eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Why We Need Curbside Composting Programs and Where to Start

Posted by Luke on July 22, 2010

Today on TriplePundit.com, a site dedicated to news on the Triple Bottom Line of business, Dinesh Thirupuvanam wrote a great article on why we need curbside composting programs.  He outlined two steps that need to occur which include (1) a uniform labeling standard for compostable products, and (2) improving acceptance of compostable packaging at composting facilities (ensuring each facility doesn’t have their own standards or certification program).  I am in complete agreement with Dinesh’s approach.  It makes perfect sense.  And I appreciate Dinesh referencing my post about the debate over how to label compostable products.

I also think it’s important for municipalities who are considering curbside composting to take the plunge and just do it.  The benefits of such programs are immense.  In Boulder we have a bi-weekly residential curbside composting pickup and I now send very little trash to the landfill.  It feels great taking out the trash because I have so little to take out.  Not to mention that composting has an enormous impact on reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.  34% of all human generated methane emissions are from landfills, and food waste comprises approximately 13% of total landfill mass.

My belief is that we shouldn’t wait for the silver bullet of a labeling standard.  It will take years, if not decades, for a common standard to be developed.  I’m on the Board of Directors for the Biodegradable Products Institute and I’m involved in this industry debate on several different levels.  We’re not going to find a solution overnight.  There are just too many stakeholders to have this occur as quickly as we’d all like.

The best way to learn is to just give it a shot.  We’ll have more people educated on the subject and more people working on finding the best possible solution.

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5 Responses to “Why We Need Curbside Composting Programs and Where to Start”

  1. Van Hess said

    The Problem:
    Recycling food waste is a stinky job and the products available or methods used are completely unacceptable to the majority. If you go online you’ll see the extremes people go to trying to make it work. An excellent example of what I’m speaking about can be found at (http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/charity/foodscraps.html#stinky).
    A typical scenario of what happens when a city introduces their curbside program would be this. They deliver the outdoor bin a pail, and a box of Bio-Bags. Although leery about the whole idea, most people give it a shot because they know it’s the right thing to do. A few days into it someone forgets empty the pail causing the house to smell like it was built on top of a landfill, on their way out to the outdoor bin the bag splits, the yuck hits the floor and they quit.

    The Solution:
    An easier way to store that stuff indoors, a kitchen compost bin that makes sense, which motivated me to make one that I believe address’s the concerns and objections people have with storing food waste in their home. If you want Luke, I’ll give you one to take home to see if I’m right. You can see it at http://www.compokeeper.com, when your ready, email me at van@compokeeper.com , and I’ll bring it right over.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    • Luke said

      Van – I definitely hear where you’re coming from on how food waste composting in your kitchen can be a stinky job. It really doesn’t have to be though. I use BioBags and the Maxair bin produced by BioBag (www.biobagusa.com). I have never had an issue with odors, fruit flies, or anything else. In fact, the ventilated system actually allows the waste to breath which causes it to dry out and prevent odors. No matter the type of kitchen composter that is used, people need to understand that it needs to be emptied every 5-7 days. You can’t go longer than that anyway since kitchen composters are designed to be small so they are emptied frequently. And it is food waste not packaging waste like what sits in most trash cans.

      I’d be happy to try one of your compokeepers if you send me one. My office address is on the http://www.ecoproducts.com website. Thanks

  2. Alana said

    Luke, you totally just gave us the kick in the ass we needed to start vermicomposting. Granted, that’s not what the post is actually about, but we realized since we don’t have curbside composting here we are going to have to find another way. It’s ridiculous how much compostable waste we end up preserving in plastic bags. Ugh.

    I’m curious if you know anything about compostable diapers? And do you just put those out with your other compost? This is another thing we’ve been trying to figure out and haven’t come up with a good solution. We’re using cloth at home, but it’s impractical to do that when we’re away from home for more than a day or two. I know about the gDiapers, and we’re giving those a shot, but I’ve been wondering if there are any whole diapers out there that are compostable? What are you guys using? Anyway, I guess it’s not exactly your area, but well, they are containers of sorts and you are after all Container Man. 😉

    • Luke said

      Alana – nice job on vermicomposting. Let me know how it goes. I haven’t heard about any other compostable diapers besides the gDiapers. All of the compost facilities/programs I know don’t accept diapers due to the sanitary concerns and composting feces requires different temperatures to kill the bacteria than most other organic waste. Good luck!

      • Alana said

        Yeah, I wondered who actually composts those things. It seems like more of a marketing gimmick. However, they ARE flushable. That seems to be going well in most circumstances. (Yikes! Watch out with old plumbing!) Anyway, we bought our big rubber bin this weekend, and now I just have to order worms. We’ll see!

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