Domingo Medina wants to bike up to your house and take away your old banana peels.
He’d also like to charge you $8 for the privilege.
Medina said the project recently got Connecticut state approval, as long as the compost is not sold. It must be used for New Haven Farms and, if there’s surplus, returned to subscribers.
To make a go, Medina said he needs at least a core of 60 families. The pilot would begin in the East Rock area, where he lives, and, if successful, move into other neighborhoods in the city, and beyond.
A proposal is pending for a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. If that is successful, and all goes well, the pedal-powered composter could be on the streets as soon as the end of summer, Medina said.
Medina previewed his pilot proposal this past week at the most recent edition of a monthly networking social hour called New Haven Green Drinks. The monthly event brings together environmentally minded people in government, business, academia, and not-for-profits. The roaming event took place Wednesday night at the Luck & Levity Brewshop on Court Street and showcased “Eco-preneurs” like Medina and Sherill Baldwin (pictured with Medina) and their business plans and dreams for their green enterprises.
Medina’s idea emerged from his work with New Haven Farms, where he serves as “compost team leader.”
Every year New Haven Farms spends $20 per cubic yard for compost that it uses at its seven sites sites across New Haven.
“Why do we spend $5,000 or $6,000 a year” for this purpose? Medina asked rhetorically.
New Haven Farms surveys confirm that people who do not do their own composting—such as apartment dwellers—like the idea of offering up their daily garbage for composting, he said.
While New Haven has focused on upgrading its curbside bottle and paper recyclings—and getting greener and richer in the process—to date the city has no composting pick-up service.
Medina’s answer: Follow the model of other cities, in particular the Pedal People in Northampton, Massachusetts, to create a pedal-powered compost curbside collection service.
Click here for details of his pilot proposal, which envisions a core of 100 families, each paying eight dollars a week for the service.
How It Will Work
First you register online for $20, which will buy you this 2.4 gallon bucket. (If you have a similar closed bucket you can use your own.) When you finish subscribing to the program, you get your $20 back, he said.
You fill it with your kitchen stuff like vegetable scraps. Medina will list online, in a brochure, and on the buckets what may and may not go into the bucket. Compmosting breaks down organic material into rich soil. Composters avoid dairy or meat, which take longer to decompose and which attract animals.
He’ll weigh the bucket to determine and to control the volume at the curbside. Then he’ll dump your garbage into one of six big rubber bins he’ll haul behind on his bike-pulled trailer. He’ll leave you your little bucket to wash yourself. Some larger programs like one in Boston take the dirty bucket and replace it with a clean bucket, in the style of old milk-truck deliveries. That would be wasteful for his New Haven pilot, in Medina’s view.
Nobody quite knows how much the average family in New Haven will put into the 2.4 gallon bucket. That’s part of the pilot: to weight, to find out the pattern.
After the pick-up rounds, the garbage will end up the New Haven Farms site near Phoenix Press on James Street (pictured) where it will be recycled over a 14 to 20-day period, said Medina.
The grant will allow him to add three more composting bins to the three the site now has.“One hundred households will fill one [composting] bin per week,” Medina said. In total, 28.8 tons of food waste would be processed during the pilot year, he estimated.
When it’s ripened and all eaten up and processed naturally by the bacteria and the fungi, it should produce high-quality compost like like this (pictured), which New Haven Farms recently purchased from a farm in Fairfield, Medina said.
“That won’t go to Bridgeport for incineration, and the city doesn’t have to deal with” it, he added.
Medina said that the city’s health department has told him no permit is required for the business to proceed “as long as you don’t create a nuisance.”
The haul of the first year should provide 30 to 60 percent of the composting needs of New Haven Farms, he said, and create at least two jobs at $15 or so per hour, and decrease New Haven’s carbon footprint.
That’s in part because according to New Haven Farms website, nationally nearly 40 percent of all domestic and restaurant food is not consumed and is thrown away without reuse.
The other projects showcased at Green Drinks included a Project Storefronts sponsored Urban Seed, a hydroponics business incubator in Westville; ActualFood, which proposes online fresh-food purchase and delivery to low-income and “food desert” neighbothoods; and Sherill Baldwin’s EcoWorks, Inc , a group that seeks to find a building and a boutique where it will “upcycle” industrial and business scrap and connect it to artists, craftspeople and teachers throughout Connecticut. All are looking for funders and volunteers.