Brattleboro moves to townwide composting

Andre Smith of Triple T Trucking picks up compost on Kipling Road in Brattle­boro for the pilot curbside compost program. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)

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Monday December 24, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- After looking over the data from a three-month pilot, curbside compost program, the Selectboard has decided to go townwide and offer the service to every resident who wants to try it out.

The town has begun gathering names for the next phase of its compost program, which will probably start in the early spring.

Once the new program is in place, all separated organic material will be collected and sent to a compost facility at the Windham Solid Waste Management District, making Brattleboro the first municipality in New England to have a curbside compost program.

"Everybody loved it," Compost Coordinator Moss Kahler said about the 153 residents who took part in the pilot program this fall.

"Everyone said it was easier than they thought and it had a dramatic impact on the amount of trash that we sent to the landfill."

At the last Selectboard meeting the board agreed to take $25,000 from the money the town saved in tipping fees due to its compost and recycling program, and dedicate that money toward starting the new curbside compost program during this fiscal year.

The money will pay for new bins, education material and also the salary for a coordinator to run the program.

At the meeting, Town Manager Barbara Sondag talked about the importance of having a coordinator to run the pilot program and the board also talked about bringing a compost coordinator back on to make sure the townwide compost program ran smoothly.

Kahler will likely continue in that roll, though the decision has not yet been made.

The town saves $55 for every ton of compost that is diverted form the landfill, and another $105 for every ton of recyclable material that stays out of the trash stream.

When the curbside compost program starts, the town will also move toward weekly recycling pickup.

Kahler says studies show that when more people compost it also increases the recycling rate, so Brattleboro is poised to keep tons of trash out of the landfill, as well as save real money on its tipping fees.

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Vermont has also passed legislation that will require all municipalities to offer curbside compost and recycling programs, so Kahler said Brattleboro is going to lead the rest of the state in starting its programs.

"It is amazing how the town, and the Selectboard have gotten behind this," Kahler said. "The writing is on the wall and more towns are going to have to do this. It is good to be proactive so you don't have to scramble."

The town is asking anyone in Brattleboro who has trash picked up by the town's service to contact the compost coordinator to sign up for the new program.

Kahler says that while recycling is still required in Brattleboro, the compost program will be voluntary.

The three month pilot program was wildly successful, Kahler said.

Not only did all 153 voluntary participants say that they would continue on with the program, but Kahler said he also received comments that the service was easier and less of a nuisance that some of the participants anticipated.

Compost is not anymore dirty or smelly, he said, because the separated compost only contains scraps that would otherwise be in the trash can.

The compost bins are secured and Kahler said it is actually more likely that animals not get into a compost bin compared to an unsecured bag or garbage pail.

According to Kahler, other communities around the country and in Canada that have gone to curbside compost have seen rates of about 35 percent signing up at first.

With Triple T making about 2,700 stops n Brattleboro, Kahler says he is preparing for about 945 new participants when the service starts in the spring, though he admits it is impossible to predict what will happen.

"That's one of the unknowns. We don't know how many people will sign up," said Kahler. "And we expect it will grow over the next few years when people find out how easy it is."

To get more information about the compost program, send your contact information to

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.