Putting a city’s half-eaten french fries to good use
Author Alexandra Pecci Illustration Peter Oumanski
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Wearing rubber gloves and heavy boots, Adam Williams hops off the back of an old garbage truck in downtown Portsmouth. Within seconds, he and his fellow “haul dawg,” Wes LeFevre, are rooting through a barrel filled with mussel and lobster shells, and mashed up french fries.
“I’d stand back,” LeFevre says drily, tipping the contents of the barrel into the belly of the truck. The duo’s boss, Rian Bedard, sips coffee from a Mason jar and looks on from beneath the brim of a trucker hat.
Last night, this stuff would have been sitting prettily on plates in Portsmouth’s most popular restaurants. Now, it’s a steaming, stinking wet pile that beckons the neighborhood’s flies.
This job isn’t pleasant, but it’s for a good cause. Mr. Fox Composting (formerly EcoMovement Consulting and Hauling), Bedard’s company, collects organic waste for composting—a novel idea in these parts when he started the enterprise back in 2009, but something now in great demand. Bedard’s men currently collect upward of 40 tons of waste a week from about 250 clients, delivering the muck to local compost facilities.
As worthy as his enterprise may be, Bedard is a businessman, and his interest in repurposing food scraps goes beyond helping the planet. As he puts it, Mr. Fox is founded on the premise that “you can do good and make money.”
In the early days, the operation was relatively low-key—so much so that garbage trucks were seen as an unnecessary extravagance, Bedard says. “We picked up every single bag by hand and threw it into the back of a trailer. That was disgusting.”
A moment later, the Mr. Fox truck lurches forward, heading for the next stop of the morning: a local juicery. “Their trash is nice,” Williams says with a smile. “Smells like carrots all day.”