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Dedicated Berwyn resident starts composting service

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Posted on: October 13, 2021

By Eva Sanchez 

Six months ago, one woman’s dedication to the health of soil inspired her to start her own compost company. Now, 23-year-old Catherine Oberfield single handedly runs a food scrap  pickup service, Berwyn Compost. 

Berwyn Compost founder Catherine Oberfield holds one of the buckets she gives to members.
Courtesy of Isabella Hatfield

“I wanted to create a service that was simple, convenient, cheap ($12/month!), local, felt good, and was contagious.” Oberfield wrote in an email.  

With a long history of being the designated composter among her friends, Oberfield got serious about it when she began interning at ECO City Farms, in Bladensburg, in the fall of 2020. Berwyn Compost was officially born in March 2021. 

“This got me into the rhythm, or some might say ritual, of collecting compost every week.” said Oberfield. Since she started Berwyn Compost, she has been collecting members’ food scraps every week — and hasn’t missed a week yet. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste, both of which can be composted, make up more than 30% of all trash. Trapped in landfills, that food and yard waste releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

In an article about her company in the Berwyn District Civic Association’s newsletter, Oberfield highlighted some of the many benefits of composting, which include reducing landfill methane emissions and lowering the city’s trash disposal fees. 

“I am a farmer by trade and compost is the single most important soil amendment to maintaining fertile land. We as a society are rapidly losing farmland, a cause near and dear to my little agrarian heart,” Oberfield wrote. “Composting closes nutrient loops, keeping soil productive for generations to come.” 

While city residents can drop off their food scraps for free at Davis Hall, Oberfeld offers convenience, as she picks up compost throughout the 20740 zip code. She reminds her members to put out their compost buckets, too.

Pickups are every Monday morning, and it takes Oberfield an hour or two to complete the circuit. After doing the pickup, Oberfield takes what she’s collected to Prince George’s Organics Composting Facility, in Upper Marlboro, or to ECO City Farms, depending on what she has to drop off. 

Oberfield has lived in Berwyn for two years, following her graduation from the University of Maryland, and staying local is important to her. 

“I wanted to create something that was sustainable,” Oberfield wrote, adding that keeping it local allows university students to get involved. Oberfield hopes to eventually expand the business, adding pickup locations to her route and more people to her team. 

Oberfield provides her members with 5-gallon pickle buckets. “All of the buckets that we use are from the College Park Potbelly’s,” said Oberfield. “The only expense is compostable liners.” 

“I believe that composting feels so good that once you start, you won’t stop,” she added.

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