Mayor kicks off compost experiment

Anchorage’s mayor Ethan Berkowitz got down and dirty on Monday. The mayor wants to encourage local gardening, and part of that plan is a new city composting program Berkowitz introduced at the Anchorage Municipality’s solid waste landfill in Eagle River.

Mayor Berkowitz throwing in the first bucket of food scraps. SWS Director Mark Spafford is in the background. (Photo courtesy of SWS Recycling)
Mayor Berkowitz throwing in the first bucket of food scraps. SWS Director Mark Spafford is in the background. (Photo courtesy of SWS Recycling)

“Well, this is dirt that came from compost. It’s delicious, nutritious, plants love this kind of stuff,” Berkowitz said as he pointed with mayoral pride to a pile of rich gardening soil heaped next to a landfill dumpster.

“One of the inspirations we had for this.. we were over run by a stampede of Master Gardeners during the Master Gardeners’ conference, and they complained about the lack quality soil and the lack of composting facilities, and it inspired us to go back and see what we could do.” the mayor added.

The city program is based on an exchange. Those who sign up for the composting trade get a five gallon bucket of completed compost for every bucket of organic kitchen waste that they take to the composting dumpster at the landfill.

Carrot tops, cabbage leaves and coffee grounds are some of the basic composting material found in every kitchen.

Travis Smith is the muni’s recycling coordinator, who was standing by at the compost kick-off.

“If the short amount of outreach that been done so far has gotten positive feedback, so I think that people, the residents of Anchorage, have wanted a service like this. This is a small step into the world of compost again,” Smith said.

The pilot program is based on the honor system – one bucket of compost for one bucket of kitchen refuse. If you add more to the big green dumpster at the Hiland Mt. road solid waste disposal site, then you can take back more compost.  Smith said if successful, the composting trade could expand. Berkowitz said the program does not rely on city tax dollars. Big Lake’s Susitna Organics has the contract to collect and compost the organic waste. The $8,800 contract is paid for with city recycling fees.

To sign up for the composting program, contact Smith at

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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