May 10, 2023

Proposed Food Waste Program Would Start with Two Collection Sites

By Anne Levin

Following a work session on a proposed food waste recycling drop-off program, Princeton Council gave the go-ahead at its meeting on Monday evening, May 8, to further explore options related to an initiative that would start in September. It would allow participating households — 200 to start — to deposit scraps in one of two designated collection sites.

The program would cost the town $5,000 for materials and supplies and operate at about $3,600 a month. The two drop-off locations would be at Witherspoon Hall and Monument Hall. Open to all interested residents, the program is proposed to be first-come, first-served, with a waiting list. Some members of Council suggested that a lottery might be a preferable way to proceed.

“I feel that’s [first-come, first-served] not the most equitable way to do that, because some of our community members are less in touch with what’s going on,” said Councilwoman Eve Niedergang. “It’s going to be people who are foaming at the mouth, ready to get this. I’d love to see a lottery instead, where you pick 100 names out of a hat. That way, someone who finds out about it three weeks later still has a shot.”

The program would require municipal staff members to take the waste material to the Trenton Renewables food waste recycling plant twice weekly. If more households want to join and the program grows, transporting the materials could be contracted out.

The Waste Team, which is made up of municipal staff, a consultant, and representatives from Sustainable Princeton and the Princeton Environmental Commission, was also considering applying for a federal grant in June, which would mean the program would not get going until February next year. Council agreed unanimously that the team should instead explore the option that would get the program underway sooner.

The town’s previous food waste recycling program, which included 1,000 households at its peak, was not a success. Participants included unacceptable items, such as plastic bags, with the materials to be composted. It also became evident that the materials were not being taken to the right facility.

An online survey about food waste recycling last fall received responses from 1,292 residents, revealing high interest in a new food scraps program. Similar programs that have been implemented in Hoboken, which now has 12 drop-off locations; Jersey City, which has 11; and Secaucus, which has five; were explored by the waste team.

A communication plan would be put in place to make members of the community aware of the opportunity. In addition to the two initial waste sites in
Princeton, possible future sites would include the Harrison Street Garage, Westminster Choir College, neighborhood schools, and the Princeton Senior Resource Center’s Poor Farm Road location.

A full description of the program, including which materials are accepted, is available in the agenda packet from the May 8 meeting, on The next regular meeting of Council is Tuesday, May 23 at 7 p.m.