing things. The nonprofit organization was created by Maine resident Tyler Frank, who was living in the East End of Portland in 2012 when he recognized the fact that composting can be very difficult for urban residents. What started with 17 participants has grown to just under 15% of households in Portland taking part, according to the company’s figures. Their services also extend to neighboring towns, including, but not limited to, South Portland and Westbrook. The University of Southern Maine, as well as  St. Joseph’s College, are among Garbage to Garden’s clients. Garbage to Garden also services some public schools in the area.

The obvious question here is, ‘What do they actually do?’ The role of Garbage to Garden in this process of curbside composting and recycling is to provide well-structured delivery of compostable and recyclable organic materials. Their fleet of trucks makes rounds each day, picking up compost both from residences, commercial participants and nonprofit organizations. The food waste is brought to Benson Farm in Gorham, where it is composted. Garbage to Garden then buys back the compost, which is delivered to those participants who can make use of it. In addition to diverting food and other compostable materials from landfills, and those who take advantage of Frank’s services can recycle used cooking oil, which is then converted to soap and biofuel by Maine Standard Biofuels.

Composting this way has many advantages. This process benefits the environment for several reasons: Less food waste gathers in landfills, compost can be used in place of synthetic fertilizers (which can run off into the ocean and other bodies of water, poisoning aquatic life) and this natural fertilizer is transported over a much smaller distance, reducing fossil fuel consumption. Furthermore, participation in this program is an excellent way to get involved in one’s community and to help others. If you love food, as many Portlanders do, it’s worth mentioning that quality produce begins with quality fertilizer. What better way is there to grow some delicious fruits and vegetables in a backyard than with one’s own composted organic waste?

Garbage to Garden relies heavily on volunteers. By volunteering for Garbage to Garden you can save the environment, one banana peel at a time. If that’s not enough, each volunteer is entitled to free service, which otherwise would cost $14 per month or $168 per year. Free service only requires something like two hours of work per month. It’s worth the little bit of extra effort to help protect Maine’s natural resources. USM students can give it a shot with a free month by entering the code HUSKIES during signup at (though there is still a $5 charge for your bucket).


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