When Paul Wilson cycles across town, he tends to attract a lot of attention. It’s not due to his attire (or lack thereof—that’s a different story), but rather the size of his cargo load. Wilson is one of the East Side Compost Pedallers, a bike-powered compost recycling program in Austin, Texas. The for-profit organization is on a mission to reduce landfill waste in Austin one bin at a time, by pedaling “scrapple” (their term for compostable food scraps) from homes and businesses to urban farms, schools, and community gardens, where it is composted into rich soil.
The Pedallers’ custom-built Metrofiet cargo bikes carry 55-gallon barrels that can weigh up to 250 pounds each, and one of their retro-fitted pedicabs loaded with multiple containers can total a whopping 800 pounds.
“Yes, it's tiring and yes, I get intimidated by the workload, but the daily cheers from passing cars and trucks who recognize the good we're doing brings me home with my head up,” says Wilson.
East Side Compost Pedallers (ESCP) is currently seven cyclists strong, but they plan to expand operations as they gain more accounts. Aside from their residential service area covering most of east Austin and some neighborhoods near the University of Texas, they also work with nearly 20 local businesses, from large tech companies like Dropbox to small cafes. Residences pay $4 a week for the Pedallers to pick up their compost from bins provided by ESCP. The pick-up fees for businesses depend on the company’s size and number of bins needed.