Green Team, Second Harvest team up to fight food waste – The Vindicator

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Mahoning County Green Team director Lou Vega shows an already successful electronics collection using the new Bev Road facility. Vega said the Green Team will now be able to have weekly collections in the summer.

BOARDMAN — The Mahoning County Green Team soon will be recycling food scraps into compost for use in gardens, and with the new Bev Road facility and several partnerships, the spoiled food will help grow new crops.

All of this is set to happen under one roof.

The Green Team announced the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has approved a $100,000 grant application to launch the new project. Mahoning County Green Team director Lou Vega said the food waste prevention effort will involve operating a large-scale composting unit and partnering with Valley organizations.

The grant money will go to purchase a Big Hanna Aerobic Composter to be housed at the new Bev Road site. The county had taken over the MASCO Bev facility after it closed several years ago, Vega said. He added the Green Team asked for the facility, and the county saw it would be a good fit to continue services to residents.


The Bev Road site also has plenty of room for the several phases planned there.

“Part one is expanding our big recycling drives,” Vega said. “We ran an experiment this past summer with electronics.”

He said the electronics drive used to be held at various sites around Mahoning County. Over the summer, the Green Team took phone call and web site scheduling for people to bring their electronic devices to the Bev Road site. It not only was a success, but it was ran with a lot less people.

“When we held the drive at the (Canfield) fairgrounds, we used 42 people to handle the collection,” Vega said. “Here we can do it with just four people.”

Some of those volunteers come from a Mahoning County Sheriff’s program. Often nonviolent, first-time offenders could be ordered to put in community service hours. This program used to be housed at Oak Hill, and is now located at the Bev Road facility.

“A lot of what we do is helping the Green Team,” said deputy Ed Maloney. “Our program can have anywhere from two or three, to groups of 16, all court- ordered to perform community service.”


Those in the community service program also will work with the new composting program. They will be helping to load the new composter and unload rich compost afterward.

The food for composting will come through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank. The food bank picks up a lot of food that has reached its shelf life.

“Once the composting unit is secured, we plan to partner with Second Harvest Food Bank to collect food scraps that will be fed into the composting unit,” Vega said.

He said the amount the Green Team will be picking up may be sizeable.

“The plan is for the Green Team to pick up produce that is not edible and use the composter to turn it in to organic material for plant fertilization,” said Mike Iberis from Second Harvest. “We average about 30,000 pounds of recyclable material a month that we currently pay to have hauled away, so we will save on some trash costs.”

He said Second Harvest picks up daily donations from retail grocers. The donations include products that have expired are are near their useful life.

“We take the product, and our staff and volunteers sort through it to salvage as much as possible,” Iberis said. “For any produce that is no longer fit for consumption we discard it in the trash.” That is, until this new program is up and running.

Vega said it is a long process when using the large composter. He said from the time the food scraps are placed into the compactor to start the process, it will take eight months before the first batch is ready to go. Once that point is reached, it will become a continuous yield averaging 3,500 pounds per week.

Vega said the Akron Zoo has been successful with one of the large composters.

The yield will be a lot less than the scraps that go into the mix. Vega said out of 100 pounds of scrap going in, only 25 pounds will come out. He said it is all about breaking it down into useable compost.

The final two months for the process is to spread the compost over the ground so worms and other beneficial insects can become involved. At the end of the two months, the rich compost is ready for gardens.


“We will be using it right here in the Bev Road greenhouse and at the greenhouse at Campus of Care, 1960 East County Line Road (in Austintown),” Vega said.

Additionally, the greenhouses offer another partnership. The Green Team is teaming up with members of Flying High Inc., a vocational service organization, and the Men’s Garden Club of Youngstown, which will tend to the daily operations at the greenhouse and produce crops that will be distributed throughout the community.

“We will be meeting our mandate of reducing what goes into our landfills,” Vega said.

At 3,500 pounds per week, the compost will fill up the greenhouses with a lot left over. Vega said local community parks will benefit from the excess amount.

Vega hopes to have the new composter installed and ready to go in January. The program will begin at that time and by September 2023, the first batch should be ready.

Meanwhile, Vega will continue to look at running appliance drives and tire collections at the Bev Road site.

“It is believed that when the operation is up and running, 58 tons of food waste will be collected annually and recycled back into the soil just as nature intended,” Vega said. “It is a win for the Green Team, a win for our Valley partners and a win for Mother Earth. What could be better than that?”

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