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The city of Bozeman is exploring options to offer composting for food waste as a city service, like curbside garbage pickup.

The city applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help pay for the new program and is working to form partnerships to make it happen, like with Happy Trash Can. The local business can help provide processing services to compost raw waste the city collects.

The city offers composting for yard trimmings and leaves, but this is the first time it could offer compositing for food waste. Montana State University will also be a partner in the program. MSU and the city have had a project in place since 2015 to compost food waste from its dining halls.

In 2018 and 2019, more than 500,000 pounds of food waste has been diverted from the landfill through the program.

Kevin Handelin, superintendent of the city’s solid waste division, said expanding the city’s compost program has been a goal for some time.

“It’s something that’s been on our radar since realizing that many cities across the country have been really successful with this,” Handelin said.

To get the program going, the city has applied for a $90,000 grant from the USDA and plans to match that with $22,500 from the city’s solid waste division. Handelin said he expects the city will know for sure if it gets the grant money later this fall.

Ryan Green with Happy Trash Can said he’s excited about the possibility of more residents having access to food waste composting. He said partnering with the city makes sense.

“What (the city is) good at is hauling material, and what we’re good at is processing material,” Green said.

Happy Trash Can processes roughly 15,000 pounds of food waste weekly.

According to a city report, composting food waste offers a number of benefits, like moving Bozeman toward a zero-waste future — a goal outlined in the city’s Climate Action Plan. It will save the city money on landfill costs. Finished compost can be used by the parks department in green spaces in place of synthetic fertilizers.

Composting food waste is also projected to cut down on the city’s methane emissions. A Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report from the city in 2017 found that organic material in mixed solid waste generates landfill methane emissions that make up 5% of Bozeman’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s low hanging fruit in regards to the city addressing climate change,” Green said.

The goal is to make the program self-sustaining by 2022.

Over the next few months, the city will be working on a pilot program with Happy Trash Can to work out any kinks in the process before Handelin puts together a final program proposal for city commissioners to consider.

Handelin said he’ll be reaching out to other local agencies, businesses and nonprofits to see if they want to get involved.

“I’m very excited for the partnerships to see how they come together,” Handelin said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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