Q&A: Composting Talk To Be Held Thursday at New Canaan Library


New Canaan Library, Planet New Canaan and the Conservation Commission are co-sponsoring a talk about composting on Thursday.

Registration is open for ‘Anyone Can Compost: Approaches to Home Composting that Work for You,’ to be held at 6 p.m. on June 15 in the Jim & Dede Bartlett Auditorium at the library. It features Master Gardener and Composter Alice Ely, garden education chair at Wakeman Town Farm, one of the organizers of Westport‘s Pollinator Pathway, a UConn Advanced Master Gardener and a UConn Master Composter.

Composting is widely practiced in New Canaan. According to data supplied by the Department of Public Works, the total food scrap collection weight at the transfer station (in pounds) for the five weeks starting May 3 are: 1,110, 1,420, 980, 1,040 and 1,150.

We put some questions to the co-sponsors and heard back from Miki Porta of New Canaan Library, Robin Bates-Mason of Planet New Canaan and Chris Schipper of the Conservation Commission.

Here’s our exchange.


New Canaanite: For our readers who may not be familiar with composting, please give us an overview of what it entails for a household and why your Planet New Canaan encourages it.

Robin Bates-Mason of Planet New Canaan: Composting is the process of taking organic material and converting it into a nutrient rich soil amendment. This is done through a controlled process of combining nitrogen (food scraps like banana peels, apple cores, cucumbers, egg shells, coffee grinds, etc. ) with carbon (leaves that have fallen or brown paper). Oxygen is needed (aerobic) to help properly break down the organic material – when organic material goes into landfill and breaks down without oxygen, it produces methane gas and becomes sludge.

It’s important to compost or recycle food scraps as the EPA estimates that at least 22% of municipal waste is organic material. This material is reusable and turns into a great soil amendment. Also, food waste is heavy and as we ship our trash to an incinerator in Bridgeport (Wheelabrator), it’s good to cut down on the energy needed to transport the material and wet organic material does not burn well. Areas where organic material goes into landfill, it produces methane gas. Connecticut is pushing composting because the incinerator in Hartford was closed which served 44 towns and all of the other incinerators in CT are at full capacity. There are no real working landfills with the exception of one in Putnam which takes incinerator ash and they just expanded and of course, you want to reduce the ash going to this landfill so it lasts longer.

I started composting 16 years ago. We greatly reduced our garbage output and canceled our private collection because we just weren’t producing enough garbage and what we brought to the transfer station wasn’t smelly. Also, I use my compost for my garden – it really is black gold.

 I do not not compost meat as my compost pile is not large enough to produce enough heat to kill off bacteria from meat. The industrial composter where our town’s food scraps goes accepts meat as they have enough volume to create enough heat to kill any harmful bacteria. I don’t have any meat that is wasted in my house because we have a dog and a cat. For residents with a transfer station pass, they can bring meat and vegetable matter for recycling.

PNC encourages composting because it is a reusable resource which is great for the garden but reduces the strain on our incinerators. Also, if going to a landfill, we don’t want to create more methane gas. (We started the Christmas Tree recycling because we found out most trees were going to landfill in upstate NY).


What is your sense of the uptake up composting among New Canaan residents? What trends, if any, are you seeing among households that compost?

Chris Schipper of the Conservation Commission: While we have no firm numbers at hand, we know New Canaan has to become more sustainable by reducing our waste stream per capita. Composting is a great way to do that and enhance the soil productivity around your property. Our general landcare practice of pristine cut lawns and clean-swept yards means tons of clippings and leaves go into the waste stream. The joy of embracing even small meadows and allowing leaf litter to accumulate would add immeasurably to local biodiversity, support insect and firefly populations, and provide the food pyramid for birds, bees, butterflies and bats. Nature loves a little messiness in our yards.


I know the library has made compostable materials a priority in the new building. Could you please tell us some of the ways that the library supports composting and why?

Miki Porta of New Canaan Library: We are composting all food waste generated in our Staff Room and at the café, where in addition to food waste the vendor (Farmer’s Grind) has purchased disposables that are BPI-certified for commercial composting. This means, for instance, that if you buy a cup of coffee at the Library in a disposable cup, you can toss it in the café’s compost bin to make sure it gets broken down for use as fuel or compost. Organizations that use our space for functions where refreshments and food are served are being encouraged to align with our new practices, too, but we understand that there’s a learning curve involved. We’re thrilled that with a generous grant from the New Canaan Community Foundation to support composting in the new building, we will be able to grow our efforts and provide educational programs for the community to learn how to do this!


We reported last year on local commercial composting efforts, including at Greenology and Rosie downtown, and I know PNC has been involved in some cases. I’ve heard from Katie that Rosie has continued with the composting program that launched in 2022. Can you please give us a status update on PNC’s work in this regard? Has the program continued or expanded downtown?

Robin Bates-Mason: Walter Stewart’s Market reached out to us about composting and we put them in touch with Curbside Compost who is now collecting from Walter Stewart’s. Stewart’s diverted just over 95k pounds of food scraps in 2022 and the program is still going. Walter Stewart’s also changed all their produce bags to BPI Certified Compostable to help with the town’s food scrap recycling program. They did this as people sometimes think it’s okay to put food scraps in produce bags because some say “green” on them or have the recycling symbol. This is not the case as these bags are plastic. We can’t have any plastic in the food scrap bins as plastic is not organic and won’t compost. BPI certified compostable produce bags are allowed because they are not made of plastic and break down easily (I’ve put them in my own compost pile).

 Izzy Kaufman started the composting program at Greenology when working there as a high school senior. She had found a farm that would pick up their food scraps but I believe that has now stopped.

Rosie Restaurant started a food scrap recycling program thanks to a grant from New England GrassRoots Fund. PNC helped in this project but it was spearheaded by Izzy Kaufman and Marianna Fierra of NC FRWD (on PNC website). After the grant ran out, Rosie has decided to continue food scrap recycling, an additional cost she is taking on. Katie Owsley has been working on trying to reach out to garbage haulers to see if there are discounts if customers are using food scraps pick-up, as less garbage is being picked up and it should keep their tipping fees down. Will need to reach out to Rosie/Curbside for numbers.

There is a meeting at the end of June at the Library with the Center of Ecotechnology, Food Rescue, Rosie Restaurant and hopefully more restaurants and Stewart’s. Working on getting the RSVPs. We will be working on food waste and how to divert good food to those in need and food scrap recycling. (Stewart’s just started using “Too Good To Go” which is really cool and works to reduce food waste. Blog about it going up on PNC website soon).


Tell us about the June 15 program. What can attendees expect to learn?

Miki Porta: You’ll learn about the benefits of composting and a number of different approaches to composting at home, from very basic to more advanced. You’ll also hear mention of our Town food scrap program at the Transfer Station, where New Canaan residents can purchase a sticker and drop their food waste off for commercial composting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *