Town-wide Food Waste Pickup

1,091 supporting residents and groups as of 9:00am 10/21/2022 and counting. Please share with your friends, neighbors, groups/organizations and get our voice heard!

Congratulations to the LHS Environthon Team!

Lexington's current waste hauling contract is expiring in June 2023, and the decision for a new or extended contract is expected to be made by October 2022. Critical budget decisions for next year could be made as early as July 2022.

Now we have the opportunity to align our practice with the town's goals of reaching zero emissions by 2035 (Article 4, STM 2020) and the zero waste goals outlined in the Zero Waste Resolution (Article 27, ATM 2022) to develop a Zero Waste Plan, including a plan for town-wide compost service.

It's time to act now and show our Town leadership that we support town-wide food waste collection. Please add your name to the list of supporters.

Food waste composting is a critical and practical solution for our climate crisis and trash crisis:

  1. Food scraps make up 25-40% of household trash: Every year ~2,600 tons of Lexington's 8,500 tons of trash is food waste. Separating it out significantly reduces trash.

  2. Burning food is bad: Everything we put in the trash is taken to the incinerator in North Andover and burned. Wet food waste takes the most energy to burn, and it adds significantly to Greenhouse Gas emissions.

  3. Compost so life goes on: Composting returns valuable nutrients to the soil that grows our food and gardens.

  4. Invest in town-wide food waste collection now for future savings: To add the collection of food waste would likely cost the town up to ~$0.4M initially (in year one), which is ~12% of our current curbside waste and recycling collection and disposal costs ($3.3M), or <0.2% of the town's annual operating budget. However, additional costs can be offset, or become potential savings over time (in year two and beyond) with one or more of the following potential measure(s) and factors:

    • A split truck collection program that picks up recyclables and food waste in separate compartments and reduces travel

    • Inorganic trash collection at an every-other-week interval (many residents who compost can attest the significant reduction in trash by simply taking food waste out; and ~60% of DPW's waste/recycling cost is collection.)

    • Set up food waste compost facilities at Hartwell Ave and compost locally

    • Avoid imminent cost hikes of trash disposal cost: to transport and burn trash, then transport and landfill the toxic bottom ash will get more expensive. The landfills in MA are at or near capacity and will be closing by 2028. With gas prices rising, exporting our waste incineration ashes out of state will be very costly.

  5. It's been done in many places and for decades: Curbside pickup of food waste has been provided by many municipalities in MA, the US, and around the world, and the list is growing (See resources below).

  6. Lexington is ready:

    • About 20% of the over 11,000 households are already composting their kitchen waste, either in their backyard, or by hiring curbside pickup service, or utilizing the free LexSORT compost drop off locations (a program initiated by Lexington Zero Waste Collaborative in partnership with the Town DPW). (We expect residents will continue to have the option to compost backyard, drop off at LexSORT sites, pay their current service provider as alternatives of not participating the future

    • Over 7,000 LPS students have been composting food waste at school every day for the past six years. These students come from thousands of families, or about 40% of the households in town.

    • Town Meeting passed near unanimously the resolution of reaching zero emissions by 2035 and the Zero Waste Resolution.

Every month we contemplate and wait, 200 tons of food waste is being burned. Lexington needs to take action NOW.

Resources:

  1. BioCycle's 2017 survey of Residential Food Waste Collection Access in the US ("The number of curbside programs increased 87% from 2014 to 2017, from 79 to 148.")

  2. Examples of North America municipalities that have integrated food waste pickup as a part of their waste collection:

  3. 43% of households in England are getting food waste picked up by the local municipalities in 2020.

  4. Bloomberg 10/14/2021 article: The Quest to Make Composting as Simple as Trash Collection ("Food waste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions." "For cities that don’t yet have composting programs, there are other options for residents. If you don’t compost yourself, many places have facilities for drop-off, or paid pick-up services for those who can afford it. Ultimately, though, there’s no comparison in the volume of waste that can be diverted with free, citywide collection programs, along with a composting mandate.")

  5. Guardian May 2022 article: Soil health is key to the planet's future.

  6. PFAS concerns:

    • According to EPA, PFAS can enter human body through many potential sources: drinking water, soil and water at or near waste sites (landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites), fire extinguishing foam, manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS, food, food packaging, household products and dust, personal care products, biosolids.

    • Biocycle article "When There is more to the PFAS story" shows that food scraps and yard waste in compost are not the source of PFAS.

    • MWRA report (source of Lexington's tap water) says ’trace’ amounts in the water, too low to be able to be quantified. More on PFAS testing in drinking water.

    • Consumer Reports found toxic PFAS chemicals in several popular water brands, especially carbonated ones.

    • PFAS test results and other Quality Assurance tests on Black Earth Compost are well below state limits.

    • PFAS may escape from incineration (where our trash is sent to) to air: According to Environmental Health News, “it is currently unclear whether typical municipal solid waste incinerators can safely destroy fluoropolymers without emissions of harmful PFAS and other problematic substances.”; "Europe finds ‘alarming’ levels of PFAS downwind of incinerators."

    • MA state bill proposed to "to ban the use of PFAS in food packaging": H4820

    • RI state is the 9th state to have banned PFAS in food packaging.