ASK EARTHA: How Do I Keep Wildlife Out of My Food Scrap Bin?

 In Ask Eartha

Dear Eartha, I’m concerned about raccoons getting into my food scrap bin. How can I prevent that?

Food scraps attracting wildlife is a legitimate concern in our area! Thanks to the 1A/Strong Future initiative that passed in November 2018, the Summit County Food Scrap Recycling program is now free to County residents. That means you can collect scraps at home and bring them to either the Frisco or Breckenridge recycling centers for drop off. Food waste is then transformed into High Country Compost at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park near Keystone.

Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned veteran, the first step is to figure how to collect food scraps in a way that works for you and your space.

Each of us lives in a unique property and therefore a one-size-fits all approach to food scrap recycling just doesn’t work. You’ll need to find a way to adjust your setup to prevent contact with wildlife in the first place. Let’s address some scenarios you might encounter when setting up (or modifying) food scrap collection at home.

To begin, food scraps should not be in contact with wildlife. This means don’t place your bin (whether you think it’s bearproof or not) outside. That means no stoops, no patios, and no decks. Food scrap bins should be kept in your home or a secure garage, a recommendation from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to minimize wildlife attraction.

In the House

When modifying or beginning food scrap collection in your kitchen, start by considering how much you’ll generate. This determines container size. And, no matter how big or small, you’ll want to obtain one with a tight-fitting lid for odor’s sake. Some small containers come with charcoal filters to prevent stink – but you still need to empty it frequently and rinse or clean it!

For small amounts of scraps, think old Tupperware or coffee cans. For larger amounts of scraps, opt for a five-gallon bucket with a screw-on lid (available at some hardware stores). High Country Conservation Center is offering a limited number of free 2-gallon lidded buckets to participants in the Food Scrap Program. Do you have a tiny amount of scraps and a small space? Placing scraps in a reusable (plastic or silicone) bag and then in the freezer will eliminate the odor problem and save counter-top real estate.

Speaking of space, let’s think about that next. Can you fit a whole bucket on top of your counter? If not, try putting it under the kitchen sink. You can keep a bowl on the counter to toss scraps into while cooking. During cleanup, transfer everything to the bucket.

Finally, consider convenience. If you don’t cook often, you may not need a countertop container. If you‘re the type to craft a home-cooked meal each night, make convenience your first priority. You’ll want your bin easy to access and open.

In the Garage

If you decide to keep your food scrap bin in the garage, think like an animal. Is your doggie door open? Do your doors shut and seal firmly? Remember we live amongst scavengers big and small, so inspect the scene from every possible angle. Even though it’s not in the house, try your best to ensure your container isn’t too odorous. A tight-sealing lid is essential.

You might also opt for a dual setup, where you keep small amounts of scraps in your home before transferring them to a larger container kept in a garage. Keep in mind that a household can recycle up to 10 gallons of food scraps per week in the free Summit County program so there’s no need for larger cans like those you’d keep your trash in.

Get Started Today

Excited to get started? I’m excited for you! Visit HighCountryConservation.org then click on Recycling, Food Scrap Program. Once you enroll, you’ll receive an email with details and information on how and where to access the bins at the Frisco and Breckenridge recycling centers. These bins are kept locked to prevent trash dumping and create the cleanest compost possible.

No matter your style and space, collecting food scraps for composting can be made easy and convenient. But remember, preventing food waste in the first place is always the preferred route, both for your pocketbook and our planet. Best of luck with your setup and happy composting!

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at info@highcountryconsrvation.org.

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