After a little sabbatical to accommodate adjusting to a new job, I am re-animating my blog. With the holiday’s right around the corner, I thought it would be good to shift the focus to food. I always thought of composting as logical it significantly reduces the amount of waste that goes into the landfill. One look at the waste bin at our house and it’s clear that a majority of our trash is organic and biodegradable (food). One fact recently surprised me. Even one hundred percent biodegradable materials, like food, cannot break down completely in a landfill. One landfill study, “The Garbage Project,” conducted by the University of Arizona uncovered still-recognizable 25-year old hot dogs, corncobs and grapes in landfills. Backyard composting can solve some of these problems, but the economies of scale gained by commercial composting facilities are undeniable, especially considering the business and environmental benefits.
San Francisco is a great example of this kind landfill diversion. More than 300 businesses and institutions participate in composting collection programs, and more than 37,400 tons of commercial organics were diverted in 1999 (33% of commercial sector organic waste). This number has continued to climb over the years. Organic waste is diverted in a myriad of ways; edible food goes to food banks, and animal feed, while newly composted soil is sold to agricultural enterprises. These create revenue streams for the city. This news is not just good for the government and the environment, but it also helps save costs for business owners. Many produce markets and restaurants have reduced their trash by 90 percent and are saving up to 50 percent on their trash bills. Industrial composting can also close the gap between the technological advances in the creation of biodegradable packaging, and those biodegradable products actually breaking down. The infrastructure is in place, and people already separate their trash; policies that encourage commercial composting is now a matter of convincing policymakers to prioritize these programs for their communities.