“We recognised that there was a lot of waste leaving the town that could be used locally,” says Ben, now of Loop:Frome. “A lot of businesses pay to get their food waste taken away. That food waste goes to landfill and produces CO2. The food waste that does get bio-digested becomes scorched so it can be sold as compost but it doesn’t contribute to the regeneration of the soil. So we asked: how can we regenerate local soil? And how can this thing called food waste be turned into a resource? We had this idea of essentially closing that loop and transforming this resource into a living, nutrient-dense compost. Our ethos is: what many consider waste can be recycled and regenerated into useful, healthy and sustainable products and services.”
Five out of the six people who took part on the course stayed on to turn Loop into a thriving community enterprise. They made connections with local businesses, who signed up to receive a food bin for waste and then Loop hop on a trike to collect the waste and take it to their composting hub, where it is turned into a “delicious, biologically-alive, nutrient-and worm-rich compost.’’
It was an immediate success. “It’s been amazing,” says Ben. “People looked at what we were doing and the ethos and why it was important in terms of soil health and there was massive support. We’ve currently got a waiting list for new businesses to join.” It also slots neatly into plans the local area has for a more sustainable future. “By closing Frome’s food waste loop we are contributing towards the town’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”
Setting up a community enterprise has also been of enormous benefit to Still on a personal level. “I’ve always had a lot of ideas around how things could change,” he says. “But it’s a whole other thing actually implementing that and then learning how to overcome obstacles as they arise. It does feel very empowering to know that you can do something that makes an impact, is meaningful, and you can support yourself as an individual. As a young person this is especially important.”
With their collection and composting services already being stretched due to demand after just a few months in operation, the future plan is expansion. “The next step is to expand with various compost sites and create an interconnected network of regeneration centres,” Ben says.
Despite the early success of the project, Ben states it’s been as much down to the community in Frome. “From the get go, we had so many networks and so many people supporting this project,” he says. “I think it goes to show you when the community really does come together and recognises a thing, something amazing can happen.”