New municipal composting program begins in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com
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New municipal composting program begins in Steamboat Springs

Mark Berkley, founder of Innovative Regeneration Colorado in Routt County, tosses a bucket of compost into his collection bin during his first municipal compost drop-off event on Wednesday at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. People can sign up online for the pilot composting program.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new municipal composting program in Steamboat Springs greeted its first customers on Wednesday at the parking lot of the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill.

It marks the start of a pilot project and unique collaboration between the city and Innovative Regeneration Colorado, a local food waste prevention business. 

Before the program, there was no community-wide composting service in Routt County. Until about three years ago, Twin Enviro Resources at the landfill west of Milner collected food waste, but a lack of demand did not make the program economically feasible. 

While some people compost on their own or take buckets to friends with a composting system, the majority of the food waste went to landfills. A local study last year found that Routt County residents toss about 50,000 pounds of food into the garbage each week.

Diverting all that waste from the landfill reduces methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that is known as a major contributor to climate change. The gas traps heat at a rate about 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Food waste that becomes compost also has beneficial uses, enriching soil for crops and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. 

The city has been trying to start its own municipal composting program for more than a year. Steamboat Springs City Council approved a pilot program in March, but had to defund the initiative amid budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Brian Ashley, interim facilities manager for the city.

After that program failed, Mark Berkley, founder of Innovative Regeneration Colorado, approached the city about taking on the task.

“I think it’s a great first step toward establishing a long-term compost program in Steamboat Springs,” Ashley said.

The first drop-off event on Wednesday collected 94.5 pounds of food waste, according to Berkley. He hopes to continue growing the program and eventually get enough customers to offer a pick-up service similar to the trash and recycling management model. 

“The sooner we can get more people on board, the sooner we can start doing pickup,” Berkley said.

For the first phase of the pilot project, Berkley is limiting the type of waste people can drop off. Any food products are acceptable, but not food containers, napkins, paper towels or compostable packaging.

In the future, Berkley said his composting system will be able to handle some of those materials 

“We will keep it simple to start and build up from there,” Berkley said.

Come spring, he plans to sell bags of compost to the city, local farmers, gardeners and landscaping companies. He eventually wants every resident to have a compost bin that regularly gets picked up alongside their trash and recycling. Ultimately, Berkley wants to change how the community looks at organic waste.

“It’s not even waste,” he said. “It’s a resource.”

For now, the pilot program is accepting yearly and monthly subscriptions, with lidded buckets available for purchase. To sign up, visit the Innovative Regeneration Colorado website at innovativeregenerationco.com.

For more information, contact the Innovative Regeneration’s Feed for Seed team at 970-396-6628 or feedforseed@gmail.com

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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