Food & Composting

Composting is the natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material into humus rich fertilizer. In the United States, only 4% of food scraps are composted. Most of the rest is sent to rot in landfills where it produces the potent greenhouse gas methane. Communities should focus resources on composting food scraps and yard trimmings rather than picking up the product and packaging waste created by corporations.

Citizen Engagement for Community-Wide Composting

colorful VeggiesThe vast majority of our food waste goes into landfills where much of it is converted into the potent greenhouse gas, methane. The irony is that communities are so busy picking up after wasteful corporations – collecting products and packaging after consumers are done with them – that food scraps that contribute to climate change in landfills, have gone unaddressed in many communities. The flip-side for local governments supporting the transition to producer-led recycling is freeing up public resources to collect and process food scraps and other organics. In most communities it will take citizen engagement and pressure to make the transition happen.

Home Composting

Home composting is something all of us can do for the environment. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, bread, eggshells, meats, grass and yard clippings can be composted. Newspaper, unbleached paper napkins, and unbleached coffee filters too. Items that cannot be composted include plastics, grease, glass, and metals – including plastic utensils, condiment packages, plastic wrap, plastic bags, foil, silverware, drinking straws, bottles, polystyrene or chemicals. For advice on home composting visit the CalRecycle webpage.

ComposterAccording to the EPA, the benefits of composting include (EPA 2013):

  • Reducing or eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Promoting higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Facilitating reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Remediating soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
  • Removing solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff.
  • Avoiding Methane and leachate formulation in landfills.
  • Capturing and destroying 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
  • Providing cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
  • Reducing the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Serving as a marketable commodity and as a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments.
  • Extending municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills.