A bin of recyclable food at Sunday River’s South Ridge Cafeteria, including some strawberries that had passed their expiration date. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio 

BETHEL — Mason Township resident Dean Richmond updated Bethel selectmen on his food waste program at their April 1 meeting.

Richmond owns Pleasant River Farms, a full-time farm that operates a composting collection service and that is also certified for its organic grass fed beef.

He does food waste removal for some commercial businesses in Newry and Bethel.

Richmond sees the need for composting because landfills are the third-leading contributor to greenhouse gases, so returning organic matter to local soil is the best option environmentally.

He also said his service is simple for others to adopt because many materials, including cheese, meat, vegetables, oils, fruits and bread, can be composted.

Richmond said he gets about 10 tons a month from the Sunday River Resort locations he works with (The Jordan Hotel, South Ridge Cafeteria and Summit Hotel).

He also works with Crossroads Diner, Gould Academy, Bethel Inn, Brian’s, Le Mu Eats, Steam Mill Brewery and Cafe DiCocoa’s.

“They like to do it. I have an appreciation for how hard the food and beverage industry works in this town,” Richmond said.

“In order to make this operation be something that could earn money and be kind of economically sustainable, we need more volume,” he said. “This is a low rate/high volume business. Solid waste is by the ton and what I charge is $62 a ton. So when I’m hauling 15 containers and I’m doing all that trip I’m getting maybe $90 to $100.”

Richmond composts the food waste along with cow manure and bedding behind his barn. He installed a compost pad through the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

He hopes more businesses join his food waste program and that volume increases from the current businesses involved.

Richmond said he’s traveled to Vermont to watch how other operations similar to his function.

Vermont instituted a legal ban on restaurants putting food in the dumpster. The rule is expected to go into effect in 2020.

Selectman Don Bennett said he’d be interested in hearing what other communities have done.

Bethel currently pays less for composting and recycling than they do for solid trash. The town pays for all the solid trash produced by every business who works with their system, according to Selectman Pete Southam.

“The most expensive thing we do is dispose of what is in the dumpsters,” Southam said.

Southam thinks the town needs to urge residents to put more recyclable and compostable materials into those collection places rather than into the trash.

“That’s the cheapest way to get rid of that stuff,” Southam added. “It’s easier to throw it all in the dumpster, but it’s not saving us any money, it’s costing us thousands of dollars more.”

“We should send a letter out to these businesses explaining what his business is and outlining the cost benefit on a tax base,” selectman Andy Whitney said. “I would expect some businesses would change if they know.”

Resident Jewel Clark had another idea.

“We could also interview you and make a video for Youtube that you could link to anybody who wants to know how it works,” she said.

Southam said the town should find out which businesses in town have dumpsters and send them a letter explaining Richmond’s program.

He also said the town needs to look long term into its current waste policy.

“Any way we can cause people to think about what they’re throwing away and maybe not throw away as much,” he said.

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