READFIELD — More than 30 percent of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. This discarded food is the largest single component of Maine’s waste stream and increases disposal costs for Maine residents, contributes to community food insecurity, and wastes the water, energy and other resources used to produce that food.
But Maine towns and cities are moving to reduce costs, address hunger, and capture the resources contained in food waste through food recycling programs — while also helping the state reach its waste reduction goals.
The town of Readfield will launch a new food recycling program with the towns of Fayette and Wayne on July 24. Kickoff events will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Readfield Transfer Station featuring Maine Senator Craig Hickman, town officials and representatives from Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine. Free ice cream and compost container giveaways will be held throughout the day.
Residents are encouraged to drop off their food waste at the new site, and to bring good quality, excess food for donation to the Maranacook Food Pantry. In the afternoon, DEP organics specialist Mark King will host a food recycling and composting class at the Maranacook High School campus, with free home composting bins for registered attendees. Sign up at the Transfer Station or contact the town at 207-685-3144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new food recycling site is located at the Readfield Transfer Station on Recycle Road, where residents of Readfield, Wayne and Fayette will be able to drop off their food waste in a designated area. The food waste will be incorporated into the existing yard waste recycling operation to provide high-quality compost for town residents, as well as municipal landscaping projects.
The Food Rescue MAINE program, with the slogan “Maine Food – Too Good to Waste” as a call to action, is spearheaded by a team of faculty and students from the Mitchell Center and several Maine colleges and universities. It is funded in part by the DEP’s food waste diversion program.
Food Rescue MAINE assists Maine communities with food waste reduction, food recovery and food recycling projects to demonstrate their “triple-bottom-line” benefits — saving money, feeding people and protecting natural resources.
“This project has all the synergies to make it not only environmentally friendly, but also an economic homerun,” says Travis Blackmer, undergraduate coordinator in the UMaine School of Economics and a member of the Food Rescue MAINE team. “If every ounce of food waste in these three communities are diverted from the waste stream, over $20,000 of disposal costs per year could be avoided. Add to that the ability to make a useful product [composted yard and food waste], and you’ve got the epitome of a win-win for the community and its residents.”
Readfield Town Manager Eric Dyer notes that Food Rescue MAINE and DEP support has played a fundamental role in launching the town’s food recycling initiative by educating Maine municipalities about the financial, social and environmental benefits, as well as providing grant opportunities to support the needed infrastructure.
Readfield has leveraged a DEP food waste diversion grant and a food recycling pilot program offered by the Mitchell Center and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments that has provided tracking, analysis and educational resources to launch their program. It is modeled after a successful initiative in Skowhegan.
“As a town manager, I was excited to see how reducing food waste could save our residents money, help feed more people and protect our natural resources,” says Dyer. “We are particularly pleased to be able to offer both on-site composting here at the transfer station and also provide support for home composting, which brings additional value and choice. To have the Mitchell Center program and education support along with DEP’s funding — this is a tremendous opportunity for all Maine communities.”
Readfield, Fayette and Wayne are the latest central Maine communities to launch a food recycling program in conjunction with Food Rescue MAINE, following Waterville’s launch in June and Winslow’s launch in April. Portland also launched five sites on Earth Day this year.
As part of the Food Rescue MAINE campaign, the Mitchell Center team has developed a variety of materials to build awareness of and support for community food rescue and recycling programs. Available resources include a new web portal, social media platform, and a library of recycling information, signage, flyers and videos. A school outreach program is also being piloted at select Maine elementary and high schools.
For more information about the July 24 event in Readfield, contact the Readfield Town Office at 207-685-4939 or email@example.com.