It’s Time to Clean Up Your Act With Compost

Photo by Patricia Valério on Unsplash

There are many ways we can take a stance and make an impact when it comes to our waste. While I could go on and on all day about the value in recycling, it’s important to do things that we have a bit more direct control over. This is where I believe composting has some major value.

Don’t get me wrong, recycling is important, but there a lot of ways you can do everything right and your perfect recycling still ends up in a landfill. Simple mistakes from others like putting plastic bags in the recycling can result in your precious recyclables getting caught up in the bags. This is where compost shines.

Compost is the perfect opportunity to turn all your precious food scraps and food waste into brown gold. Here in the United States we are producing over 63 million tons of food waste annually according the most recent numbers from the EPA. That amounts to 21.6% of all our waste. Now that’s a lot of trash!

A large majority of our food waste is currently going to landfills. Once in landfills, the bulk of it doesn’t even breakdown. A lot of people fixate on the amount of time it will take things like plastic products to breakdown in the landfill, but the reality is near nothing breaks down because it creates an anaerobic (lacking oxygen) environment. In this environment, important bacteria that breakdown things like food can’t survive.

All of our food waste doesn’t need to be sent to the landfill though. One of the easiest things we all can do is compost. The idea is simple; we collect all our organic materials that can easily decompose into one place. This collection of materials degrades over time until you are left with fertile soil. Then this soil can be reused for gardening and agriculture. We are essentially saving the valuable resources still left in our spoiling foods and reusing them to grow more food in the future.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Now this is obviously an oversimplification, but it gives you a rough idea. A lot of people are turning to backyard composting as a great way to reduce their waste and create soil for their gardens. However, that’s not the only option for a lot of people today. Across the US composting facilities are popping up in a variety of formats. Right here in Reno we are able to use Down To Earth Composting to reduce our waste.

Composting isn’t kept to just food waste either. It also can include things like all your yard clippings or even paper and cardboard.  Considering that yard trimmings make up another 12% of our total waste and paper makes up another 23% waste annually, we are left with a lot of compostable material. In fact, between food waste, yard waste, and paper, we are able to compost close to 57% of our total waste! Can you imagine if we all were able to cut our waste production in half by composting ? That would be huge!

Don’t take my word for it and do some research of your own. See if you are able to find a composting facility near you. They will have much more information about what exactly you can keep out of landfills by composting.

Daily Dose of Waste. Part 2.

The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is one crafted with intention. It is an instruction or hierarchy of priorities when thinking about the waste we create. We should start by reducing our production of waste. We should then reuse any waste we can. Once it’s served its purpose we should recycle anything that can be.

When we start taking a hard look at the amount of trash each of us produce, it’s easy to see that reducing our consumption is the best way to reduce our total production of waste. But at the end of the day, when we have the amount of trash we create laying in front of us, we need to dispose of that trash correctly. However, this isn’t something to be rushed and given little thought because things like misplaced recyclables can lead to contamination of an entire batch of recyclables.

As discussed in the previous blog in this series, the photo above shows 1 day worth of trash accumulation for me. Throughout the day, we make quick judgments about where we think our trash belongs. I would imagine you often want to reach for the recycling bin whenever possible, but the reality is that about 50% of our waste ends up in a landfill.

Despite our best efforts, most of us use products that don’t have much value and the cost to benefit ratio results in them ending up in a landfill. The amount of our waste that ends up in a landfill is likely inflated due to the contamination mentioned earlier. When you and I put items that don’t belong in the curbside-recycling bin like food scraps or plastic bags it can end up contaminating the entire lot of recycling. It ends up being too expensive for waste processors to separate the good from the bad and it all gets sent to the landfill. This is why it’s so important for us to be educated in what is recyclable and what isn’t, but we’ll get into more depth on that on a later blog post.

Separated day of waste

After my day of trash collection, I went ahead and separated everything into its appropriate place. I was refreshed to see that a large portion of my waste from the day could be recycled curbside, which is on the far left. Front and center you’ll see my compostable waste. We are also lucky to live in an area that offers composting so I was able to turn everything from my banana peel to my paper towels and coffee filter into a valuable resource. If you don’t have a compost facility near you, I highly suggest you start a compost of your own. It can be really rewarding!

Unfortunately I was still left with a good chunk of waste that I needed to go through store-drop-off for recycling or had to go to a landfill. In fact nearly 4lbs of my 8.2lbs of waste ended up getting sent to the dump. Things like the freezer gel pack for my meal delivery kit add up quickly, which is a reminder of my need to reduce my waste production.

 The upper left corner represents the plastic products that cannot be recycled curbside. These items don’t work well with standard recycling equipment and need to be brought to store-drop-off locations. Things like plastic grocery bags are a great example of this. But rest assured, that I reuse the heck out of them first!

In my next few blog posts I will give you much more information about exactly how and why this plastic is treated differently, the difference in all the plastic you see, how to tell the difference, and why its such a problem when we recycle incorrectly.  But until then, make sure you are thinking twice before tossing anything into that recycle bin.