East Side Compost Pedallers provides compost to local farmers by bicycle

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Jarrid Denman

Dustin Fedako created East Side Compost Pedallers to be a resource for locals looking for a way to compost excess waste. The organization picks up compost once a week from homes and delivers it to local farms and community gardens. 

Hillary Hurst

East Side Compost Pedallers are trying to make transporting compost around Austin on bicycles the new norm. 

A little over a year ago, the program began with the idea to be a resource for Austinites who wanted to cut down their excess waste through composting. For $16 a month, the program provides individuals with a compost collection bin and transports the compost to nearby urban farms and community gardens once
a week. 

Since their first collection in December 2012, the program has provided 8,891 pounds of compost to local growers and kept 35,565 pounds of scrapple — compostable food scraps and organic materials — out of landfills. The program also received two Austin Chronicle Best of Austin Awards, Critic’s Choice and People’s Choice for Best Green Business, and gained a massive following that has thrust this eco-friendly organization into the spotlight. 

Dustin Fedako, founder of East Side Compost Pedallers and UT alumnus, first launched the 100-percent bicycle-powered program 13 months ago. Initially a program tailored to the composting needs of neighborhoods, it has expanded to include restaurants, cafes, office buildings, commercial kitchens and events. 

“We had this fun ‘compost election’ where people were invited to cast their vote for composting, and [whichever] neighborhood picked up the most votes won a free month of our service,” Fedako said. “It turned out we gathered over 800 votes from all across Austin. Since then, we’ve just continued to have a growing interest.”

None of what the program does would be possible without their team of bikers. A typical workday for biker Stephen Bonett means arriving at the program’s headquarters in East Austin by 6 a.m. on collection days where he and a couple of co-workers prepare and load their bikes. The bikes are products of Portland company Metrofiets and each has a special cargo platform in front of the handlebars to carry 55-gallon plastic tubs that are used to transport the compost.  

On a normal route each biker gathers at least 250 pounds of compost. 

“The bikes are not that much bigger or more cumbersome than normal bikes,” Bonett said. “So it allows us to move quickly through the neighborhoods but still carry a lot of compost.”

The program has also spent the past year collecting compost every Sunday at the HOPE Farmers Market from vendors and individuals who aren’t on its bike routes. 

“[The program is] so focused on connecting all of the people that use their service,” Alexa Senter, director of the HOPE Farmers’ Market, said. “We really enjoy working with them and they offer a lot to the market.” 

In just a little over a year of service, the news of the program’s successes have spread beyond Austin.

“We’ve had people reach out from Australia and different parts of the world that appreciate what we’re doing and either want to support us or emulate [us],” Fedako said. “It’s really great to be able to reach an audience that maybe has never thought about composting or supporting local foods, and getting them interested and excited. We definitely have big plans to grow to all of Austin.”