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While the program is a City program intended for City of Charleston residents, we will try to accommodate requests to participate from others in our region, as possible. Please fill out the registration form as usual and indicate your current address. We will contact you separately if we encounter issues and need to alter this in the future, but for now, yes, sign up and divert your food waste!
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Contamination is a real challenge with any compost program because it is not possible or safe to have staff sort through piles of food scraps removing items that shouldn’t be there. (Ew, that’s gross too!) Plus, preventing contamination on the front end helps to ensure the final product is free of inorganic materials and safe to use.
That means, if any food scrap carts are contaminated with items that can’t be composted, the WHOLE CART WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED FOR COMPOSTING and instead, must be disposed of in the garbage.
The locks on the carts are one level of protection to help ensure that everyone who wishes to participate in the program is trained ahead of time to help prevent contamination so all the food scraps collected can indeed be composted and your efforts are not wasted.
Please register for the program which will also take you through a short training on acceptable items, then the lock code will be provided. Register at https://forms.gle/M7RUJn2imuAwcXZ76.
This is your preference, either are accepted. However, any liner bag used MUST BE certified compostable, from BPI. (BPI=Biodegradable Products Institute)
Note, product labels can be misleading. Those bags labeled "biodegradable" or "environmentally friendly", etc. without the BPI certification ARE NOT ALLOWED.
These will not break down fast enough to compost and will cause an entire cart to be landfilled. Please beware of misleading products.
Yes, they are different! All compostable items are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable items are compostable!
Biodegradable, by definition, has no time requirement, so a product could take 100 years to biodegrade. Whereas compostable products follow strict ASTM Standards and have a short time limit in days, not years.
In addition, biodegradable materials can sometimes leave behind metal residue and other non-natural byproducts, whereas, compostable materials create compost (also called humus) that is 100% natural and safe to have in our environment.
Please make sure all items going into food scrap carts are certified BPI compostable and you will be following the strict ASTM standards properly. Thank you.
But if they are both being composted, why can’t I mix them? There are lots of reasons!
Please report any issues or maintenance concerns to the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability.
You may contact the division directly at 724-3789 or use the City of Charleston’s Citizen Services Desk at (843) 724-7311 or firstname.lastname@example.org and they will connect you to the right person.
This is not a permanent program, this is a pilot program that will last at least 6 months and may last up to one year. The pilot is grant funded, and we will be testing options as we go to help ensure we create the most successful program we can.
Should the pilot program be successful, we can then seek more funding for the program to continue and consider additional drop site locations.
You can store food scraps in almost any reusable container, ideally with a tight fitting lid. The key is to make the bin easy to access while you cook, whether it’s on your countertop, in a nearby cabinet, or even on your patio. You can also keep the scraps in the freezer or refrigerator to halt decomposition while softening the cell wall structure.
Note, fruit flies can occur if your kitchen bin is left out without a lid. Any issues with pests or odor can often be easily remedied.
We recommend you empty your kitchen bin weekly to help keep decomposition and associated odors out of your kitchen.
You may choose to empty it more or less often- remember you can store food scraps in your freezer without any odors.
Yes. BPI certified compostable liner bags or BPI certified compostable to-go food containers are accepted in this program as we will be using a commercial compost facility.
However, please note, these are generally not able to break down properly in a backyard compost pile.
Food scraps the City collects will be taken to the Bees Ferry Compost Facility in West Ashley by a certified hauler.
There, the scraps will be converted into compost and kept away from our landfills.
The City’s food scrap carts will be emptied at least twice per week by our contracted hauler. This may increase in frequency as food scrap collection and participation in the program increase.
It’s free! To participate, please fill out the registration form at https://forms.gle/M7RUJn2imuAwcXZ76.
Registration is required to participate for a couple reasons. You will need a lock code to deposit your food scraps in our bins, we will provide this once you register and go through a 5-minute training. We also need a way to mail you program information and notify you of project updates and potential changes as we test options, like if a cart moves locations.
Please keep in mind this is a pilot project so the program is subject to change, especially after the first six months, we appreciate your flexibility on this as it will help ensure we have a successful program moving forward.
Drop sites are located in parks, so they are open when the parks are open, which is daily, dawn to dusk.
The most up to date drop site locations are listed on www.charleston-sc.gov/compost. Please keep in mind, these could change during the pilot period, or new sites could be added.
For questions about whether specific items are compostable that are not listed above, please reach Charleston County at (843) 720-7111 or email email@example.com.
Industrial composting at Bees Ferry has a few major differences from backyard piles:
Image of Bees Ferry Compost Facility courtesy of Charleston County.
Yes, of course, you may participate in both at the same time. The City’s program will take cooked meats, bones and dairy products, which are typically not appropriate for backyard piles, so feel free to bring those and any extra food scraps to the drop off sites.
Composting in your backyard is easy and a great way to keep all the nutritious compost on your property so you can reap the benefits in your own gardens.
If you would like a new backyard bin, please check their website for more information as it becomes available.
Unfortunately, no. This new program is for residents only, not businesses or organizations. We are utilizing grant funding, which is earmarked to support residential composting only and our funding is extremely limited.
The City actually piloted a restaurant composting program back in 2016, with promising results which can be replicated.
The results showed once organizations serviced by private garbage and recycling services understood how they are actually being charged for garbage and recycling services, many were able to reduce those fees and apply the difference to compost hauling fees.
More information on the pilot and how businesses can compost is located here: https://charleston-sc.gov/2645/Business-Composting