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WILLIAMSBURG — John Pitroff loves rotten vegetables.

Pitroff loves food waste so much he recently asked 24 towns to collect everybody’s table scraps for him. Then Pitroff can turn it into compost, rich new dirt.

“Black gold, I think that’s the perfect terminology. The smell is what’s really nice. It’s got this deep earthy smell,” Pitroff said of his compost. Composting seems a wonder when yucky food scraps become beautiful rich soil. “The color is like nothing else in nature. It’s dark, almost black, and it’s got a really beautiful feel to it. I’m obsessed with it, obviously.”

Gordon “Rusty” Luce, a member of the Board of Health and manager of the town’s transfer station, attended Pitroff’s presentation at the Hilltown Resource Management Cooperative. After a discussion on March 26 board members voted to give composting a try at the transfer station, at least on a trial basis.

Pitroff, founder of Second Chance Composting, has a large processing facility in Cheshire. The company, two-and-half years old, currently operates primarily in the northern Berkshires, Williamstown to Pittsfield. Growth into the Hilltowns is a goal, but depends on having multiple residential, municipal and commercial food waste suppliers. The transfer station in Williamsburg is a good start.

Pitroff explained that to start a composting program a municipality buys totes or 30 gallon buckets for $30 each, sets them out at the transfer station and waits for residents to fill them with food waste. There is no charge to homeowners. Residents can drop off most any table scrap including bones, vegetables, meat and fish.

Pitroff sends a truck to pick up the food waste, which is dumped into huge piles at the Cheshire facility. Those piles are churned regularly to expose the food waste to oxygen. As the old food breaks down it heats up to 160 degrees, killing Asian jumping worms and other undesirable elements.

The heat breaks down the nutrients and organic structures of the old food. The compost made from table scraps is dense with nutrients. Along with creating rich black soil, a second big benefit is that composting keeps the food waste out of the landfill, where it becomes pollution.

Pitroff uses an apple to explain how food becomes a poison gas. When the core is left over, Pitroff said, it often goes in a trash bag, which ends up in the landfill. Food waste in the landfill doesn’t get exposed to oxygen. Without oxygen, food waste breaks down into methane gas, a pollutant and a major cause of global warming.

“But if you compost it, what you’re doing is creating a soil amendment that can grow more things,” Pitroff said. “You’ve taken that apple, and instead of making pollution out of it you’ve created something that can grow more apple trees.”

The composting program may reduce the town’s costs for waste disposal. Board members discussed information supplied by Taylor Millspaugh, director of municipal partnerships at Waste Zero. Millspaugh told board members the town could cut its waste stream by 24%.

“Last month we had 40 tons go into the dumpster,” said Board of Health Chair Donna Gibson. Food scraps are a wet and heavy addition to the waste stream. “We pay to have our compacted household trash hauled … and that keeps going up. We’re up to $98 a ton.”

A 24% reduction in waste, roughly 10 tons out of 40, would reduce the town’s yearly hauling fees by thousands of dollars.

Second Chance Composting also offers a home pickup option, at a cost of $9.99 monthly, for those who do not have transportation to the transfer station or are mobility impaired. The availability of that option in the Hilltowns depends on sufficient interest to cover the costs of labor and fuel.

No decision was made on when the composting program at the transfer station will be rolled out. Luce emphasized the need for educating residents on why composting is important and how the town’s program will work. Luce didn’t anticipate much difficulty dealing with the containers of food scraps.

“That’s where I would have it, right there,” Luce said about locating the composting container near the dumpster for bulky household waste. “At the end of the day, we could wheel it right across the parking lot and into the building.”

Residents seeking more information on Second Chance Composting will find the company website at secondchancecomposting.square.site.

dpruyne@thereminder.com | + posts