There’s one particular recycling program in Austin, Texas that does things a little differently. The for-profit organization, called East Side Compost Pedallers, bikes throughout the city to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. They collect “scrapple” (that’s the term they use for compostable food scraps) from local homes and businesses and deliver it to farms, schools, and gardens. Once the scrapple arrives to its destination, it will eventually be transformed into luscious compost where it can nourish plants and gardens to help make healthy foods. All of this is done via bicycle one bin at a time, which also means there are no harmful emissions from cars.
The East Side Compost Pedallers (ESCP) is seven bikers strong, although they do have plans to expand in the future as they gain more business. Their custom bike carries 55-gallon containers and can haul up to 800 pounds of compost.
“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 Paul Wilson, a current member of the Pedallers.
They cover residential areas near Austin and the University of Texas, as well as nearly 20 local restaurants and businesses. Residents pay $4 per week for their compost to be picked up from bins that are provided by ESCP. Rates for businesses vary depending on the size of the company and how many compost bins they need. Some cities have compost initiatives, but Austin only has a small program available to residents of particular areas. Nothing is yet available to businesses, which makes the East Side Compost Pedallers especially useful to Austin companies. In those cities that do have well-established organic composting programs, they are seeing as much as 78% of waste being diverted from landfills.
To one single person, composting their food waste might not seem like a big deal, but it certainly has an impact on a large scale. East Side Compost Pedallers tracks data and makes it available so their clients and residents of Austin can see how much of a difference their waste diversion is making. Since their launching in December 2012, ESCP says it has been able to divert more than 190 thousand pounds of scrapple from landfills, which has created nearly 50 thousand pounds of compost. The available compost has saved their garden and farming partners $5,000 and prevented nearly 30 tons of methane from being released into the air. As an added bonus, ESCP’s use of bikes over trucks means 13 thousand gallons of diesel fuel was able to be saved, and the cyclists burned more than a million calories through pickups and deliveries.
East Side Compost Pedallers has begun to see increasing involvement from local restaurants, which is a huge accomplishment seeing how much scrapple is put out by restaurants on a daily basis. Even restaurants that already do composting have started working with the Pedallers. Eastside Cafe has been composting since the day they opened for business 27 years ago, but now they produce more compost than they need to sustain their own garden. They have signed on with ESCP, who picks up their excess each week and takes it along with the rest of the compost to other bins at farms and gardens.
The popular pizza joint East Side Pies started working with ESCP shortly after their start. They had already committed to purchasing produce from local farms, so the decision return compost to those areas was an easy decision.
“For us, it’s a no-brainer,” says Sandra Ramos, East Side Pies manager of operations and communications for ‘. “We love our community, and want to keep it growing for generations to come. That means taking care of our local resources, cutting down on emissions, and replenishing our soil.”
Justines’s is another Austin restaurant that adopted the ESCP program early. They have decreased their daily waste by 35%, which they say would have been nearly impossible without any help. East Side Compost Pedallers continues to gain support of larger businesses and organizations. They say they pick up around 1 new restaurant client each month.
ESCP doesn’t really do any advertising because they don’t need to. Although they are able to spread the word through public outreach from their business clients, most of the exposure comes through pedalling around with the compost bins. East Side Compost Pedallers are leading the way of the Austin Compost movement, but it wouldn’t be possible without the residents and businesses wanting to be responsible residents and businesses for the god of the community and environment.