Bootstrap Compost Sees Dough, Not Doom, in City’s Curbside Composting Push

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A Bootstrap Compost bucket outside a Jamaica Plain home.

Chris Helms

A Bootstrap Compost bucket outside a Jamaica Plain home.

A Bootstrap Compost bucket outside a Jamaica Plain home.

Chris Helms

At first glance, you might think the city of Boston getting into the curbside composting business would be terrible for scrappy, JP-based Bootstrap Compost.

But that's not how Andy Brooks, founder and president of the three-year-old composting company, sees it.

"It's not like Marty Walsh is going to be on his bike picking stuff up," Brooks said in a Friday phone interview.

Being on the bike picking stuff up is what Brooks and now five employees have been pioneering. Clients get an unmistakeable white "Bootstrap Compost" bucket for their organic waste. The company picks up the raw materials by bike and other means — yes, sometimes vehicles — and turns diverted waste into rich compost.

The composting scene in Boston may change dramatically soon. City Councilor Matt O'Malley, who represents JP, hosts a hearing Tuesday to explore the city doing curbside composting. More than 90 cities already have curbside composting, O'Malley's staff wrote in an announcement about the hearing.

Brooks and others from Bootstrap plan to be at the hearing. But don't expect them to be defensive. Brooks smells opportunity here much more than a threat.

For one, the city will need contractors to do the actual pickup. And beyond possible city contracts, there's the boost the city's effort gives to the whole idea of composting. Brooks said he's happy there are conversations going on about how to fix what he calls a broken trash and recycling system.

Besides, Bootstrap Compost has many irons in the fire. They already service areas outside of Boston. And Brooks says the company has "dozens and dozens" of commercial clients.

One thing Brooks does wish the city would do is to update its materials on Bootstrap. For instance, they have nearly 750 clients, not 250, and have diverted half a million pounds of materials from the landfill, not 250,000 pounds.

The City Council hearing on curbside composting is 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, in the City Council chamber on the fifth floor of City Hall.

[Editor's note: Our family was a client of Bootstrap Compost when we lived in Forest Hills.]