Solid waste district adds four towns to composting program in Franklin County

  • Steam rises from fresh compost being turned over by Sam Knight at Martin’s Farm in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Adam Martin, owner of Martin’s Farm, holds freshly screened compost at his Greenfield facility. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2022 10:08:03 AM
Modified: 8/19/2022 10:04:37 AM

As trash costs continue to rise in the wake of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District’s former waste disposal company filing for bankruptcy, the district has been expanding its composting program, which has added four new towns in recent months.

Serving 13 of the 19 transfer stations in Franklin County, the Solid Waste Management District’s Food Waste Compost program allows people to bring food waste to their local transfer station, where it will be composted, free of charge. In the last few months alone, the district has added Dumpsters and bins at the Charlemont/Shelburne transfer station, Warwick’s station and has restarted service at Conway’s transfer station, which had its service indefinitely paused in August 2021.

The program’s scope also goes beyond what residents could compost in their own households because certain types of waste can only be processed by a commercial composting operation. These items, which transfer stations accept, include “meat, bones, cheese, paper products and other materials that are not appropriate for home compost bins or piles,” according to a notice put out by the district.

“Their programs are really important because everything we can keep out of the trash saves money for the town and saves a lot of emissions from transporting trash long distances,” said Amy Donovan, the waste management district’s program coordinator. “We would much rather have compostable food and paper weight be composted locally at Martin’s Farm in Greenfield or Clear View Composting in Orange than be sent via a train to a landfill in the Carolinas.”

Following the closing of Community Ecopower’s waste energy incinerator in Agawam, Donovan said trash options are dwindling in the state, which could soon raise prices even further.

“We have just lost a huge waste disposal option in western Mass. We have very limited trash capacity in Massachusetts. In just a few short years, there will be no landfills accepting waste in all of Massachusetts,” she said. “It’s a really good idea to compost as much trash as we can locally.”

The process is simple. People bring their compostable material to their local transfer station, where it is collected by local haulers and brought to Martin’s Farm or Clear View Composting, where the waste is turned into compost to be used in gardens and farms.

Adam Martin, owner of Martin’s Farm, said Dumpsters of compostable material are brought weekly to the farm, where they are weighed and mixed together. Once that’s finished, they line up the material in “windrows,” where the compost matures and “pathogens” are killed off by the high temperatures generated by the aerobic process.

“It takes about six months from raw products to finished compost,” Martin said, adding the farm creates approximately 4,000 yards of compost a year. “During that six months we move the windrow many times to keep the air in there for the microbes.”

The process of creating compost, Donovan said, is a win-win for all involved. It allows residents to dispose of their food waste for free, businesses like Martin’s can create a product and then customers can purchase compost that can go into their gardens to grow more food. Towns do have pay for the hauling of compost, but the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP’s) Recycling Dividends Program can provide financial rewards for transfer stations participating in waste diversion programs like this one.

“It’s a pretty cool rewards program from the state. Some of these towns are able to do this without any cost at all. … All those towns receive $90,000 usually,” Donovan said, adding that composting also reduces the weight of regular trash loads, which saves the towns money. “It benefits them to get that heavy, wet material out of the trash.”

Martin echoed the mutual benefits everyone involved in the process receives.

“I’m doing the composting process here, but it all starts with us individually making the right choice,” Martin said. “And the end result is obviously doing the green choice, making that difference.”

The Food Waste Compost program is available for residents of Bernardston, Charlemont, Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Shelburne, Warwick, Wendell and Whately. A similar program is available in Greenfield, but the city is not a member of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. Residents are encouraged to check in with their local transfer station for hours and how to participate.

Donovan said the district is also working with the towns of Rowe, Colrain, Heath and Buckland to develop a program. Ashfield is not a member of the district.

In Conway, which recently restarted its composting program, Town Administrator Veronique Blanchard said residents are very active in the program, but she doesn’t have exact numbers regarding how much money the town saves in trash expenses.

“When it went away, people were asking for it left and right,” said Blanchard, who previously worked with MassDEP and was also in charge of composting in South Hadley for 10 years. “It’s doing the right thing. … It just makes sense to recycle it and have it go back in our gardens.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.

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