The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday March 24th

Farmers' market pilots free compost program

Starting June 18, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market will partner with the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department to pilot a free program for local residents and farmers’ market attendees, where they’ll be able to drop off food waste to be composted every Saturday market day through September.

The program will enlist the help of Brooks Contractor, a commercial composting company that can compost veggie scraps as well as all meats, bones and dairies, which typically cannot be processed in a backyard compost system.

Blair Pollock, a planner for Orange County Solid Waste Department, said the idea began when a council member asked why commercial compost wasn’t set up at one of the seven farmers’ markets in the area.

Pollock said when Carrboro Farmers’ Market said yes to a pilot, that was the tipping point.

“Carrboro is the best, the oldest and the most organized (farmers’ market),” he said.

Erin Jobe, manager of the market, said she didn’t originally see the program’s full potential.

“Originally, I thought there was a need for farmers to have a place to drop compost at the end of the market day,” Jobe said. “It just evolved into what I thought was the best need — that our customers may be interested.”

The pilot period for the program will kick off with a food awareness party on Saturday, complete with composting demonstrations, worm bin explorations and free food waste collection buckets for those who decide to participate in the program.

During the kickoff, volunteers will teach locals about the compost collection and monitor the collection carts to be sure that all composting is done correctly.

Muriel Williman, education and outreach coordinator for Orange County Solid Waste, said volunteers are necessary for the pilot because they will help monitor the success of the program and help determine if it should be continued after the pilot period has ended.

“They will talk to users about proper items, if need be, and educate others that might be interested about the collections’ purpose and use,” she said. “The major contaminants are plastic — including plastic bags and plastic produce labels — and metal.”

Although this is an educational opportunity, Williman said backyard composting requires its own training.

“If people are interested in learning how to compost at home on their own...they can take one of the classes we offer in the spring and fall,” she said.

Pollock said he sees the pilot as an opportunity to educate people about commercial composting.

“We are grateful for the Town of Carrboro and the market for working with us and enabling the program,” he said.

Not only will the market provide composting to those who do not have it set up in their own homes, it can supplement those who already do.

“Even if you are composting at home, you can enhance your organics diversion by using this drop-off,” he said. “It can accept meat, bones, dairy, baked goods, all kinds of food items that would not go well in a backyard compost.”


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