Grant will scale up central peninsula's composting capability

Oct 20, 2021

Cook Inletkeeper has been coordinating a community compost project locally. For the borough's new community compost program, the Kenai Local Food Connection will be the coordinating arm.
Credit Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding the Kenai Peninsula Borough with a competitive grant to create a community-wide composting project, making it possible for more individuals and businesses on the central peninsula to send their organic waste to farms instead of landfills.

“Oh man, I’m so excited about this project," said Kaitlin Vadla, regional director for Cook Inletkeeper. "It’s a huge win for the borough and for our area. It’s hard to get these big national grants. And so the fact that we got it is really exciting.”

Inletkeeper has spent the last year operating a community composting project at Diamond M Ranch, directing buckets of compost to the farm’s chickens and compost pile.

“There are almost 150 folks and businesses involved," Vadla said. "And we’ve diverted close to 75,000 pounds of food waste away from the landfill.”

Vadla said that project was like a seed for the new one. It will operate similarly, but on a larger scale and with more partner farms.

The USDA is awarding the borough with about $90,000 to coordinate the effort. Borough Community and Fiscal Projects Manager Brenda Ahlberg said the grant is in the borough’s name because the borough was the eligible entity for the project. 

But the project will be executed by a local organization. The Kenai Local Food Connection will hire a coordinator and provide a local match of about $30,000 in in-kind contributions.

Vadla said the coordinator will work to bring more institutions on board, like Central Peninsula Hospital.

“And to coordinate all those pieces and really help it turn into, potentially, a money generating business that could basically add another livelihood in the community," she said.

It’s a more decentralized approach to composting than some municipalities have taken. 

“For instance, Anchorage actually applied for [the grant] last year and received it," Vadla said. "And they funded a study to help expand their organics collection.”

But Vadla said in a community like the Kenai Peninsula, where people are more spread out over a larger area, a program that’s more decentralized and sends compost to several local farms is actually more efficient. And she said there will be a myriad of positive impacts, from extending the life of Central Peninsula Landfill, to keeping waste out of the trash, to getting nutrients to local producers.

An ordinance to approve funds for the project will be introduced at next week’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9.

For information on what you can compost and how to compost, visit inletkeeper.org/compost.