Town of Ridgefield On-site Composting Project

The overall objective of this project is to demonstrate that municipalities can create a closed loop sustainable composting system to manage food waste locally, reducing the carbon footprint of offsite disposal and contributing to the waste diversion goals of the state.  This project will increase access to compost for residential, community garden groups and local farmers without relying on synthetic fertilizers and empower municipalities to use readily available compost for stormwater management and soil erosion. A secondary goal is to create an enhanced educational program for back-yard composting for residents who wish to manage their food waste at home and have readily available compost.  The third objective would be using the platform of waste reduction and composting to introduce education and tools to use on food recovery efforts at local farms, in schools and at home to prevent the waste being generated in the first place.

Join the program 

Are you interested in separating your food scraps from your trash so it can be made into compost but don’t want to do it in your back yard? 

Fill out this form to join the program.

Acceptable Items For Drop-Off

REMEMBER – ONLY FOOD Scraps are allowed in your bin.

No PLASTIC items, stickers, rubber bands or twist ties!

  • Flower & Vegetable Garden Waste
  • Houseplants & Flower Bouquets
  • Fruits & Nuts (including pits)
  • Vegetables ***Remove stickers, bands and ties***
  • Bread, Pasta & Grains
  • Sauces, Soup & Gravy
  • Coffee Grounds & Filters
  • Tea Bags
  • Paper Towels & Napkins
  • Egg Shells
  • Plate Scrapings
Is there a fee?

Until July 1, 2022 there is a $3 fee to drop off your 6 gallon bucket.

This fee covers the cost to transport the material to a compost facility in New Milford and the processing fee.  This is because not all organic material received is equal and the material could be contaminated with plastic, stickers and other objects.  The material must be examined for contamination before it is incorporated into a mix of carbon material to make compost.  It’s important to note that contaminated material (organics that have plastic, rubber bands, twist ties etc.) cannot be processed into compost.  It will be disposed of as MSW (Municipal Solid Waste aka trash) and sent to a waste-to-energy plant, which adds cost to the processor. The current price to dispose MSW is $91.33 a ton. It’s important to remember the processing plant is in the business to make and sell compost for a profit.

Do I have to use the bags?

No, you do not have to use bags to participate in the program. The compostable bags provided for some program are for convenience and to eliminate the yuck factor for some. We welcome individuals who wish to use their containers without a bag.

If I need more bags where do I get them?

Bags are available for free by some towns until supplies last. Bags can be purchased at local stores where available and online, search for BioBags.

Why should I compost

Separating your food scraps for compost is easy and provides many benefits, some of which are listed below:

  • Composting reduces household garbage and is beneficial to the environment.
  • By using compost, organic matter that we encounter in our daily lives (food scraps, grass clippings, etc.) is returned to the soil in a functional form, avoiding landfill and waste incineration.
  • Compost contains nitrogen and phosphorus as does commercial fertilizer. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, compost does not release these nutrients quickly so plants derive maximum benefit from them.
  • Compost is natural, so you don’t have to worry about polluting.
  • Compost adds water and nutrient-holding capacity to sandy soils.
  • Compost attracts earthworms and provides them with food so they breed rapidly. As all gardeners know, earthworms are beneficial for a garden.
  • Compost suppresses soil-born diseases that might attack your plants.

Partners 

We are proud to have partnered with members of the community.  The HRRA is grateful for the professional expertise and the dedicated commitment the project each individual and business has brought to the project.   Please share in our gratitude by reading about our partners.

New England Compost - Jeff Demers

Jeff Demers brings 20 years of composting expertise to the project.

