Composting is one of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of our food waste, which emits millions of tons of greenhouse gases to landfills every year.
Americans throw away almost 40% of the food they produce. Global food waste emissions are higher than in any single country, with the exception of the United States and China.
Composting can reduce that.
It’s also a subject we’ve heard a lot from you about. To answer some of these questions, we covered how composting works and how to get started in our last Scrub Hub.
But it’s a tedious process and can take up space or buy new materials. Because of this, readers have delved into questions about what to do with leftover food when they don’t see themselves composting.
The good news is that even if you can’t compost your own food in the backyard, you can responsibly dispose of your leftover food.
Several Indianapolis services pick up leftover food right from your curb. At the same time, the city has set itself the goal of achieving roadside composting by 2025.
For more information on how to use Indianapolis’ composting services and the status of the city destination, please continue reading.
The short answer
There are two roadside composting services in Indianapolis: Green With Indy and Earth Mama Compost. Both charge a roadside pickup subscription and collect your leftover food at least once a week.
Green With Indy offers weekly pickup, bi-weekly pickup and drop-off options for residents, and Earth Mama offers bi-weekly pickups.
In 2019, the City of Indianapolis released the Thrive Indianapolis Plan, a comprehensive set of goals to improve the city’s sustainability. Part of this plan is to reduce the amount of garbage residents who go to landfill. This includes setting up a subscription-based roadside composting service for residents by 2025. However, the city is still at the early stages of this process.
While many other cities offer community roadside composting services, Indianapolis is not lacking one alone. In many cases, roadside composting is done by private companies like Earth Mama and Green With Indy.
The long answer
Americans throw away millions of tons of waste that could have been composted every year – this includes leftover food, garden waste and paper. In addition to releasing greenhouse gases, it also means that nutrients that would have been returned to the soil will instead rot in landfills.
On the other hand, composting this waste and applying it to farmland increases yield, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and improves soil water retention.
In the past few decades, cities across the country have started adopting roadside composting services. According to a survey by BioCycle, a composting and recycling resource, nearly 350 communities had access to roadside food waste collection in 2017.
Roadside composting operated by Indianapolis in the city is likely a long way off. A city spokesman said current urban waste contracts end in 2025 and the city has started “a robust procurement phase” to evaluate the introduction of roadside recycling or composting.
Until then, services like Green with Indy and Earth Mama have intervened.
Greg Walton started Green With Indy in 2009 and believes it could have been the state’s first roadside compost collection program. He said he was drawn to the business in part because of his passion for the organic vegetable garden.
Over a decade later, Green With Indy now serves more than 300 households in Marion County. In 2019, they moved 1.7 million pounds of food waste, much of which was being driven by commercial customers and restaurant customers. In the same year, the city presented the company with an award for promoting sustainability.
But then the pandemic hit – and since restaurants made up about 35% of Walton’s business, he also took a hit. Now the company is concentrating on expanding the residential service.
“I don’t expect (restaurants) to fully return until they are able to restore their capacity on their own,” said Walton. “It was slow but steady.”
Earth Mama owner Heather Maybury was also held up by the pandemic. Before 2020, she was counting on 200,000 pounds of compost. It didn’t quite get there, but it has improved over the 2019 route, around 98,000.
Maybury got into the business because she was looking for a job she felt passionate about. She learned about composting services in other cities and started her own, Curbside Compostables, with $ 300 and a Honda Civic.
“I said, ‘Okay, we have a website, let’s do this,'” Maybury said. “I don’t want to change my heart or mind, I just want to be there and help the people who want to.”
She later bought Earth Mama and since then her business has grown to serve more than 400 customers in the Marion County area. She also had to buy a garbage truck.
Maybury has a background in environmental advocacy and says it is important to her to make sure people have access to basic composting services.
“I think the greatest thing is empowering people who want to do the right thing by giving them options,” Maybury said. “That’s where my passion lies.”
Walton is also personally committed to promoting the benefits of composting.
“Our job is to educate as much as possible about why we should compost our waste,” said Walton. “This is one of the most sustainable things you can do.”
Green With Indy charges $ 25 per month or $ 260 per year for weekly compost collection in residential areas. Bi-weekly compost collection or access to drop-off services is $ 16 per month each. To sign up for Green With Indy, click online here.
Earth Mama charges $ 20 per month for bi-weekly compost pickup. To register for Earth Mama Compost, register online here.
Do you have more questions about composting in Indianapolis? Let us know! Submit a question to the scrub hub below.
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Contact IndyStar reporter London Gibson at 317-419-1912 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @londongibson.
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IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.