For $25 a month, people in Hampden, Bangor and Brewer can get weekly curbside service from 1 Earth Composting.
Food scraps, leftovers, lobster bodies, rabbit droppings and chicken bones make up the day's haul for a curbside recycling and composting company in this March 27, 2013, file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A Hampden-based curbside compost pick-up business aimed at reducing the amount of food waste in Maine landfills is expanding to serve Bangor and Brewer residents.

The company, 1 Earth Composting, started by Katie and Matt Saunders, offers a weekly curbside food scrap pick-up service. Subscribers receive a five-gallon bucket to place their organic waste into, then the couple collects the buckets once a week and takes the scraps to a professional composting facility.

For $25 a month, people in Hampden, Bangor and Brewer can get weekly curbside service from 1 Earth Composting.
Kate and Matt Saunders of Hampden, shown here with their children, are the founders and owner of 1 Earth Composting, a food scrap pick-up subscription service. With about 20 clients in Hampden, the business is expanding to serve homes in Bangor and Brewer. Credit: Courtesy of Matt and Katie Saunders

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates food waste makes up 24 percent of solid municipal refuse that ends up in landfills, and only 4 percent of it gets composted.

“We don’t want to put food scraps in the trash because they give off a lot of methane, which is a strong greenhouse gas, plus they take up space in a landfill and you miss out on their nutrients that are good for the soil,” Katie Saunders said.

While other businesses, such as Portland-based Garbage to Garden, offer curbside compost collection elsewhere in Maine, the couple said they felt compelled to begin their own when they realized residents in the Bangor region have no option but to send their waste to a landfill.

“This is a very underserved area so this is something we hope people will get excited about,” Katie Saunders said.

Subscriptions cost $25 per month, with an additional $15 sign-up fee.

The company has about 20 clients but hopes to one day serve 10 percent of all residential homes in Bangor, Brewer and Hampden, Matt Saunders said.

The company is temporarily dumping the scraps it collects at Chickadee Compost in Blue Hill while the couple look for their own property in the Bangor area. Once a new site is licensed to process organic waste, the company will be able to expand to larger clients like local businesses and schools.

While small backyard compost piles are limited to fruit and vegetable scraps, large, professionally managed compost piles can accept meat, cheese and bones as well, Matt Saunders said.

This is because large compost piles mask smells that attract animals and can reach temperatures of 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, killing pathogens in the scraps.

Finding more ways to reduce waste and recycle became more pressing after the Coastal Resources of Maine facility in Hampden, which promised to separate trash and recyclable items, diverting waste away from landfills or incineration, shuttered in 2020.

What’s more, communities throughout Maine dropped their recycling programs when the Hampden facility opened, anticipating the plant would meet the area’s recycling needs and goals, but those towns haven’t revived their recycling programs in the wake of the facility’s closure.

In the three years since the trash plant’s closure, waste from the 115 communities that signed up to send their waste to Coastal Resources has gone either to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. incinerator in Orrington, Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock or Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...