Worthington is giving residents the opportunity to put their food waste to use through a new pilot composting program.

The program, which runs until February 2020, allows up to 400 residents to bring food scraps for composting to the city's service-and-engineering department, 380 Highland Ave.

Rob Chandler, assistant to the director of the service-and-engineering department, said the official start date was Feb. 14.

Dan Whited, Worthington's director of service and engineering, said the pilot program is limited to 400 residents because that is the maximum the service-and-engineering department can facilitate.

Whited said 232 residents have registered to participate in the program thus far.

He said residents who are interested in participating may call the service-and-engineering department at 614-431-2425 or submit a form through the online portal at worthington.org/1896/food-scraps-drop-off.

The city is partnering with Innovative Organics Recycling, a Columbus food-waste recycling company, to compost the waste.

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio gave the city a grant to start the program.

Hanna Greer-Brown, communications manager for SWACO, said Worthington received a grant of $4,680 to help start the program. Chandler said the city provided $1,560 for program costs.

Greer-Brown said SWACO leaders were interested in providing a grant because the pilot program aligns with the work SWACO has undertaken with reusing food waste.

Chandler said discussion among council members and city leaders spurred development of the program.

"When Bexley started their pilot program, it caused us to look a little deeper," he said.

The city website, worthington.org, cited another reason for offering the program was "roughly 40% of all food bought in the United States is thrown out. That's a lot of landfill space that can be saved, greenhouse gas that can be reduced, and usable soil amendments that can be implemented."

Chandler said city leaders would evaluate options in meetings with SWACO after the conclusion of the pilot program, but they would like to offer some sort of composting program for all residents in the future.

"What that looks like a year from now, we're not certain," he said.

Ray Leard, owner of Innovative Organics Recycling, said his company picks up the scraps after they are dropped off by residents and will take them to the company's facility, 2121 Integrity Drive S. in southeast Columbus, to compost.

Whited said the pilot program is for households only.

Businesses interested in composting can sign up on the company's website, innovativeorganicsrecycling.com, for a free two-week waste audit for the company's commercial program, he said.

Leard said residents should drop off their compost every week or every two weeks so the food scraps remain fresh and the quality is better.

A list of foodstuffs that can be composted and prohibited items is available at innovativeorganicsrecycling.com/can-cant-compost.

Leard said residents may use their own buckets or obtain one with a plant-based liner from the service-and-engineering department. The liner can be used to help transfer the compost to a large container at the service-and-engineering department, he said.

The buckets are free but must be returned at the conclusion of the program, Chandler said. No cost is needed to participate, he said.

"It's really simple on purpose," Leard said.

Leard said after the food waste gets picked up, it is dumped onto a concrete pad at the Innovative Organics Recycling facility.

Wood chips, leaves, sawdust or another type of carbon material are added to the mixture, he said. It takes about three months to decompose, he said.

Leard said it is the same process as making typical backyard compost.

"It's a very simple system, and people like simple," he said.