A trial program for curbside pick-up of organic waste has reached the six-month point, with more than 550 families in Hamilton and Wenham participating.
Despite the participation rate, the two towns have yet to sign on for town-wide pick-up, which could reduce by nearly half the amount the towns pay in so-called tipping fees to dispose of waste.
Gretel Clark of Hamilton, who has served on the joint towns' recycling committee, said the program's eventual success will depend on convincing town leaders and residents that compost pick-up can save the town government money.
"Our dream is that it will be a full-time program free to all," Clark said last Tuesday, the day after a public meeting to discuss the program's progress.
Clark said the program still needs to recruit about 60 more households to be self-sustaining. Without the additional families, the program will run out of money for hauling the waste by February.
Participating households pay $75 for the year for weekly curbside pick-up of organic waste, including food scraps, soiled paper, and other organic items, such as grass. Each household has a 13-gallon green bin with a tamper-proof top and a smaller container to keep in the kitchen.
The bins are emptied by New England Solid Waste and the waste hauled to Brick End Farm on Highland Street in Hamilton for composting. Participants get compost back for free.
Clark said participating households have been reducing their solid waste by 12-17 pounds per week, or roughly half their total household solid waste.
To get to this point has taken several years and a force of wills.
Clark said she made multiple presentations before the Hamilton Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting to convince residents of the benefits to the towns' bottom line.
Brick End Farm owner Peter Britton and Clark worked together to raise $15,000 to buy the bins, including $7,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and some of their own money, Clark said.
"We have to continue to sell the program," Clark said. "But once those green bins were out, more people wanted to sign up."
The efforts of Clark and others who have put the program together, including Helen Greco of Wenham and the citizens' environmental group Hamilton-Wenham Green, have been recognized by the DEP, through its WasteWise Leadership Awards.
Clark said the DEP has pledged to help purchase the bins if the program is expanded to all households.