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STEP-UP Wins Award for Kitchen Waste Compost Program

Organizers partnered with Compost Cab to provide weekly pickup from fifty houses.

Submitted by the Small Town Energy Program for University Park:

The Maryland Recycling Network recently awarded the Town of University Park the Outstanding Small Government Program Award for their work on the STEP-UP Kitchen Waste Compost pilot program. UP Director of Public Works Mickey Beall received the award on behalf of the Town at the statewide MRN meeting last week. 

The innovative pilot program is one of several components of the Small Town Energy Program that the Town of University Park is currently participating in courtesy of a three-year grant from the US Department of Energy. The pilot was launched to determine whether a town-wide composting program is feasible and effective.

STEP partnered with a local company, Compost Cab, to provide weekly household pickup from fifty volunteer households for composting. Compost Cab used sturdy, food-grade plastic buckets with screw-top lids that eliminated the need for backyard composters, and delivered the kitchen scraps to local urban farms for composting. The goal? To divert kitchen waste into compost instead of sending it to landfills so that methane—one of the most potent greenhouse gases—will be reduced.

Response to the program from participating households was overwhelmingly positive. All but one respondent said they would recommend the program “enthusiastically with no reservations,” and 98% of respondents (all but one) ranked their overall satisfaction as an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. Sample feedback: “It‘s been very easy to integrate into our routine,” and “Great project, all communities should offer this for people who don’t compost in their own backyards.”

In the five months since the program has been running, Compost Cab has collected an average weekly weight of 8.5 pounds of food scraps per pilot household, adding up to almost 4 tons of food waste. A town-wide program could divert more than 150 tons of food scraps from the town’s waste stream each year. 

MRN bestowed the award to the Town of University Park based on their efforts in “advocating, implementing, operating or otherwise promoting waste reduction and/or recycling in Maryland over the past year.”

STEP is funded by the United States Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. STEP is a three-year, $1.42 million initiative to reduce energy usage by 20% in 20% of the homes in University Park (and now in the three communities into which STEP is expanding). The program’s goal is to create a model community energy transformation program that serves as a roadmap for other small towns across the U.S. The program began in August 2010 and runs through July 2013.

For more information about STEP, visit mystep-up.org.

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