A collection, regeneration and delivery service for Frome’s food waste.
In early 2021 Ben Still decided to take part in Edventure, a practical 11-week course in community entrepreneurship for young adults aged 18-35. During this course students learnt by setting up a community enterprise that tackles a local need on behalf of a local organisation. Working with Peter Macfadyen, author of Flatpack Democracy and founder of Frome Compost CIC, they hatched a plan and established a local environmental need to be addressed.
“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.”
It’s also proven a useful educational tool for the community. “There’s lots of community events that we’ve been invited to and we give talks and explain what we do,” Ben says. “The education side is really important. The energy and wave of what you’re doing really starts to pick up when people see the importance of it and why we’re doing it. The more that we can get people doing it themselves, spontaneously, the better.”
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.”