Putnam to begin accepting food waste for composting

Compost feedstock

By Lisa Luck
Special to UCBJ

Putnam County will soon accept food waste from residents, businesses and institutions for composting instead of taking it to the landfill. The county recently received a grant that will provide funding for this organics project.

Food waste is typically put in with regular household and business garbage and taken to a landfill for disposal. This grant encourages composting because it is a better disposal option.

In a landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) and results in the production of methane gas as a byproduct.  This methane gas, when released from landfills, contributes to global warming.

Composting at home, work or through the county solid waste department allows food waste to decompose naturally, or aerobically (with oxygen), and eliminates the production of methane gas.

It only takes a few months for food waste to decompose.  The resulting material is a rich humus that can be used on flower or garden beds.  Through composting, vitamins and minerals are captured from food waste that would be lost in a landfill.

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Composting is a simple process if everyone knows what to do with their food waste.

The first step is to set up a system by designating a place in the yard to compost food waste.  Provide a bucket or large bowl to collect leftover food or scraps and tell your household or co-workers what can go in the bucket.

If you compost onsite, dump food waste at the designated area or into the composter. Lightly cover food waste with either leaves, a sprinkle of dirt, grass clippings or small twigs and yard debris.

For businesses with a large quantity of food waste, the county offers free pickup service and will manage the food waste for you.  Food waste will be collected and processed at the new composting site located at 11089 Cookeville Boat Dock Rd., Cookeville. Businesses delivering food waste will not pay a tipping fee.

Food waste will be mixed with wood chips and left to decompose.  The resulting humus will be used for city and county projects.

Although a compost site can be set up by using four pallets lashed together or by stacking concrete blocks into a square, county residents can qualify for a home composter by attending a waste management class provided by county staff.

Businesses can also qualify for one or more composters.

Food waste training is available by appointment. Employees will be trained to either separate food waste for composting onsite or for collecting waste for the county to compost.

If you are interested in composting at your home or business, call the Putnam County Solid Waste Department at (931) 528-3884 and leave a message. The solid waste staff will call back to schedule a waste management class or set up training for employees.  With large quantities of food waste, call to schedule pickup.

Businesses are asked to track the amount of food waste composted and to report the amount annually to the solid waste department to help the county qualify for additional funding to aid with solid waste issues.

Lisa Luck is the Putnam County Solid Waste Department program manager for education. She can be reached by email here.

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