Madison wraps successful food scrap program for 2020

COVID-19 disrupted many things this year. Despite the obstacles, Madison Recycling Coordinator Bryan Johnson charged on with implementing the city’s food scrap drop-off program. Residents diverted over 7,260 pounds of food waste in this first year of the May-October program. Congratulations to the Madison program and their residents!

There’s an important reason Madison called this a food scrap program. The materials are processed at an anaerobic digester, primarily used to process manure from dairy farms. Therefore the program had very specific requirements for what items could be accepted. Materials such as eggshells, yard waste or certified compostable packaging acceptable in traditional outdoor commercial composting facilities could not be processed by the digester. 

Johnson was well-prepared to help residents avoid confusion about acceptable and unacceptable program materials. Residents had access to custom, material-specific disposal directions on the Betterbin app. Johnson also sent monthly emails to participants that reviewed common search queries in the app. 

“I think it was a real benefit to have the Betterbin app,” Johnson said. “Residents seemed to like how easy it made participating in our food scrap program.”

Madison’s program always intended on closing down in the fall so that the City trucks used to haul the materials could switch over to leaf pick-up. The program ended a few weeks early due to some pesky wasps and hornets. Johnson hopes to begin the program again in April 2021.

Congratulations, Madison for a great year of food waste diversion! Learn more about Madison’s food scrap program here.

Marveling at Madison Food Scrap Program Participants

It’s amazing how asking the simple question “WHY?” can lead to such a positive impact. ERbin began from that very question: WHY? Why is it so difficult to know what to recycle in my local community?

Fourteen months and a lot of learning and progress later, we’re bringing a solution to the table.

It doesn’t have to be hard to know what to toss in your recycle bin or compost cart. When residents have instant access to the right answers, making the right decision is easy.

We’re proving this method as Madison residents use the ERbin app during this summer’s Madison Food Scrap Trial Program taking place during August and September. Community composting programs often fail because just like with recycling, residents put the wrong items in the cart. The business receiving the materials often can’t have that kind of contamination in their compost. The contamination negatively impacts the business’s ability to sell that compost to an end-user.

On Friday, August 2, City of Madison Streets Division drivers picked up the carts from the 125 trial program participants for the first time. The outcomes were fantastic. Gunderson Health System’s Middleton dairy digestor staff were extremely happy with the materials they received. Only three tags left on carts to remind residents about acceptable items.

The Week 2 pick-up took place Friday, August 9. NO cart tags were left behind; a perfect pick-up!

Nearly half of the participants have downloaded the app, and others are participating in our Facebook group or are receiving the program’s weekly emails. We can’t wait for other communities to ask “WHY?” And see how the ERbin app can have a positive impact on decreasing contamination in their composting and recycling programs.

ERbin teams up with City of Madison Food Scrap Program

ERbin-Madison App Screenshot

Fun news! The City of Madison (WI) will begin their Summer 2019 Food Scrap Trial Program on August 2nd – and guess who will be the communication platform for all things acceptable/unacceptable in the food scrap carts? ERbin!

That’s right, the 600-or-so voluntary program participants will be able to download the ERbin app for instant access to a searchable database of items acceptable and unacceptable in their food scrap carts. There is also a tab within the app that gives trial participants instant access to how to properly dispose of many questionable household items.

With the ERbin app, Madison residents will never have to save paper lists, or go online to find items acceptable/unacceptable in their food scrap carts. And this is really important for this particular food scrap program.

Madison Food Scrap Program items are being taken to a digestor – NOT an outdoor compost facility. The list of acceptable items is highly custom and specific only to this particular food scrap program. In fact, we are staying away from using the term ‘compost’ altogether, because there are actually many technically compostable items not acceptable in the program.

We are so excited to be working with Madison on this exciting food scrap program trial! Madison has tried so hard to figure out a successful city-wide food waste diversion initiative, and we think the ERbin app as a resident communication platform is really going to ensure only the RIGHT items are going into food scrap carts. Together, we are going to make sure Madison gets a long-term food waste diversion program.