Imagine completing every day at home without generating garbage.
Although you may recycle everything you can, your trash may be far from empty. Recycling is a powerful way to protect our environment and conserve resources, but it does not prevent waste entirely. By composting, you can eliminate another 25% of what’s currently in your trash. When you recycle and compost, you begin to see what’s left in your trash can, and it becomes easier to make different choices to eliminate waste altogether.
Composting food scraps and yard waste in your backyard or worm compost bin are easy ways to reduce trash weight and volume. Curbside composting collection takes compostable materials to a commercial-scale compost facility, which is designed to compost anything plant- or animal-based, including meat, bones, dairy, napkins, paper plates, egg cartons, and more. Many of these items will not break down in a backyard compost bin or should not be put in a backyard bin because they will attract rodents.
What difference can composting make?
Compostable materials decomposing in a landfill produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human source of methane. Incinerators burning these materials may release harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into our air and water. Composting these materials not only reduces emissions and pollution created through disposal, but creates a useful byproduct, compost. Compost can reduce soil erosion, prevent storm water runoff, and replenish exhausted farm soils by replacing trace minerals and organic material, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.
What’s delaying curbside compost collection?
Just as curbside recycling programs have taken many years of development to become stable and thriving, curbside composting programs require the development of a new infrastructure, laws to permit and support them, start-up funding, financial commitments from municipalities, and concentrated education efforts. Not all of these pieces are perfectly in place throughout Minnesota, but many cities, counties, haulers, composters, elected officials, and environmental organizations are working to make large-scale composting projects possible. The number of communities that are implementing composting collection is growing. Hutchinson, Minnesota has had a curbside composting collection program since 2001. Some cities are offering composting on an optional, subscription basis, including Wayzata, Burnsville, Minnetonka, Orono, Duluth, Chanhassen, Waconia, Chaska, the Spring neighborhood in Edina, and the Linden Hills neighborhood in Minneapolis. Other cities like Saint Paul have been planning for citywide programs to begin in the near future.
What can I do?
Start backyard or worm bin composting today. The environmental benefits of composting food scraps at home are superior to having your compostable materials collected in trucks and taken to a facility. Look for compost bins and information from Eureka Recycling or your local environmental department.
Request curbside composting in your community. City staff and elected officials often need public support to plan for and finance curbside composting projects. Continue to compost at home and use curbside compost collection for items like meat, dairy, egg cartons, cotton balls, paper plates, and more.
For more information on municipal curbside composting programs visit:
City of Hutchinson
Backyard Composting: Your Complete Guide to Recycling Yard Clippings, by Harmonious Technologies, 1995.
Worms Eat my Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System, by Mary Appelhof, Flower Press, 1997.