Municipal drop-off sites to open this month
A six-month pilot program to introduce free municipal composting to all residents of Beacon will kick off later this month.
Three drop-off sites — at the city’s Recreation Department, at 23 West Center St.; Memorial Park; and the Churchill Street parking lot, near Hudson Valley Brewery — will be open to residents beginning April 15.
Green bins will be installed at each of the sites for people to drop household food scraps such as vegetables, fruit, egg shells, coffee grounds and filters or bread. In addition, materials not normally acceptable for backyard compost bins, including meat and bones, dairy and “biodegradable” products like paper towels, utensils, cups and takeout containers, will be accepted at the municipal sites.
The locations will be equipped with signs designating materials that cannot be composted, such as recyclable plastic or glass, Styrofoam, produce stickers or waxed cardboard.
Instructional videos will be posted on the city’s sustainability page (bit.ly/beacon-compost) to help residents new to composting or unsure of what materials are accepted, said Sergei Krasikov, chair of the city’s Conservation Advisory Committee, who spoke to the City Council about the program during its March 28 meeting.
The scraps will be hauled away for $450 per month by C.R.P. Sanitation, a Cortlandt Manor firm that manages food-scrap pickup for more than 20 Westchester County communities and owns its own composting facility, where meat, bones and other materials not normally acceptable for compost break down in high-temperature, high-volume batches.
Composting Picks Up Speed
A map created by the Cornell Waste Management Institute, a program at Cornell University, shows more than 100 compost facilities located throughout New York state at colleges, universities, farms, government sites, prisons and schools.
In February, the Philipstown Town Board unanimously approved a food scrap recycling program. The town will collect food waste at its recycling site on Lane Gate Road before it is hauled away by C.R.P. and composted.
In December, the Village of Rhinebeck approved a municipal compost pilot for 100 households beginning in March and running through August. If it continues, the program will have a monthly fee, based on household size, of $6 to $12. Businesses would be charged $68 to $340 monthly, based on the number of bins they fill.
Sustainable Beacon, a citizen group, and the Conservation Advisory Committee pitched the idea to the City Council in 2020 after surveying the community on ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste. Last summer, the council approved spending $8,000 to launch the drop-off program, as well as a backyard bin pilot effort in which the city purchased 100 bins and sold them to residents for $10 each — $45 less than what Dutchess County charges.
The bins, which were distributed last weekend, “sold out like wildfire,” said Amber Grant, a Sustainable Beacon volunteer and former council member. During the pilot period, Sustainable Beacon will provide educational resources and feedback from experts for people using them at their homes.
Neither of the initiatives was a tough sell, City Administrator Chris White said. “It’s a relatively small amount of money to gain data on the impact [of composting] and to see if people are willing to participate in the program,” he said on Thursday (March 31).
The municipal drop-off program is independent of the services provided in Beacon by the Community Compost Co., which offers, through a paid membership, residential collection or drop-off spots behind the Memorial Building at 413 Main St. and at the Beacon Farmers’ Market.
During the six-month pilot, Sustainable Beacon volunteers will again survey community members to gauge interest. The group will also monitor drop sites for contamination and to record usage.
Although the city has not set benchmarks, compost usage could be compared with the quarterly waste audits the city receives from Royal Carting, the company that picks up garbage and recycling. The hope is that the composting program will reduce the waste stream and be extended long-term, Grant said.
The program will only be open to city residents, not businesses, during the pilot, which ends Oct. 14. Community Compost offers service for commercial clients.
Composting has grown significantly as environmental advocates promote the practice as a viable way to reduce the waste stream. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 30 percent of the organic material Americans throw away is compostable.
Trash collected in Beacon is incinerated in Poughkeepsie, where it releases pollution into the atmosphere, Grant said. She noted that incinerators have historically been placed in or near lower-income residential areas.
“Systemic change is required to address the climate crisis, and this is a step toward creating a more progressive waste stream,” she said. “It’s a really forward-thinking outlook for the city to take. My hope is that enough communities start to demand composting that the status quo is forced to change and we create less-harmful waste management processes at a reasonable cost.”