Ten years ago, someone walking into a grocery store with a bunch of reusable shopping bags while sipping coffee shop coffee from a reusable travel mug would have gotten a few curious glances or been stereotyped as an extreme environmentalist. Now, those simple practices to reduce waste have become commonplace in our society. What is the next waste reduction practice to enter all of our lives? Looking at current trends, household waste, especially recycling and compost, is a big discussion.
A few U.S. cities have placed a ban on organic materials in landfill-bound trash. Instead, they have implemented city-wide compost collection, with the same kind of service fees as curbside trash and recycling. This step reduces the amount of organic waste in landfills, greatly reducing the formation and release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane, CH4, is a potent greenhouse gas that causes 72 times more warming in the atmosphere than the same amount of CO2, over a 20-year period (EESI, 2013). By sending compost to a commercial composting facility instead, it can be turned into a rich finished compost to be used to grow our food and gardens.
These curbside services are not available to the average household in our region and those living in urban areas often have limited access to backyard composting. But, we do have commercial composting facilities. One great option is to bring your kitchen food scraps to the Countryside Farmers' Market at Howe Meadow, where a commercial composter, Full Cycle Organics, will take your compost for a small drop-off fee. The fee goes into operating the compost facility. The end product is a dark brown compost that can be bought at the farmers' market too. Here are my tips on how to create the best and easiest compost collection bin for your kitchen:
Step 1: Find the right bucket or trash can for your style
To create a simple and affordable compost bucket, you can use any 5 gallon or 2 gallon bucket with a lid or flip top. If you are willing to spend a little more money, there are great 2-3gallon trash cans with foot pedal lids that look great in any kitchen. Really any container with a lid works; even a big old cookie jar! The compost bin can sit under a sink, on the counter, or in a corner in the kitchen. I put mine right next to the trash and recycling bins in my kitchen.
Step 2: Line the bucket
This step is optional but if you don't want to wash your bucket every week, you can purchase compostable bin liners. They must have the BPI, Biodegradable Products Institute, seas on them to be accepted by commercial composters. Buy bags that are slightly larger than your compost bin so that you can secure the bag over the top of the bin and tie it up.
Step 3: Fill it with food waste
As you cook, toss any peels in, and after a meal, throw any napkins or bones into the compost. Try to save leftovers in reusable containers to eat later rather than throwing them away! Almost all food scraps can go in, as commercial composting facilities use high heat that will down dense scraps like those leftover chicken wing bones. One note is to beware of using compostable bin liners if you collect particularly pointy food scraps, like trimmed stems, or really wet foods, like sliced tomatoes or a fruit salad. Those will rip the bag and leak and will be easier in an unlined bin.
Step 4: Drop if off!
Bring your bags or bins with you to the Countryside Farmers' Market at Howe Meadow and visit the Full Cycle Organics tent to drop it off. The $5 drop off fee is very low compared to cost of processing the compost and is less than the environmental cost of those scraps if they had gone to the landfill. Full Cycle Organics often times has incentives in place for frequent customers!
Try this out and bring your compost to Full Cycle Organics at the Countryside Farmers' Market at Howe Meadow on Saturdays. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for sustainability topics that you want to learn more about!
-Annie Preston: Sustainability and Special Programs Coordinator at Countryside firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). Fact Sheet- Landfill Methane. 2013. http://www.eesi.org/papers/view/fast-sheet-landfill-methane