Two Bend garbage service providers are testing whether residents will compost their kitchen scraps.

Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal have long allowed customers to include fruit and vegetable scraps with their yard waste. This month, both companies began allowing some customers to include dairy, meat and eggs in their composting materials.

If the pilot program, which is expected to run through the spring, is successful, it could be expanded to more Bend customers.

“We’ll be looking at both participation rates from the customers in the areas and monitoring the content of the carts,” said Brad Bailey, president of Bend Garbage & Recycling.

For now, each company randomly selected about 300 customers in its service areas, said Susan Baker, marketing manager for Bend Garbage & Recycling. Cascade Disposal’s pilot program is mostly around NorthWest Crossing, while Bend Garbage & Recycling’s is near downtown.

Baker said the two companies have notified all the customers who can participate but hasn’t shared specific street names because not all customers on a street are included.

The residential program is an extension of a composting program the two Bend-based providers and High Country Disposal, which serves Redmond and Sisters, started offering to restaurants and other commercial businesses in 2010. Commercial customers have been able to include staples like meat, dairy products and grains with food waste since then, while residential customers were limited to fruits, vegetables and yard debris.

Fruits, vegetables and yard debris make up about 80 percent of compostable material, Bailey said.

He said he hoped the pilot program would draw more customers’ attention to the existing yard waste composting program, even if those customers can’t yet compost their meat and dairy.

“It has been and really is an effective way to recycle your food waste,” he said.

Vegetative waste is also easier to compost. It’s relatively inexpensive to process and doesn’t smell as bad as meat or dairy, according to Timm Schimke, director of Deschutes County’s solid waste department.

Expanded composting and recycling services are part of the county’s solid waste management plan. The plan, which is still in progress, aims to stave off the coming closure of Knott Landfill and identify a new solution for waste when the landfill is full. Deschutes County expects to run out of space in the landfill by 2029.

The two Bend companies distributed 2-gallon kitchen pails to eligible customers last week. Bend Garbage & Recycling had its first collection of nonvegetative food waste Thursday, and Cascade Disposal will pick up its first batch Wednesday.

So far, customers seem enthusiastic about the program, Bailey said.

“When we delivered the kitchen pails, they were very excited,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160;