Case Study: NEK Pilot Project

Outcomes & Results

The Northeast Kingdom Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off pilot project was successfully implemented at the seven transfer station facilities from July 2013 through November 2013, and remains operational. Two or three additional NEKWMD facilities will join the program in the coming months, increasing the available number of drop-off locations, and in turn the number of participants in the program.

A deviation from the original project plan did occur during the roll out of the program. Participant tracking sheets were not available at five of the seven drop-off locations. At the two locations that did have tracking sheets, contact information was taken from only a partial number of participants. Thus, participants received program materials (i.e. 5-gallon bucket; Quick-Start Guide; etc.) without giving contact information in return. As a result, cumulative data on the number of active participants and the frequency of participation has not been collected, and weekly communication with participants did not occur. The ability to collect data from all participants over the course of the program was also hindered due to the failure to collect contact information. That being said, NEKWMD and HCC did develop evaluation metrics to assess the effectiveness of the program.

The NEKWMD collected data on the total amount of food scraps collected from the seven drop-off locations over the course of the pilot period for the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program. This data was collected from July 26, 2013, to November 1, 2013. The total amount of food scraps collected from the seven drop-off locations was 14,860 lbs of food scraps. Based on calculations from the Close the Loop Vermont Strategic Plan (2012), if each participant that received a bucket (250 buckets), brought all of their food scraps from their household on a weekly basis (~8 lbs of food scraps/household/week), then the total volume of food scraps collected from the seven drop-off locations would have been 28,000 lbs of food scraps over the course of the pilot period. This means that the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program was successful at collecting about 53 percent, or just over half, of the total estimated amount of food scraps generated by participants in the program. Although this percentage shows significant room for improvement, it is likely the number (53%) would be higher if more accurate data was collected on number of active participants and frequency of participation.

Two separate surveys were developed by HCC to gather quantitative data on the program.

Survey One. The first survey was designed to assess transfer station attendants’ opinions on the program. Three attendants from three different transfer station facilities responded to the survey (n=3). Significant findings are below:

I encountered the following challenges as a result of the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program.

Table 1

I would recommend a residential food scrap drop-off type program to employees of other transfer stations in Vermont.

Table 2

Additional Comment: “A lot of people ask about 1-gallon buckets. I think more people would participate if 1-gallon buckets were offered in addition to 5-gallon buckets.”

Survey Two. A second survey was designed to assess participants’ opinions on the program. Twelve participants responded to the survey (n=12). Significant findings are below:

I participate in the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program:

Table 3

Please select all of the benefits that you associate with the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program (Select all that apply):

Table 4

Selected Comments: “Keeps food out of the waste stream.” “Keeps food out of my garbage; makes less garbage; keeps the kitchen smelling better.”

I am satisfied with the 5-gallon bucket provided to me to collect food scraps.

Table 5

Overall, I am satisfied with the NEK Residential Food Scrap Drop-Off program.

Additional Comment: “I am concerned that because there is no place at the drop off to rinse our bucket, I will not be able to continue recycling throughout the winter. We turn off all outdoor faucets through winter as I’m sure many do! Have you considered either having a rinse station there or perhaps a swap bucket—take one, leave one…just a thought. Thanks!”

In addition to surveys, HCC also conducted an in-depth interview with Paul Tomasi, Director of NEKWMD, and Marcus Berry, Outreach Coordinator for NEKWMD. Significant excerpts from the interview are below:

Definitely say this [NEK Residential Drop-Off program] was an effective method of collecting food scraps from residents in the NEKWMD. I know that the volume of food scraps processed from this particular facility [Lyndonville Transfer Station] increased, maybe even doubled. All we had to do was put the bins there.”—Paul Tomasi

A lesson learned would be to have utilized the tracking sheets at the onset of the program. When you hand a participant a bucket—that is the opportunity to ask for something [contact information] in return.”—Paul Tomasi

Participants are surprised and happy about winter composting. In the winter, smaller, at-home compost piles freeze, thus home composters are excited they can continue to divert food scraps through the winter months.”—Marcus Berry

Participants also comment on the lack of hassle associated with diverting food scraps through the drop-off program. Some people compost just for waste diversion, not for the gardening benefits [i.e. production of soil amendment]. Participants are happy to be rid of bear and raccoon issues.”—Paul Tomasi

The buckets [NEK 5-gallon buckets], people really like the buckets. We receive more comments on the buckets than any other aspect of the NEK Residential Drop-Off program.”—Paul Tomasi

Well within five years, and hopefully sooner, we will have food waste collection at every facility throughout the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District. My guess is we will have most facilities collecting food waste in the next two years (which will require re-permitting some facilities). We plan to use the food scrap drop-off program as a way to accomplish this.”—Paul Tomasi

Go to:   Introduction  |  Background  |  Materials & Methods  |  Challenges & Areas of Improvement  |  Conclusion