We get a lot of questions, and some complaints, about our price points, so we’ve created this page to discuss why our residential pickup service is priced the way it is, as well as some of the opportunities our members have to reduce their monthly fee.
First things first, though, we’d like to make very clear that affordability of our service is very important to us. Our hope is that, in the future, we will incrementally move toward a pricing structure that allows anyone who wants to divert their food waste from the landfill to do so at a rate they can comfortably afford. We’ve already made tremendous progress towards affordability by expanding our service offerings: after starting with only a $36/month weekly pickup option, we’ve added a $20/month biweekly pickup option, as well as $10/month and $1/gallon drop-off options, and at our dropoff events we take free drop-offs from families eligible for public food or housing assistance.
However, as a new small business, we also have to price our service in a way that will allow us to succeed and grow. So…
Why is our service so expensive?
We set our initial price after reviewing the pricing structure of dozens of similar businesses around the country, with an emphasis on cities that are comparable to Albuquerque in terms of population, density, and socioeconomics. While there are cheaper programs in some cities, our price is comparable to the ones we felt were the most successful, particularly in their ability to finance their own expansion and sustained growth.
It’s useful to think about our price in comparison to the cost of municipal services. Albuquerque residents pay about $15/mo on their water bill for their trash and recycling pickup, but there are a number of factors that contribute to that comparatively low price:
- every home participates, so it only takes a few seconds to drive from one residence to the next, and they don’t need to spend much on sales and outreach;
- roll carts are placed in the street and can be emptied and tossed to the curb in a few seconds;
- they have favorable tax status;
- huge trucks, automated equipment, and other economies of scale lower the cost per resident.
By comparison, our boutique service requires us to drive as much as 15 minutes between members. We also spend a lot more time before, during and after each stop: we prep a liner bag for every bucket, we walk to each member’s porch, we screen every bucket’s contents for contaminants before dumping it into a larger container, and we hand-wash each bucket with compost-friendly cleaning products so our members can take it into their kitchens without encountering unwelcome smells or grime. When we’re not slinging or cleaning buckets, we also spend a lot of our resources on online and offline outreach, trying to recruit and retain members. Our boutique service simply can’t be performed at the same price as municipal waste management.
The Value of Food Waste & Collection Services
There’s also a common misconception about the value of food waste. Yes, your food waste can be turned into wonderful, fertile compost. No, we aren’t making a killing off it. At best, each bucket we collect will eventually produce around $0.20 worth of retail compost, which doesn’t even cover the cost of the compostable bag liners we use. Factoring in the facilities’ costs, there is simply no money to be made off the food waste itself, which is why the facility we use charges us to dump off your waste, and not the other way around.
Another way to look at it is that we aren’t in the compost business; we’re in the waste management business. We provide a simple and environmentally sustainable food waste management option for families that would otherwise send their food waste to the landfill. The value is in the environmental benefits of composting, not the retail price of the finished product.
How can we lower your price, today?
- Referral program. In April of 2020 we’ll unveil our referral program, in which you receive a promotional credit on your compost account for each member you refer to us.
- Drop-off service.We don’t have a permanent drop-off location yet, but we will be accepting drop-offs at the Downtown Growers Market throughout the 2019 market season. The drop-off fee can be waived if you show us that you possess a subsidized food token or check (SNAP, FreshRX, DUFB, etc).
- Annual Memberships. Purchase an annual residential membership and you’ll get the 12th month free.
- Negotiated group rates. On a case by case basis, we will negotiate group rates for entire HOAs, gated communities, apartment buildings, and other structured collections of residences, as well as for informal but close-knit groups of neighbors.
- Ask your employer to join. One of the perks we’ve bundled with our commercial service options is a discount for all our commercial members’ employees.
- Need-based discounts coming soon. By the end of 2019, we hope to offer a discounted pickup membership rate to families who can demonstrate financial need. As noted above, families on food assistance programs are already able to drop-off for free at the Downtown Growers Market.
- Suggestions? If you have other suggestions for ways we can reduce prices, please contact us.