Solar-21st Century Electricity, LLC - Dwayne Escola

Dwayne is a transplant from California’s Silicon Valley where he received his master’s in electrical engineering and spent most of his career developing computer products for IBM and Panasonic. While at IBM he also spent 6 years in Japan where among other products helped developed a Kanji printer. Dwayne moved to Ridgefield in 1994 with his wife and four sons.  In 2009 he was a founding member of Northeast Smart Energy LLC where he designed and installed solar systems, including systems on several CT schools, including Farmingville Elementary School in Ridgefield. Dwayne has served as a member of the Ridgefield Zoning Board of Appeals, the Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment (RACE) and the Town’s Energy Task Force.  He has also arranged the financing for solar systems for all nine Ridgefield schools in the form of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), which require no Town capital. He is now retired and occasionally does solar consulting.

What is the Ridgefield Composting Project?

The Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority in partnership with the Town of Ridgefield is building an onsite composting system for food waste.  The food waste will be added to leaves using an Aerated Static Pile (ASP) Composting system.  Learn more below.

Introduction

In 2014 the HRRA developed and tested the first municipal organics curbside collection program of its kind in the state in Bridgewater, CT.  The pilot program proved to be successful in engaging participation with the public.  Approximately 16% of the town took part in separating their food waste from the waste stream.  The material collected was nearly free of contamination and was sent to a commercial facility in a neighboring town to be processed into compost.  Each spring the compost is returned to the residents to be used in their home gardens and projects.  The ending factor was cost.  At the end of the pilot, residents were not willing to pay for the collection at the curb.  Taking that into consideration and not wanting the source separation of food scraps to stop, the program transitioned to a drop-off program only, which allowed residents to drop-off at no additional cost.  Residents now bring their food waste to the town recycling center and a private hauler then transports the material to the local commercial processor and the compost is then returned in the spring.  This program was then duplicated and implemented in Newtown, New Fairfield, Redding, and Ridgefield, Connecticut.

 

The major cost of the program is transportation and disposal fees.  These costs have prohibited municipalities from expanding their programs and threaten their long-term existence.  The solution to a successful self-sustainable program is on-site composting.

Not only would composting on-site reduce the burden of cost, but it would also reduce the carbon footprint by removing the added transportation to dispose of the material and to transport it back to the community for use.  Lack of funding and professional expertise has prevented the HRRA from moving the program in this direction.

 

Organics programs provide the largest opportunity to increase Connecticut’s waste diversion goals. According to the 2015 waste composition study (by CT DEEP), over 926,000 tons of readily compostable organics were disposed, or nearly 40 percent of total MSW disposal. This includes over: 519,000 tons of food waste; 56,000 tons of yard waste (e.g., branches and stumps, pruning and trimmings); 100,000 tons of leaves and grass; and 249,000 tons of compostable paper (e.g., uncoated paper cups and plates, paper food cartons, napkins, and paper towels).

 

Food waste is generated at every stage of the supply chain. When food is wasted, we are also wasting the fresh water, chemicals, energy, and land used to produce food. Opportunities exist to reduce food wasted by businesses and households as well as work with businesses and farms to recover more food for humans and animals. The top growth priorities for organics are to strengthen and expand both the collection system and to expand processing capacity.

 

There are 118 active leaf composting facilities in Connecticut, with a combined throughput of over 775,000 cubic yards per year of incoming feedstock.  These include 86 municipal facilities, private facilities, and seven farm-based facilities. Ten of the facilities are identified as accepting grass. Municipal operations tend only to accept leaves generated by that town and may also provide small quantities of finished compost to residents for free or at a nominal charge.1

 

There is no greater need than now.  In August of 2020, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection created the CT Coalition for Sustainable Material Management (CSSMM) to address the concerns of solid waste capacity in the state.  Connecticut’s waste management system is in crisis due to aging Waste-To-Energy infrastructure, no operating landfills and only two commercial composting and one AD facility operating to manage food waste in the entire state.  The CSSMM called upon state and municipal leaders to work together to discuss and create innovative programs and investments to reduce municipal solid waste tonnage to prevent municipal solid waste being shipped out of state to landfills.

