BRATTLEBORO -- When the town of Brattleboro went looking for 150 volunteers to take part in a pilot compost program, Kelly Therieau was one of the first to sign up.
Therieau was already separating her recyclable waste, and taking her food scraps to the weekly collection site on Fairground Road, so Therieau said she was willing to work with town officials to help establish the townwide curbside pickup program.
Now, about a month after the town has started picking up the compost from bins in front of the participants' homes, Therieau says the impact has been even greater than she anticipated.
"Your whole world changes," Therieau said. "At first you make excuses that life is busy, or that it is going to be smelly, but once you start doing it you're hooked."
Therieau, who lives on Valley Street with her two cats, is one of the volunteers who has agreed to put out the compostable waste on Friday mornings so the town can establish its systems as it works toward a townwide, volunteer curbside compost program, which could start as early as next spring.
She said the exercise has helped her reduce her weekly garbage to a single, dry bag.
"It becomes a contest to see how little trash you can get," she said. "It's a good feeling. You feel like you're doing your part to save the environment."
Brattleboro is running the three-to-four-month pilot program to see how the pickup and transfer goes, and also to test the
The district has accepted a relatively small amount of food waste.
Brattleboro used to truck its food waste to a facility near Greenfield, Mass., which turned it into compost, but with the townwide pickup a possibility, WSWMD is trying to start a facility of its own.
WSWMD Executive Director Bob Spencer said so far the experiment has been successful, but he warns that it is a huge step to move from a 150-member pilot program to a townwide or districtwide compost program.
Spencer said the district might consider a covered, closed system that captures the methane gas produced by the food waste breaking down.
That would require money, and a new permit.
Spencer said the district is learning what it can from the initial program and waiting to see what Brattleboro does before looking too far into the future.
"So far it has been great. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this," he said. "Moss (Kahler) and the participants are taking this seriously and so far everyone is adhering to the recommendations."
Spencer says there has been very little plastic contamination and the pile has been maintaining a healthy, steady temperature and moisture level which both help to break the waste down.
He is not sure how the district will handle sale of the compost once it is available and he said that is one more discussion the district will have to have if it moves to a larger townwide pickup in Brattleboro.
"It will be a big step for all the parties to go to the next level," Spencer said. "Right now it is a very low tech approach but I think the overall felling is that if we can do this, we'd like to."
Kahler, who was hired by Triple T Trucking to oversee the pilot program, agreed that so far the program has been wildly successful.
He has been sending out weekly e-mail messages and staying in close contact with Spencer and Triple T, and with the 150 volunteer members.
The program started on Aug. 17 and Kahler said the town might try to extend it into the winter to see how the cold weather affects the waste.
So far the waste produced by those households has been cut in half, on average, and if Brattleboro extends the service it could mean thousands of pounds of waste that do not go into the landfill, less money taxpayers pay in tipping fees, and fewer truck trips to the landfill in Moretown.
"We did the pilot to see how this could work on a small scale and so far we have had no major problems," he said. "We know the town will have a lot to discuss before we move on but so far we see no major problems."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.