Make recycling your food waste easy by purchasing a composting bin from Green Star. You can stop by our office at 1205 1st Ave or call 452-4152 for more information.
Did you know food waste is one of the largest components of our household waste?
According to a 2011 study1 of Seattle residences with access to curbside recycling, food scraps accounted for roughly one third of household waste. The combination of residential and commercial waste is commonly referred to as municipal waste of which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)2, food waste accounts for 15% of our country’s municipal waste stream. Did you know that food waste is a resource that can easily be recycled, composted, or repurposed? Continue reading to discover new ways to reduce food waste.
What is the environmental impact of food waste?
What is the economic impact of food waste?
Methods to reduce food waste
- Donate excess, unwanted, edible food, to your local Food Bank or other charities
- Feed food waste to livestock (i.e. chickens, goats, and pigs)
- Convert waste into biofuel (fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats)
- Compost food waste into a product that enriches the soil and fertilizes gardens
- Donate food waste to neighbors who compost or have livestock
What is compost?
The management of composting is simple: the decomposer-organisms that make composting happen have three basic requirements: air, water, and food (kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, or straw). Fresh air is delivered by turning the pile over (with a pitchfork, rake, or shovel) to expose the buried material to the air. Water the pile like you would a garden. Feed the pile leaves and straw along with kitchen scraps (otherwise it gets stinky). When the pile shrinks you know it’s decomposing! The finished product looks nothing like the raw material (i.e. banana peels, leaves, and coffee filters) from which it originated.
What is the value of composting?
Why compost our food waste?
- Composting diverts a substantial amount of household waste (up to a third) from our landfills.
- It reduces green-house gases: when compostable food scraps and yard debris are sent to the landfill, not only are their valuable nutrients wasted, but they can cause environmental harm. In the landfill, organic materials decompose anaerobically (without oxygen), releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills account for 34% of methane emissions in the United States.
- It’s good for the soil and gardens.
- When added to the soil it energizes the soil food web, which is made up of microscopic bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, along with earthworms. Compost also helps soils retain moisture.
- It improves the soil structure, porosity, and density, thus creating a better plant root environment.
- Compost will improve the cation exchange capacity of soils, enabling them to retain nutrients longer. It will also allow crops to more effectively utilize nutrients, while reducing nutrient loss from leaching.
How do I begin composting?
- Everything You Know About Composting is Wrong by Mike McGrath at TEDxPhoenixville
- Our Fall/Winter Compost Pile: Ensuring A Steady Supply Of Free Compost
- Many books on composting are available at your local library. We recommend Mike McGrath’s Book of Composting, it gives expert advice without a lot of technical jargon.
Alaska-Specific Composting Tips
Commercial composting programs in Alaska
- Golden Heart Utilities uses biosolids (sterile human waste), woodchips, and compressed air to create compost year-round.
- Alaska Waste accepts vegetable and fruit waste from local grocery stores and horse manure from Anchorage residents. Alaska Waste processes nearly 10 tons of organic waste a week.
Composting at the office
- Create a Management Team
The first step in taking on any endeavor at the office is to make sure that everyone is dedicated to the effort, especially those in authority. Discuss composting at a full staff meeting, and have buy-in from your office community. Once everyone is on board, create an Office Organics Team (OOT) to oversee the project. These individuals will be responsible for making sure the compost systems are running smoothly. Management is key.
- Select which materials to collect and compost off site or on site
- Coffee grounds bucket
Collecting old coffee grounds is the easiest collection method to start with. Keep a bucket with a lid near the coffee maker and simply dump the paper filter and grounds into the bucket. Create a schedule for coworkers to deliver the bucket of material to a home composter. Coffee Grounds are a great source of nitrogen, a vital component to growing plants.
- All food waste except meat and dairy
Provide a bucket with a lid in the lunch room. Schedule coworkers to deliver material to a home composter. Management is important to make this a successful process.
- Compost on site
If you have a dedicated team and yard space, use an outdoor bin. You will need leaves or straw in addition to food waste.
- Coffee grounds bucket
Local organizations that compost
- Alaska Coffee Roasters save their grounds for Calypso Farm
- The Food Bank saves spoiled vegetables for local farmers with livestock.
- ABR Inc. has a lunchroom compost collection bucket for coworkers that compost at home.
- Providence Hospital sends leftovers to Street Outreach & Advocacy Program (SOAP), outreach for homeless teenagers.
- Joy Elementary collects lunch waste for composting.
- The staff at Cold Climate Housing Research Center composts food scraps and plant material for use in their green roof vegetable garden.
Composting in the classroom
The following are guides and lesson plans that may be helpful for teachers, students, and parents wishing to begin composting in schools.
Launching a compost program at your school
Composting at School. The ABCs of establishing an effective composting program at schools in Chittenden County, Vermont.
Composting: Wastes to Resources, A 4-H Leader’s/Teacher’s Guide, by Jean Bonhotal and Marianne Krasny and published by Cornell Cooperative. This guide is designed for adults or youth leaders that want to introduce composting projects to kids.
High school level
Composting in the Classroom: Scientific Inquiry for High School Students, by Nancy Trautmann and Marianne Krasny, is a comprehensive online guide for teachers interested in guiding composting research projects by high school students.
2EPA website, Municipal Solid Waste. April, 2015.
3Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC (2009). The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact.