BEDFORD, N.Y. – Moving to jump-start an ambitious effort to cut residential food waste, Bedford is asking the state to pick up half the cost of a $75,000 pilot program.
The three-year experiment would see select volunteer residents composting their kitchen leftovers and leaving them at the curb for a free weekly pickup, separate from the other household trash.
The environmental coalition Bedford 2020 proposed the program earlier this year, saying such composting would continue Bedford’s dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, by lightening the load of other household waste, composting could also bring reductions in the cost of residential trash pickups.
“To the extent that we can reduce the weight that the carters are picking up,” Supervisor Chris Burdick said in an interview, “then that ought to lead to a moderation in the rates.”
Applying last month for $37,440 in financial assistance from the state’s Climate Smart Communities Grant Program, Burdick outlined a scaled-back composting trial. At three years and $75,000, the initiative is both less expensive and shorter in length than the five-year, $100,000 plan originally presented to the Town Board.
Peter F. Kuniholm, of Katonah, chairman of Bedford 2020’s waste and recycling task force, had introduced the bigger concept at the board’s May meeting. He subsequently spelled out details of a more-modest effort in a June memo to Burdick.
Under his revised plan, the first year would enlist 40 resident-volunteers, chosen on a first-come first-served basis, into the food-waste collection program (the original proposal envisioned 50). A private curbside collection company would provide the service on a subscription basis, paid for by the town.
“We anticipate that many more families will elect to sign up and pay as the program starts,” Kuniholm wrote, “perhaps as many as 100 in year one. Interested families beyond the subsidized 40 would pay approximately the [carter’s] $6 per week fee.” That fee would include the cost of hauling and compost processing.
Hundreds of Bedford residents are already separating kitchen waste from their home’s other trash. Ellen Calves, program director at Bedford 2020, notes that “at least 300 participants [in the town’s organic waste drop off program] regularly drive their food scraps to the town recycling center. Several other households collect food scraps and pay a private service to pick them up.”
While volunteer families in the year-long pilot segments would have free curbside pickups, they’d be expected to buy Bedford 2020’s $25 composting kit. It includes a small bucket for collecting food scraps and a larger, 6-gallon one with a sealable lid to carry outside.
After the first year is completed, the original 40 volunteers would be encouraged to continue the service on their own, paying the estimated $6 weekly carter fee. Meanwhile, a new set of 40 families would be solicited for the following one-year free pilot period.
“We expect the program to be popular and residents in town will want to sign up,” Kuniholm said in his memo. “If approved, we anticipate preparing and advertising in 2019 and offering the free pilot in early 2020. The hope is to attract most resident families to participate and to eventually add businesses.”
Burdick warned, however, that it will likely be months before the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which administers the Climate Smart grants, formally acts on Bedford’s sought-after financial assistance. “The way the state works,” he said, “we won’t even know till the end of the year whether or not we’re awarded the grant.”
Even if approved, the grant could come through with fewer dollars than requested, the supervisor pointed out. In that event, he said, “we will adjust accordingly.”
“The principal cost to the town in this is the carters’ charge, and that’s where the bulk of the state cash would be applied,” Burdick said.
Whatever dollar amount is ultimately awarded, the grant requires Bedford to match it. The town plans to satisfy that mandate through the donation of “in-kind” professional services, principally Kuniholm’s. A professional engineer, he has specialized in waste-management issues for more than 40 years.
“The in-kind is really resting on Peter’s professional services,” Burdick acknowledged. Concern for his time, the supervisor said, was in part at least a reason for scaling back the pilot’s scope. “I thought it was a little much to ask Peter to make a five-year commitment to the town,” he said.
Bedford is backing its request for grant money with a solid record of environmental activism and achievement, especially in this decade.
Tasked in 2010 to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, it realized that goal years ago. Instead, as the organization proudly reported earlier this year, it’s curbed those noxious emissions by 70 percent.
Since its founding, Bedford 2020 has moved beyond the single GHG mission, spawning task forces to aggressively address such issues as the price and source of electricity, solar energy, water and land use and food and agriculture, as well as waste and recycling.