By Charlotte Pototsky, member of the SSC Zero Waste and Youth Committees
Food waste in the United States is a huge issue! In fact, each day in the US approximately one pound of food per person is thrown away. An amazingly large number! Sadly, that food is actually a usable asset that can augment soils, increase harvests, and supplement the overall productivity of growing crops across the country.
Instead of sending our food scraps to a landfill or an incinerator, there is a better alternative that actually allows nature to recycle those nutrients rather than losing them. Composting the unused food is the best and most effective option. It allows over-ripe, moldy, or extra trimmings of food from the dinner table to be used to transform soil health and create a usable, useful product.
Currently, in Sharon, there are families who make their own compost in their backyards and indeed reuse their leftover foods as a way to fertilize their garden. However, there are also many families who are using a ‘Third Way.’ At the moment, 288 households in Sharon make their leftover food scraps into usable soil amendments by giving them every week to Black Earth Compost!
Consider the following benefits of composting:
Composting stops harmful CO2 from getting to the air (i.e., benefits our air quality):
Ultimately, composting can help ‘hold’ greenhouse gases (CO2, Methane) from getting to the atmosphere. How? Although composting doesn’t directly take climate-change-causing greenhouse gases out of the air, composting allows organic matter to break down aerobically in soil which stops harmful gases from reaching the atmosphere. In addition, true compost can then be use as a soils amendment in planting trees. Trees that in turn offset our carbon footprint substantially by pulling carbon from the air. Composting sequesters CO2 in the soil. That is definitely something we want. If your waste goes to a landfill it is not being broken down aerobically and instead is producing tons of methane as it pairs with other gases — never breaking down into usable soils. Methane is approximately 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth. Compost instead!
Composting creates much healthier soil:
Soil across the world (and especially in the US) is being depleted. Composting restores the soil by enriching and decomposing it. This gives the extra available nutrients purpose, rather than it wastefully sitting in a landfill or being incinerated. Soil made from organic waste is extremely advantageous. And, composting can help retain moisture, suppress plant diseases and pests in soil, reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, and encourage the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus (a rich nutrient-filled material).
Composting diverts waste from landfills and incinerators:
In Massachusetts our waste mainly goes to incinerators. Unfortunately, this has no positive impact on the environment. Instead, incinerators generate harmful, polluting gases (yes, again). This puts our health and our planet’s health at risk. Instead of sending food scraps to an incinerator, they can become a source of soil nutrients through composting. This turns our “trash,” or unused food material, into a fruitful product that will actually help the planet.
How you can help:
Compost! You can either start a backyard compost (easy to do with the many new styles of composters available in many stores, online, and at the Sharon DPW, $43, 781-784-1525 x2314). OR, for $10 a month you can use the Black Earth Compost service (Sustainable Sharon Coalition is already a partner). It is inexpensive and simple.
By the way — food waste is heavy. We pay extra to the garbage guys and incinerator folks each time unused food or scraps are placed into the garbage bags. If you have 2 kids and a dog you may be adding over 5 pounds a week (!!) to your trash, to your fees, and ultimately, to the climate gases in our air.
All that negativity disappears if – for 10 bucks a month – you place food wastes in the small green bin and put it out once-a-week. Voila!! you are creating compost!! Also please note that by taking (USABLE) food wastes out of your garbage bag, the town begins to save on the weight of the garbage at the incinerator. Again, VOILA!! Tipping fees get lowered and you – THE CONSUMER – may/can get a lower rate over time for your garbage. Ultimately, composting helps us thrive ecologically and economically.
As you can see, composting comes with many advantages and we want as many people as possible to compost at their home. Composting is absolutely essential for our town (and our planet) to reach our sustainability goals. If you are interested in more information about composting, SSC has other blog posts about composting such as this one.
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts on clean energy or how you live sustainably. Here are three ways to make your viewpoints known and keep the conversation going:
- Join SSC on the first Wednesday of every month
- Check out this list for some “fun” facts about sustainability.
- Visit or comment on my personal blog or my YouTube channel
Sustainable Sharon Coalition
We inspire, educate, connect, and catalyze our community to protect the planet.