One consultant proposed a $25 million composting plant — with the idea that the company gets a long-term contract to process the city’s food and yard waste. Another proposed setting up pick-up sites where residents can drop off their organic waste, and then the firm can pick it up on bicycles.
And still another — the Kitchen Compost Man, if you must know — proposed going from high-rise building to high-rise building, picking up 2.5 gallon bins of organic waste at a time, via the old-fashioned garbageman way.
“The Kitchen Compost Man offers a solution here,” reads the proposal.
So goes the array of recommendations and proposals that more than a dozen industry consultants and businesses have laid out for Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration, as Boston looks for creative strategies to enhance recycling and composting.
Pilot programs for curbside composting and the collection of recycled textiles could begin this spring, part of the city’s Zero Waste Plan. But the recommendations for creative strategies, which the Boston Globe obtained through a public records request, are meant to serve as a blueprint for a larger effort to cut down on the the city’s solid waste stream.
“What we heard from the industry is there’s a lot of energy around composting, and a lot of interest in the area around waste," said Chris Osgood, the city’s chief of public works. "We’re working through what way we want to support that.”
Think traditional composting, of leaves and food waste, to be reused in community gardens, or as biofuel. If the city were to build an anaerobic digestion facility, how big should it be? Different companies have differing views.
Consider ways to educate the public, and how residents in different neighborhoods get rid of their trash differently. Think of expanding recycling efforts, including the reuse of textiles. How much will it cost? Even proposals to get more garbage disposals installed in individual homes are on the table.
What is clear is that the city, with its diverse neighborhoods, will have to look at different ways to carry out its overall goals to cut down on solid waste, officials said.
“That was a fact-finding mission, for us to understand what are the ideas that are out there, for us to understand yard waste, food waste,” Osgood said.
One company, based in Minnesota, patented a compostable bag for food waste that can be thrown in with the weekly trash, and then retrieved later at a sorting facility. That way, the city could cut down on the costs of hauling extra trash trucks. Another company, based in Dorchester, proposed the development of several, scattered composting facilities across the city; waste can be brought there by area teenagers, working part-time jobs.
“Yesterday’s paper route could become tomorrow’s neighborhood compost collection route,” the proposal stated.
The effort is part of a Zero Solid Waste plan that aims to eliminate, within 15 years, 80 percent of the solid waste from Boston that currently goes to landfills and incinerators, by composting organic waste or increasing recycling efforts. By 2050, 90 percent of the waste would be eliminated. The city currently recycles 25 percent of its waste.
Last fall, the city expanded a municipal yard waste program, by increasing the number of weekends that leaves and grass can be brought to a city facility, and creating new drop-off areas. The city has also received proposals from companies looking to operate curbside textile and food waste collection; Those programs would be subscription-based, thought the city may subsidize part of the costs. Osgood said the city may award contracts for those operations this spring.
The push to reduce the city’s solid waste stream comes as cities and towns across the country are reconsidering their recycling efforts, as the recycling industry, largely based in China, has increasingly been rejecting contaminated materials. Communities are starting to have to pay to get rid of their cardboard and glass, at rates that compete with the costs of removing solid waste. This year, the city is projected to spend $6 million to recycle, compared to $200,000 in 2017.
City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who pushed for several years for the city to consider composting, said it can be a cost-effective way to cut down on solid waste and contaminated recycled materials.
“That is still a valuable commodity,” he said, encouraging the city to think of ways to move forward with the program, whether it be the curbside collection of waste, or the development of a digestion facility that can serve the region.
“If done right, it can be a game changer,” he said. “We need to be creative, we need to be bold, and we need to be nimble in terms of how we pick up trash.”