August 10th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
A new service in St. Paul, Minnesota, run by Eureka Recycling, collects your compost (or compostables, I should say)… and on a bike!
In St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood, Sonya Ewert gets on her custom-made bike and trailer and rides around for a couple hours in the early morning collecting the compostables from 600 homes.
Ewert uses a 27-gear bike to pull a custom-made trailer holding two full-sized garbage carts. At the curb, she looks for a knee-high green container and dumps its contents into her carts. In the mix with putrefied lettuce and banana peels and chicken bones are egg cartons, pizza boxes and paper towels. Her gloved hands gingerly pull out any material that is not allowed, such as twist-ties, Styrofoam plates, foil or plastic. She tags compost bins with notes if they hold unacceptable materials.
Composting is an important part of greening our daily lives. And it is actually sort of surprising more systemic efforts to facilitate it haven’t popped up sooner.
“It’s the next step beyond traditional recycling,” said Ginny Black, organics recycling coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
According to Black, food waste accounts for approximately 12% of the waste stream, and food-contaminated paper or cardboard account for another 10% of it.
Collecting Rotting Food on a Bicycle is Smelly, but Fun
Regarding the enjoyability of this work, this is what Evert has to say: “It’s been a bit smellier than I anticipated, but in general if I get paid to bike around, I can’t complain about that.”
It sounds like a bit of fun.
Not All Homes Get the Same Service
This is actually only a 3-month pilot project right now. Eureka Recycling needs to find out if residents are motivated enough to make it worth their effort. But the non-profit is quite committed to reducing the city’s waste, and fast.
It is trying out different methods of collecting the garbage in the pilot project as well. All 600 homes got free educational materials, bins and compostable bags. But after that, there are 3 options getting tested.
“One-third of the homes have their bins emptied weekly by bicycle collectors Ewert or Mikey Weitekamp. Another third have waste picked up by truck, and the last group can drop compostable waste off at a special site.”
“We’d like to move towards a zero-waste city by 2020,” said Tim Brownell, Eureka’s CEO.
Bicycle Composting Services to Address Global Warming
With food waste sent to landfills producing methane gas, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, and incinerators burning other waste using large amounts of energy, there is a huge benefit to this kind of service. If St.Paul’s program goes well, perhaps we’ll be seing more like it around the country.
We try to cover great bicycle stories whenever we run across them here on Planetsave, but if you are a super bike enthusiast and want to follow more news of this sort, you can also join the Biking Revolution of Love & Freedom facebook group.
For more on the story, read “Turning scraps to soil.”
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