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Anchorage

Is Anchorage ready for community composting? New program started to find out.

Anchorage Solid Waste Services’ 5-gallon bucket sits on top of a pile of Susitna Organics’ composted soil during a press conference held by SWS to announce the start of a community composting pilot program at the Anchorage Regional Landfill on Monday, July 11, 2016. To participate in the pilot program, residents must sign up and use an official bucket to transport waste to the landfill. (Sarah Bell / Alaska Dispatch News)

Wearing a black suit and red tie, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz dropped a 5-gallon bucket filled with food scraps into a roll-off dumpster capable of holding 9 tons of waste at the Anchorage Regional Landfill Monday.

Mark those egg shells and carrot scraps as the first gallons of food headed to the municipality's community compost pilot program.

The program will run through October with Solid Waste Services giving out 250 5-gallon compost buckets, according to recycling coordinator Travis Smith.

Program participants will fill up their buckets with food waste that can be composted, like coffee grounds and banana peels. Once the bucket is full, they'll drop it off at a station at the landfill and collect compost to take back for their home gardens.

There was a small pile of finished compost next to the dumpster Monday. The system will operate under the honor system, Smith said, with people encouraged to take back only as much compost as they drop off.

Right now the composting is limited to only those who sign up for the pilot program, but it could grow larger if there's enough interest.

"We want to see how it's working before we expand," Smith said.

Berkowitz said the idea for the program stemmed from conversations at the Alaska Master Gardeners conference in April, where he was bombarded with questions from gardeners who complained about the longstanding lack of suitable compost soil in Anchorage.

For this program, the city has contracted with Susitna Organics, based in Big Lake, to collect and compost the waste.

The contract with Susitna Organics is $8,890 according to Smith, and uses funding from Solid Waste Services' recycling fees.

Berkowitz, a composter and gardener himself, emphasized that no tax dollars were being used to fund the pilot program. He said if anything, the program saves Anchorage residents money by offsetting food waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

Those interested in participating should contact Smith directly at SmithTJ@muni.org.

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