 

Through the Organics working group of the CSSMM solutions were discussed for state mandates to be put in place to drive diversion through policy.  In preparation for the possible unfunded mandate the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority has determined that municipal onsite composting would be the most sustainable, economically, and environmentally solution for expanding residential organics diversion from the waste stream and must be implemented immediately.

  1. 1. See http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2718&q=325374&depNav_GID=1645

and https://portal.ct.gov/-media/DEEP/waste_management_and_disposal/Solid_Waste_Management_Plan/CMMSFinalAdoptedComprehensiveMaterialsManagementStrategypdf.pdf

What is an ASP Composting Process?

This project will use a “Aerated Static Pile (ASP) Composting” process.  The ASP will be solar operated.  The solar panel will control a 1.5 horsepower blower that is set to a timer.  The timer will run at designated intervals. The solar powered blower will be connected to rigid and flexible perforated piping that will push air through the composting pile. This will allow us to maintain proper moisture and oxygen levels. It is important to maintain proper airflow for the microbial population, that breaks down the organic matter.

Why Should I Compost?

Separating your food scraps for compost is easy and provides many benefits, some of which are listed below:

  • Composting reduces household garbage and is beneficial to the environment.
  • By using compost, organic matter that we encounter in our daily lives (food scraps, grass clippings, etc.) is returned to the soil in a functional form, avoiding landfill and waste incineration.
  • Compost contains nitrogen and phosphorus as does commercial fertilizer. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, compost does not release these nutrients quickly so plants derive maximum benefit from them.
  • Compost is natural, so you don’t have to worry about polluting.
  • Compost adds water and nutrient-holding capacity to sandy soils.
  • Compost attracts earthworms and provides them with food so they breed rapidly. As all gardeners know, earthworms are beneficial for a garden.
  • Compost suppresses soil-born diseases that might attack your plants.
How do I get Started?

It’s easy.

Sign-up for the program by filling out this form.

Purchase a collection kit at the recycling center.

Bring your container as often as you need to the Recycling Center and we will make it into compost.

What Should I Put Into My Collection Container ?

Please only bring us the following items to be composted.

Bread, Pasta & Grains
Coffee Grounds & Filters
Egg Shells
Flower & Vegetable Garden Waste
Fruits & Nuts (including pits)
Houseplants & Flower Bouquets
Plate Scrapings
Sauces, Soup & Gravy
Tea Bags
Vegetables *Remove stickers, bands and ties*

Food Recovery

The waste hierarchy starts with “reduce and reuse” and this can be applied to food waste as well.  We know that the USDA estimates consumer food waste at about $161 billion annually or about $500 per person per year.   This is a combination of waste directly from farms, retailers, processing and packaging plants and 42% from consumers.  Our goal is to bring public education and awareness to local farmers and residents (consumers) through our partnership with the community organization RACE.

RACE and HRRA Staff will participate in in-school presentations and when necessary due to Covid virtual, to teach students in grades K-12 the importance of preventing food waste and promoting food donations to local churches, food pantries and community shelters.

In addition, the group will partner with local farmers to introduce them to food hubs for produce that otherwise would not sell in their stands or retail orders.  The HRRA will partner with local farms to provide assistance with networking and encourage other farms to donate unwanted produce that otherwise will be wasted.  The HRRA would like to provide collection boxes for the produce to be transported to local community drop sites such as churches, food pantries and shelters.  The boxes are intended to be reused as often as possible.  We want to remove any barriers for collection and transportation of the material.

Why is Compost Beneficial?

Compost is a unique soil amendment because of its ability to hold moisture and soluble minerals.

Composted organics are beneficial, they:

  • Maximize plant growth.
  • Effective at preventing soil erosion.
  • Aid in Stream and land reclamation.
  • Reconstruction of wetlands.
  • Help with storm water management.
  • Reduces the need for fertilizers.
  • Reduces the need for pesticides.
  • Improves the over all health of soil.