City of
Madison

Beginning in August of 2019, the Streets Division will begin a food scraps recycling trial.

This trial will last eight weeks with the main purpose to test if we can keep the food scraps clean enough for the one local processing operation for this material. 

A refuse collection routes will be idenfitied by Streets Division staff, and residents along that route will have an opportunity to volunteer to be part of the trial.  Volunteers will be provided a wasted food collection cart and a pail to carry food scraps & plate scrapings from their kitchen to their wasted food cart.

Food scraps from this trial will be collected by the Streets Division and then hauled to the anaerobic biodigester in Middleton that primarily processes waste from dairies.  The methane released by the decomposting food scraps will be captured and used to generate electricty, while the solids will be transformed into compost.

what can be placed into the wasted food cart?

Follow the directions on this guide.

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Fruits and vegetables can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Coffee grounds can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Dairy Products
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Baked Goods & Pastas
  • Baked goods and pastas can be placed into the wasted food cart.

If volunteers do not follow the guidelines, the carts will not be collected by the food scraps collectors. Instead, a trash collector will dump the cart and the material will go to the landfill.

 

what is banned from the wasted food carts?

Below is a partial list of what cannot be placed into the wasted food cart. 

If your cart contains these items, or other non-compostable items, cart contents will be sent to the landfill.

  • Bones
  • Egg shells
  • Seafood shells
  • Nut shells
  • Yard waste
  • Brush
  • Food wrappers of any kind
  • Food packaging
  • Plastic items of any kind
  • Compostable plastics of any kind (cups, cutlery, bags, etc.)
  • Pet waste
  • Diapers
  • General trash
  • Stickers that are on fruits and vegetables
  • Glass items (bottles, jars, etc.)
  • Metal items (cans, aluminum foil, etc.)
  • Tea bags (see explaination below)
  • Chopsticks and other bamboo utensils
  • Other very hard items like peach pits and avocado seeds

 

what makes this trial different than the previous attempt?

The purpose of the trial is to gather useful information that we can use to better plan a full-scale citywide food scraps recycling program when the opportunity is available.

Carts will be inspected at the curb before they are dumped into the truck.  And those containing contamination will be left behind for a trash collector to empty to send the material to the landfill. The trial should reveal if inspecting the carts at the curb is an effective method of controlling the contamination.

This will also reveal how much additional labor/personnel is necessary to perform curbside inspections prior to emptying, and if that is something that can be scaled up for a citywide program.

And this trial will only be for eight weeks.

 

answers to other likely questions for volunteers

Can I use bags for the food scraps that go into my cart?

Not using bags is the best choice.

If you elect to bag the food scraps, use only brown paper bags, or similiar untreated paper. Using newspaper (not the advertisements, just the newsprint) to wrap food scraps is okay, too. 

Do not use compostable plastic bags. Do not use biodegradable plastic bags. Do not use regular plastic bags. Do not use gift bags, or cardboard boxes.

I cannot put bones, eggs, and shells into the wasted food cart.  Why?

When ground up, these hard materials act like sandpaper in this anaerobic digester's system and can damage the pipes.

I cannot put yard waste and brush into the wasted food cart.  Why?

Yard waste and brush can clog in the digester system.

I cannot put compostable plastics, or containers and cutlery into the wasted food cart. Why?

It can be quite confusing to tell which containers and cutlery are actually compostable and which ones are not.  The same is true for other plastic-appearing items. For the purposes of this trial, we are avoiding this problem and requiring that these kind of items be kept from the collection cart.

I cannot put food packaging and food wrapping into the cart.  Why?

Most food packaging, like butter wrappers and potato chip bags, are not compostable. They belong in the trash.

What about chopsticks or bamboo utensils? Are those okay?

No, not for this program. Chopsticks and other wooden utensils behave like brush or sticks that can lead to blockages in the digester.

Why can't I put tea bags into the wasted food cart? That doesn't make any sense.

Tea bags are more complicated than what you would assume. Some have metal staples. The strings can be a problem digester system and not compost correctly. And some tea bags are actally plastic. Due to all of these complications, no tea bags.   The tea leaves inside the bags would be okay, but not the whole bag & string.

 

 

OTHER COMPOSTING OPTIONS

If you are interested in composting your food scraps at your home or business today, these composters may be able to offer the service to your for a collection fee:

Commercial entities may also want to consider inquiring with Sanimax to see if they can offer food scraps services.  Commercial entities are also encouraged to contact the company that presently hauls their refuse and recycling to see if a food scraps program is an available service.