Bike service now re-“cycling” Burlington’s compostable food scraps

One Revolution rider Rylan Sirianni picked up waste from the Burlington Famers Market. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

One Revolution rider Rylan Sirianni picked up waste from the Burlington Famers Market. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Composting and biking might not seem like a naturally paired activity for most people, but a Burlington biking transport service is offering regular collection of food scraps from area residents and University of Vermont office buildings.

One Revolution, a biking transport service, has already experienced some success since its founding by architect Mark Bromley and his two grown children in 2010. With specially designed trailers and studded snow tires, the business has been able to move almost anything, from furniture to cakes, in all types of weather.

Bromley quickly realized that the business could operate more efficiently if it focused on “repeatable” activities.

“Anytime we can do something on a repetitive basis, there’s an opportunity,” Bromley said. “If you called me and asked me to deliver a pizza to your home, it’s pretty hard to make a buck.”

The business began to realize the benefits of a repeatable strategy while delivering community-supported agriculture farm shares. In the heyday of the service, One Revolution was responsible for delivering some 240 CSA shares and Bromley believes that he and the other bikers rode more than 16,000 miles in the process.

“I think we’re making a significant reduction in emissions,” he said.

Recently, One Revolution began offering weekly compost pickups for Burlington residents, bringing household food scraps to central collection points hosted by the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

It also partners with the Burlington Farmers’ Market to dispose of produce scraps after market days. While this is the first bicycle-based compost transportation in Vermont, there’s another compost delivery service operating in Northampton, Mass.

Burlington residents use One Revolution’s service and an auto-based compost pickup service, Earthgirl Composting, because they offer a convenient way to dispose of food scraps, said Nancy Plunkett, Waste Reduction Manager for the Chittenden Solid Waste District. Plunkett says such services are needed to help Burlington residents get into the habit of diverting their food scraps from the waste stream.

“We need to make sure it’s convenient and easy,” Puckett said. “The yuck factor gets involved.”

Innovative composting programs might become more popular in Vermont municipalities over the next few years because of a new law that requires the diversion of all organic, compostable materials from the state’s waste stream by 2020. The law likely will prove a boon to composting services. Bromley said One Revolution is experimenting with incentives to sign up whole neighborhoods for compost pickup.

Coincidentally, this spring, the University of Vermont announced it had begun a pilot program with One Revolution to collect food scraps from more than 30 campus offices. The partnership is an effort to boost the university’s already-high rate of waste material diverted from landfills, said Erica Spiegel, the university’s solid waste and recycling manager. Right now, 42 percent of the waste generated on campus is diverted for recycling, but Spiegel would like to see that rate go above 50 percent, and that goal is going to take some creativity.

“All the low-hanging fruit has already been picked,” Spiegel said.

With the pilot program, a One Revolution biker will pick up compost from university offices twice a week. Large trucks still pick up the more than 9 tons of food waste generated in the campus cafeterias each week during the school year, but a different approach seemed appropriate to service campus buildings where a handful of workers might eat lunch in staff rooms.

“It wouldn’t make sense for me to route a truck to pick up a couple of banana peels,” said Spiegel.

Originally, administration personnel lobbied for five-day-a-week pickups out of fear of foul odors and unwanted pests, but the early experience in the heat of summer seems to prove such concerns may have been overblown. So far, the five-hour-a-week effort is only producing 100 pounds of compostable material a week and the university might even elect to drop down to just one pickup a week.

“Do you empty your pail under the kitchen sink every day? Probably not,” Spiegel said.

As the pilot program begins, the business model of One Revolution is evolving. Bromley and three other bikers are working to adapt the limited-liability company to become more of a cooperative entity.They are continuing to work with area farms and businesses to deliver farm shares and prepared food while also trying to encourage businesses to consider using their bikes to package deliveries across town. Bromley expects the use of bicycles to move material through Burlington will continue to grow as people get accustomed to seeing the distinctive bikes zip through the streets.

“The more we do with bicycles, the more people are thinking about what can be done with them,” Bromley said.

Craig Idlebrook

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  • Keith Brunner

    As a Burlington resident, I’m super-pleased to have One Revolution operating in my community. Seeing them biking with their long trailers, in sun, rain, and snow, is a constant reminder that other worlds are possible.

    Reducing the waste stream, building healthy soils, generating dignified work, and inspiring people on a daily basis- Thanks One-Rev!

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