An eco-preneur hits pay dirt with a bike-powered pick-up service in the heart of Austin, Texas.
Last year the world generated more than 1.3 billion tons of food waste. Tons. That’s more than 20 pounds of food per person per month that floods into landfills and emits harmful methane gasses. Some cities have gone to bat on the problem by creating civic compost programs. For example, Seattle recently passed a law mandating that all food scraps be kept out of residential garbage and offers weekly pickup of food waste bins. And in Austin, Texas, there’s a similar pilot program, but expansion to the entire urban area could take up to 10 years.
Until then, small business and private networks are popping up to fill in the gaps, including Austin’s Compost Pedallers, a startup that offers bike-powered, carbon-neutral food waste pickup. Since its founding in 2012 by Dustin Fedako, Compost Pedallers has diverted 500,000 pounds out of the waste stream a la community composting. Their 650 subscribers within a five-mile radius of downtown Austin pay $16 a month for pick-up services. Anyone who signs up simply finishes, say, his or her morning coffee and tosses the grounds into a green 5-gallon bucket that the Pedaller crew cleans and delivers once a week. Once banana peels, egg shells, and other nonanimal waste accumulates, the bucket goes out on the porch for pickup. Then one of the company’s nine cyclists arrives in style on a cargo bike and dumps the residential food scraps into large bins strapped to the front of their ride or in a bike trailer that follows behind. At the end of the daily route, the haul goes to the company’s garden partners—called compHOSTS—like Springdale Farms. These hosts add the scraps to their personal compost piles and—with guidance from Compost Pedallers’ how-to handbook—transform the waste into usable material for their growing operation. So far the operation has kept an estimated 70 tons of methane out of Earth’s atmosphere.
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