Composting (Photo courtesy of Canva)

FoodCycle At Home: New Composting Program is Coming to Tucson in 2024


December 19, 2023
By Sam Jump
By Sam Jump

In a step toward environmental sustainability, the City of Tucson announced a plan to introduce the FoodCycle At Home pilot program, allowing residents to actively reduce their own food waste beginning on Tuesday, January 2.

“We applaud the city for starting this and hope, over the years, it will grow just like the recycling program has,” said Wil Schuiteman, Senior Plans Examiner at Pima County Development Services

a bowl of fruit and vegetable salad
Composting (Photo courtesy of Canva)

Come January 2024, Tucsonans can drop off their kitchen scraps at six designated collection sites around town. From there, the collected materials will be delivered to the Los Reales Sustainability Campus, the program’s primary composting facility.

However, the process won’t stop there. 

The FoodCycle At Home initiative marks an expansion of Tucson’s ongoing efforts to curb food waste. Launched in 2021 with a focus on local businesses, the program successfully composted 261 tons of material in its inaugural year alone, as reported by the city’s Zero Waste Road Map. With the residential program gearing up for a January launch, the City of Tucson aims to significantly increase its impact.

Partnering with Community Gardens of Tucson

In a bid to extend the positive impact of the FoodCycle At Home program, a strategic partnership has been forged with Community Gardens of Tucson, an organization overseeing 17 community gardens throughout the city. 

This collaboration involves deliveries of compost to the many thriving gardens, initiating a reciprocal process in which residents’ food waste is transformed into a valuable product that enriches the soil, leading to more nourishing produce for the community. 

“Your food waste is helping to create a product that will help grow more food,” said Jose Garcia of Tucson’s Environmental and General Services.

Garcia envisions a future where this symbiotic relationship extends beyond community gardens, one where the program’s scope broadens to include school gardens, creating more opportunities for environmental education and instilling sustainable practices among the next generation. 

Furthermore, the program aspires to collaborate with local farmers, creating a network of support to amplify the positive ecological impact of residents’ collective composting efforts. 

Understanding the impact

In addressing organic waste in landfills, Garcia highlights a pressing concern: a staggering 40% of local landfills are filled with organic materials releasing greenhouse gasses like sulfur and methane as they break down, which have been proven harmful to our ecosystem.

Beyond the logistical challenges these gasses pose for landfills, they also significantly contribute to increasing concerns around climate change at large. 

Composting (Photo by Greta Hoffman)

“Landfills, just for environmental compliance, have to monitor and have it treated,” said Garcia.  “The best way of all is just eliminating organics out of the equation. Food waste diversion helps us tackle that problem directly.”

Minimizing food waste is intended to act as an impactful solution, offering a proactive way to reduce the environmental impact of trash while fostering a more sustainable Tucson.

Inspiring and educating the community

To familiarize residents with the program, information sessions started in early December. During these free 30-minute sessions, participants gain insights into the accepted materials for the program. 

Attending one 30-minute session is a prerequisite for residents to receive their complimentary kitchen compost pail, a key tool for collecting and dropping off food scraps as part of the program.

FoodCycle At Home (Photo by the City of Tucson)

FoodCycle At Home participant Jacqueline Barrios recognized the program as a small way she could make a difference.

“I think it’s going to start impacting how you consume; maybe less meat, maybe less packaging because I want things to go inside the pail,” said Barrios, following one of the free information sessions.

Residents are encouraged to include everyday food waste items such as fruit, eggshells, coffee grounds, bread, and leftover pastries in their composting efforts. However, it’s crucial to keep certain items out to prevent contamination. Prohibited items include meats, oils (including butter), bones, egg yolks, and all plastics.

For those concerned about potential kitchen odors, freezing food scraps until drop-off day is suggested as a convenient and effective solution.

How to get involved:

  1. Sign up for a 30-minute information session to learn the basics
  2. Complete the training and receive a free home kitchen compost pail to collect food scraps
  3. Drop off food scraps in a container at a FoodCycle At-home collection site:
    1. Little Leaf Garden: 1315 W. Speedway Boulevard
    2. New Spirit Garden: 8701 E. Old Spanish Trail
    3. Blue Moon Garden: 1501 N. Oracle Road
    4. Clements Center: 8155 E. Poinciana Drive
    5. Pio Decimo Garden: 835 S. 7th Avenue
    6. Highland Vista Garden: 5300 E. 7th Street

Collections begin on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, and more community information sessions will be held in the new year. Stay tuned and join Tucson in taking a significant stride toward fostering a more sustainable and eco-conscious community heading into the future. 

Visit tucsonaz.gov to learn more about the Home Compost Pilot Program.

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Sam Jump is a conduit of empowerment and connection, fueled by her drive to leave a mark on the world that reminds others of the power of compassion, curiosity, and community. Her ability to integrate clear vision and mindful communication...

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