Madison to test new compost recycling program on West side

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - At the end of June, eligible Madison residents will receive letters inviting them to be a part of a new Food Scraps program.

A select garbage truck route with several single-family homes was selected as the pilot area. Residents will volunteer to take part and receive both a specialized waste can and a pail to help carry compost.

“It’s going to really be to test out all the lessons we learned from our old program,” said Bryan Johnson, the City of Madison Recycling Coordinator.

In 2008, the City of Madison first looked into a composting program and starting the Food Organics program in 2011.

After seven years, the program was halted mainly because the compost was getting contaminated by other materials.

“I imagine the recycling program when that first started probably had the same sort of bumps and bruises along the way,” said Johnson.

The Food Scraps program is stricter than most private composting companies.

“It’s pretty limited on what we can take,” said Johnson. “We can’t take bones at all, we can’t take egg shells or nut shells.”

Rooted Curbside Compost, a private company, sees similar contamination issues. The compost they process is used to fertilize a hemp farm and a pumpkin patch.

“It’s a struggle,” said Dee Hunter, the owner of Rooted Curbside Compost. “You really have to be all on board and there are rules.”

Hunter says they try and remind customers to remove fruit stickers and to not include meats or dairy products.

Despite the extra time it might take to sort the items, Hunter says the benefits of composting are worth it.

“It’s easier than you think,” she said. “It’s small but every little bit makes a difference.”

The program will start on August 2nd for a pre-determined number of Madison residents. If it’s successful, Johnson says it could expand in 2020.

“The landfill where we take our garbage has 10 to 15 years of life left on it,” Johnson said. “If we can divert a quarter of that it’s worth trying to figure out how we can make it work with the options we have right now.”