Almost 300 Falls Church residents have enrolled in the City’s new voluntary curbside food waste collection program, halfway to the goal of 600 families the City hopes will sign up for the initially free pickup service debuting this week.
To get the program started – one of the first in Virginia – Falls Church is subsidizing costs for the inaugural six months for the first 600 signees, except for a $10 setup fee. Later, and for others inside the city limits, the charge will be $6 per month.
At a recent Farmers Market, Elizabeth Crowther, the City’s recycling outreach coordinator, and Lonnie Marquetti, a senior administrative assistant, were equipped with supplies and literature to explain how the program will work to passersby.
“This is only a pilot program which we hope to become a permanent program,” Marquetti said.
Christine Nowroozi of Falls Church stopped by the tented table with her husband to ask questions and see what the bins look like. She discovered that the receptacles come in two forms: a white five-gallon bin that resembles a paint bucket and an emerald green 12-gallon can that stands about knee-high, equipped with two wheels and a latched lid. Both have the logo of the City’s contractor, The Compost Crew, emblazoned on the front and appear to be a natural fit alongside other disposal containers, though subscribers will have to pay $4 extra per month for the larger bin.
“The bins promise to be critter and rodent free with airtight lids,” said Ryan Walter from The Compost Crew, also stationed at the booth.
Compostable liners are given to all users for the bins. Each Wednesday, The Compost Crew will pick up the bins, transport them to a compost center, empty, clean and line them before they are returned to residents. Other options for residents who want to compost organic waste but not take part in the service include taking compostable materials to the free drop-off location behind City Hall or to the Farmers Market collection station.
A few of the many acceptable items residents can toss in the bins are hair, toe and fingernails, meat, cheese, paper products, pizza boxes, leather and dryer lint. (A complete list is available at compostcrew.com/thelist).
Residents can try out the service for a month or two and sign up for a year, however, 95 percent of those who start composting keep composting, like Falls Church’s Eleanore Sunderland who’s been composting for a number of years.
“I think the program is a good deal,” Sutherland said. “I would like to see more people do it.”
The more people that sign on, the more reduction to City’s carbon footprint because composting helps fight climate change, according to a non-profit organization fighting climate change, What’s Your Impact. Fossil fuels are used to transport garbage, sometimes long distances, which produces greenhouse gases when garbage decomposes in landfills.
American families produce an average of 20 pounds per month of food waste. Estimates claim that almost four pounds of greenhouse gas emissions are produced for every pound of food that is trashed, but composting to recycle the waste back to garden soil (Falls Church participants will get a free bag every spring) makes no noxious emissions since the waste mixes with oxygen.
According to a statement from Falls Church solid waste coordinator Chris McGough, a quarter of trash and garbage that consumers throw away is food scraps and organic waste.
While the program may be one of the first of its kind in Virginia, nearby Chevy Chase has had an active composting program for two years.
“Everything’s going well. The town has had no major hiccups or complaints,” said Chevy Chase Village Manager Shana Davis-Cook, but she still would like more people to participate. Of 720 homes there, only 40 families have signed up to pay $20 per month for the service.
Her recommendations to Falls Church are to seize every opportunity to educate citizens about the benefits of the program and to market effectively. She says face-to-face communication is important in order to combat misconceptions like rodents getting in the bins.
There are 3,000 households eligible to participate in the program and those outside City limits can join at a cost of $32 a month.
Falls Church’s Charlotte Kaplow said she’s likely to give the program a try as she eyed the free stack of kitchen caddies and recognizes its long-term effect.
“It’s important not to just destroy the Earth,” Kaplow remarked. “I am excited about [ the curbside waste pickup]. We throw a lot of food and stuff that would be more productive as compost.”
Questions on the new program, beginning next Wednesday, Aug. 2, can be addressed to the Falls Church composting staff by email at [email protected] or phone at (703) 248-5456 (TTY 711). More information is available at fallschurchva.gov/composting.