Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Food Scrap Composting

The article “Composting efforts gain traction across the United States” from the Washington post discusses the rise in food scrap composting in the United States (Eilperin).  Private businesses and residential communities are the main groups that have set up food scrap recycling programs. As of 2010, only 170 communities in 18 states have a composing program. Only 97% of all food waste went to landfills, while only 3% was composted.
There are many benefits that come with increased food scrap composting. Primarily, composting reduces waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill, which results in for more land for other purposes. Composted food scraps also help enrich soil. Large institutions can make money by selling their food scraps to third party operators. The government has stepped in to increase the supply of food scraps and composting sites. In one community, the Office of Planning was given a $600,000 grant to build multiple composting sites. In San Francisco, residents are charged based on how much trash they generate. The option to compost for free, gives residents the incentive to increase their rate of recycling and composting. In one Oregon city haulers come once a week for composted material, while only coming every other week to pick up trash. This influences residents to sort their food scraps for composting, which decreases their trash output.
The main issue is that our country’s trash disposal system lacks the large-scale capacity to handle our food wastes. As a result, companies like Safeway are faced with the cost of shipping their food waste over 100 miles to be composted. The cost of shipping the food a greater distance is more air pollution emitted into the atmosphere. An increase in composting will have a negative cost for the trash industry as well. With less waste entering landfills, trash industries are now receiving less revenue from costumers who pay to put their trash there. Also, some communities that currently have contracts with incineration sites will not want to compost because they will still have to pay the incinerators despite their reduced trash output. The article “Cities Get So Close to Recycling Ideal, They Can Smell It,” from the New York Times points out some other costs of composting. Food scraps inevitably attract animals. In Oregon, large amounts of sea gulls are drawn to food scrap collection sites, causing a big problem for collection companies. The article also mentions how reduced residential trash pick up results in the increase of non-recyclable items sent to recycling plants (Yardley).

I think composting should be more prevalent on a national level. Earth’s land is limited. I believe that it is our responsibly to take whatever steps possible to preserve as much usable land as possible for future generations. By reducing trash output, we will reduce our need for landfills and thus decrease the rate at which we need new landfill sites. As a result, more land will be available to even more generations of the future.  I think that some of the problems that come with composting will be solved with increased demand. If more people generate compost, then the demand for composting sites will increase, so more will be built. As more composting sites are established, food scraps will not have to be transported to such great of distances. Increased composting will also result in the need for more organic processing facilities. Trash industries can use their additional space from reduced trash intake for the establishment of composting sites. Labor that is not needed for trash services can be used for composting services instead.

Discussion questions:
Would you take the time to sort your waste?
Should the government create more incentives?

--Amy Moore
Works Cited

Eilperin, Juliet. Composting efforts gain traction across the United States. 3 February 2013. 6 February 2013.
Yardley, William. Cities Get So Close to Recycling Ideal, They Can Smell It. 27 June 2012. 06 February 2013.

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