Brosowsky admits that residential compost pickup is only a short-term business. In the long run, it makes sense for cities and towns to pick up organic waste along with garbage and recycling as they do in San Francisco, where city trucks collect 600 tons of compostable material each day. Washington’s Sustainable DC task force, which aims to make the city the “greenest” in the nation, is discussing options for composting, though no formal plans have been announced. In the meantime, Brosowsky is working to prove to municipalities that composting makes sense.
In University Park, he helped to run a 50-home pilot project for the town council, which was interested in composting as a way to reduce methane production. After a six-month test, all but one participant recommended the service, said Chuck Wilson, program director for University Park’s Small Town Energy Project, which oversaw the pilot. During that time, each house contributed between eight and 10 pounds of kitchen waste. The only whisper of a complaint was that customers wanted bigger buckets so they could compost more.
University Park plans to expand the program to include 150 homes, 20 percent of the town’s households. With triple the number of families, the town will be diverting three tons of food scraps each month from the local landfill. Remarkably, the cost of the program is no more than paying to dump the town’s waste, Wilson estimates.
“We wouldn’t be here if Jeremy hadn’t pushed us down this road,” Wilson said. “He wasn’t working with us to try to get a bigger contract. He was trying to get composting to work.”
There are still many challenges to making composting work. Urban farms can handle only so much waste. There is a dearth of commercial composting facilities big enough to handle large quantities of compostable material. (Right now, the closest one to Washington is in Wilmington, Del.)
But Brosowsky says he is convinced that if he can make composting simple enough for families, businesses and urban farms, it will be easy to sell. “It’s not about waste reduction. It’s about food production,” he says. “Farm-to-table is great. But farm-to-table-to-farm is better.”
Black, a former Food section staffer based in Brooklyn, writes Smarter Food monthly. Follow her on Twitter: @jane_black.