Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Compost Post

Source: CC image on Flickr by Shygantic

No, this isn't about the food you eat. It's about the food you don't eat. In the developed world, 40%-50% of the trash sent to the landfill is organic matter. Food, paper towells, etc. Organic matter is capable of decomposing very quickly and returning it's component elements back to the earth for reuse, but this doesn't happen in a landfill. It can happen in a compost heap though. If we really want to lessen our impact on the Earth, we have to compost everything that we can.

Some of us live in apartments in big cramped cities, and for us it' really hard to make our own compost heaps. In some cities across the country, the government has stepped in to provide compost pick up, along with the ubiquitous trash and recycling pick ups. New York City did a pilot program for this in the Nineties, and decided it was not worth their while.
The overall conclusion reached from the various collection pilots is that while in certain cases it may be possible to collect source-separated food waste, collection route efficiency is very low and would be both expensive and impractical to implement on a significant scale. The studies of on-site systems conducted by DSNY and other parties demonstrated that these technologies remain cumbersome to operate, do not effectively control odors, and are therefore unsuitable for widespread use particularly in a dense urban setting.

Other cities such as San Francisco, have had very successful programs for years. While most large cities will probably move to municipal composting soon, it's hard for smaller towns to do the same sort of industrial composting as is done on the large scale for the municipal compost projects. If you live in an apartment,ask your landlord if it's okay to put a compost bin somewhere on the property and then tell all the other tenants about your compost bin. Katie and I have a surprisingly good compost bin going, after only about a month of use because six people are contributing to it.