Partnership begins with public relations and education

Table to Farm Compost, which collects food waste in 5-gallon pails in Durango, is partnering with the city to build their food waste diversion program. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald file)

To expand its food waste diversion program, the city of Durango has entered into a public-private partnership with local composting company Table to Farm Compost.

The city and Table to Farm hope to increase voluntary participation in roadside composting through educational strategies. If education and placement programs are successful, the city will examine the possibility of scaling up to compulsory participation in three to five years.

“Providing ways to divert food waste while increasing training on existing recycling programs and waste reduction opportunities will be critical to reducing solid waste emissions and meeting community greenhouse gas targets,” said Imogen Ainsworth, city sustainability coordinator Durango. “We are excited about this new partnership with an established local business and the potential benefits to our community as we work together to improve and increase food waste diversion in Durango.”

Table to Farm Compost collected between 150 and 200 gallons of food waste every day in 2018 (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald file)

Table to Farm Compost is a local company that has been offering roadside compost collections in Durango since 2016, along with a range of high quality compost and artisanal soil products.

The partnership between the city and Table to Farm enables Durango to work towards the waste diversion targets the city discussed in its Strategic Plan 2021 and the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the city council in 2019.

“This will help us to meet the EU-wide emissions targets that the Council adopted in 2019, which is an 80% reduction in EU-wide emissions by 2050 and a 30% reduction by 2030,” said Ainsworth.

Currently, the city does not have a set target for the food waste diversion program. At this point in time, the program aims to stay on track with government goals that are a discharge of 35% food waste by 2026 and 45% by 2036.

A 2015 waste audit found that food waste accounts for around 20% of Durango’s household waste, and around 1,300 tons of food waste is landfilled each year.

Landfills are the third largest source of man-made methane emissions after transportation and ranching, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks.

“Our goal is to make composting easy and intuitive,” says Taylor Hanson, executive member of Table to Farm Compost. “We provide a 5 gallon bucket that we pick up weekly. Recycling leftover food not only helps reduce your trash footprint, it also makes your trash can less smelly.

“It feels good to do something that has a meaningful impact,” said Hanson. “Each customer receives a compost dividend that improves soil health and local food production and promotes awareness of the economic and ecological circularity of composting and its benefits for our community and the La Plata county.”

Diverting food waste from landfills reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the anaerobic breakdown of organic matter. Using ready-made compost can have other benefits as it contributes to healthy soils that store more carbon.

Table to Farm is working with the non-profit Eco-Cycle from Boulder to study the carbon impact of composting as part of the Community Carbon Farming Campaign.

“We are currently looking for residents interested in ‘carbon farming’ in their backyard to help us study the effects of compost on soil health,” said Dan Matsch of Eco-Cycle. “We work with three communities across the country and, thanks to our partnership with Table to Farm, we are excited to offer this program in Durango.”

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