The Durham Compost Challenge

The Durham Integrated Waste Management Advisory Committee has been looking at ways to improve the town's solid waste program. Dramatic changes in the value of recyclable materials and concerns with future landfill space have challenged us to look for new solutions that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. Removing organic material from the solid waste stream through a composting program appears to be a promising idea. The committee is looking to run a pilot program to determine the ratio of household composable to non-compostable waste. We are look for at least 20 families to participate in a 6-week program that will provide us with data to help us develop a community composting program. Lebanon, NH ran a similar trial this year, and their story was published on NHPR

How Does the Challenge Work?

Families can register for the challenge by visiting on the Durham website. For 10 dollars, they get a 3 gallon vented container, bags and a data sheet.

Another option is to use a larger non-vented container. Mr. Fox provides a 13 gallon non-vented container for their curbside compost pickup. It is built to last and easily will hold any families weekly compost. Rubbermaid makes one the looks similar and cost just under 30 dollars at Walmart. Families choosing that option can sign up for 13 gallon compostable bags, and the data sheet at Parks and Recreation.

A household scale is not provided but would come in very handy. One can be purchased for around 20 dollars or challenge participants can weigh waste at the transfer station. Each week for six weeks, participants will weigh their compost and their regular household waste and record both on the data sheet.

What is Compostable?

Durham uses Mr. Fox Composting to pick up and process our compostable material. They have been providing commercial and residential compost services to Seacoast New Hampshire and Maine communities for 10 years. They accept food scraps including meat and dairy, corn-based cups and utensils, and some paper. We will include a list of acceptable items on participant's data sheets.

Collecting and Weighing Compost

After you have sorted compostable from non-compostable containers, we need you to weigh them each week. Since putting a full bag of household waste on a scale is challenging, an easier method is to start by weighing the empty compost container and your regular trash can. At the end of the week, weigh the full containers and subtract the weight of the empty containers. Record the net weight on the data sheet.

Where do I deposit my compost?

At the end of the week, participants will need to bring their compost bags to the the Durham Transfer Station. It is located at 100 Durham Point Road and is open Tuesdays and Saturdays 7:30AM to 2:30PM You need a resident transfer station sticker that can be obtained at either Town Hall or the Durham Public Works office. As you drive in, you will notice some green containers next to the green building. Dump your compost here.

Since you are already driving up to the transfer station, you should also bring your corrugated cardboard and aluminum cans. The town makes money off of recycling these materials. Corrugated cardboard has three layers and is commonly used to make Amazon boxes. You can drop it off in the green shed next to the compost container. Aluminum cans go in the blue containers at the far side of the transfer station. Don't crush the cans before recycling them since by doing so you risk contamination and it makes them more difficult for counting machines.

Compost Awards

If it is a challenge there has to be a prize. The families with the top three highest percentage of compostable to non-compostable waste will receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Thanks for taking the challenge and helping us improve the Durham solid waste program.

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