There's an old saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure. In Princeton, New Jersey however, environmentally conscious residents have found that everyone's trash is something of a treasure.
Some 430 Princeton residents have been able to sharply reduce their trash output thanks to a two-year-old food waste recycling program. It's the fist one of its kind in the state and the region. Residents pay a monthly fee of $15 and have their compostable food waste picked up from a special bucket separate from their household trash and recycling. Princeton recycling coordinator Janet Pellichero says that composting is a "no brainer."
"It's a very environmentally friendly town. Princeton is incredibly environmentally friendly, they are very aware of environmental issues and sustainable issues, so given that component, it was very easy to get the program rolling," said Pellichero.
For residents, the food waste is picked up curbside from their homes by Premier Food Waste Recycling and brought to the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center in Delaware. Nelson Widell, a partner in Peninsula Compost Company, says this is where the food waste is turned into compost.
"The facility receives as much as 600 tons per day of food waste, yard waste and wood waste every day, which are the basic ingredients for composting," said Widell. "We process that material over an eight week period and apply modern fermentation techniques to the age old process of composting and turn byproducts of our society into humus which is what makes things grow.
Back in Princeton, residents such as Caroline Hancock give the food recycling program good grades so far.
"It's much easier to use this program than to not to, I find, but its also a moral issue about knowing that the food that's been produced is going back to nature and it's not going to a landfill," said Hancock, "so that makes me happy all the time."
Dan Napoleon, chief of recycling for the Mercer County Improvement Authority, which had recommended Princeton as a test community for the program, says Hancock's comments are typical.
"I tell you, the feedback has been great," said Napoleon. "Once we addressed all the stereotypical questions and concerns, the program began to see a lot of positive movement."
Residents taking part in the program quickly end up putting a lot less in their trash cans. Nelson Widell says that's no surprise. "Here in the United States in particular, food waste represents 15 to 20 percent of what we throw away."
"I noticed the other day," Caroline Hancock said "that my husband probably hadn't emptied the trash bucket for probably two weeks because it wasn't full and it didn't have any smell."
While residential food waste recycling for municipalities is still in it's infancy, officials hope this program will become popular enough to build a composting center in the Central Jersey area thereby eliminating the need to haul the waste to Delaware. That might not be the best of news for businessman Nelson Widell, but it is good news for environmentalist Nelson Widell.
"With their success I think we'll see, not only in New Jersey, but throughout the Mid-Atlantic region an increase in that practice because number one, it's recycling, number two, it's saving money and number three, it's reducing greenhouse gas," he said.