In the previous installment of our Sustainability Highlight Series we spotlighted the anaerobic digesters helping farms and businesses divert their cow and food waste from landfills to produce energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer instead. Today, we highlight OffBeet Compost: a community composting organization serving homes, restaurants and businesses in the Merrimack Valley Region. OffBeet Compost is passionate about reducing landfill waste, improving local soil health, and strengthening community through education and outreach. Their mission is to empower community members to be land stewards and contribute to creating an environmentally sustainable and just landscape.
Kesiah Bascom, founder and owner of OffBeet Compost.
Composting food scraps prolongs the lifespan of landfills by reducing the amount of material that they have to accommodate. According to the EPA, food scraps and yard waste make up more than 28% of total household waste. Aside from taking up space, the breakdown of food waste in oxygen-deprived landfills (if it can break down at all) releases methane. Where controlled environments such as anaerobic digesters can collect this methane, in landfills, the greenhouse gas escapes into the atmosphere. When food scraps are composted instead, they are exposed to an oxygen rich environment. The presence of oxygen inactivates the methane-producing bacteria, preventing the harmful gas from being produced. Other benefits of composting include: soil enrichment, helping to retain moisture within the soil, suppression of plant diseases and pests, and reduced reliance on chemical fertilizers.
Since their launch in April 2017, OffBeet Compost has collected more than 460 tons of food waste and quickly outgrew the ability to compost everything themselves. As they search for just the right parcel of land on which to build their own large-scale composting facility, OffBeet currently works with a number of independent farms and the AgriCycle-operated anaerobic digester to compost all of their food scraps. Currently, OffBeet serves customers in Lowell, Dracut, Tyngsboro, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Billerica, Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, Boxford, Methuen, and Haverhill.
OffBeet Compost members enjoy perks such as weekly or biweekly porch-pick ups of your compost bin from your home or business. The buckets are emptied and cleaned by OffBeet staff and returned to customers with fresh compostable liners. Another membership option for a lower price allows you access to the multiple OffBeet compost drop-off locations in North Andover, Lowell and Lawrence. All OffBeet members can receive finished compost––also known as black gold for all of the health benefits it brings to the soil and plant––twice per year by request. Their finished compost is also sold to local farmers, gardeners and landscapers.
A bag of finished ‘vermicompost’ ready to be sold to OffBeet Compost customers.
OffBeet Compost is more than a composting service. They are also invested in informing their members about the entire composting journey; where their waste goes, how it becomes compost, and how that compost positively contributes to the health of their communities and local soil. The more people can connect composting, farming, and gardening to its effects on planetary and human health, the more invested they become in the process, and the more meaningful their connection with their food and the land becomes.
The OffBeet team is incredibly passionate about urban agriculture and they are excited to have their own plot of land in Lowell, MA. They are working on transforming this land into a composting drop-off and demonstration site, and a space in which to educate and engage members of their community about composting, gardening, and urban agriculture. In the past, OffBeet has hosted in-person workshops for aspiring gardeners, composters and urban farmers. They hope to continue to host virtual workshops periodically until it is safe to have larger in-person events. The most exciting development at their new location are the newly constructed bins made of reclaimed wood in which vermicomposting (a method of composting that uses red wiggler worms to break down food scraps) will take place.
A newly constructed vermicomposting bin, almost ready to be filled with worms and food scraps!
If you’re interested in hearing more from Kesiah about what OffBeet Compost has been doing in 2020, check out this podcast from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR). She is also a featured guest on this episode of ‘The 495’, Merrimack Valley’s podcast on culture and community in their region. If you live in the Merrimack Valley region, sign up for one of OffBeet’s composting programs here!