Find out how food scraps and other waste materials are handled in different cities around the U.S., along with the benefits composting has to offer
decayed organic material, which may include food scraps, yard waste, paper products, and manure. Through various methods, heat is created to break down the material and kill harmful micro-organisms. What results is a soil amendment that is rich in nutrients.
What is the difference between compost and soil?
Soil is the top layer of the earth, consisting of sand, rock particles, clay, minerals, and organic material. Compost is comprised of only organic material.
How much do we waste that could otherwise be composted?
Find out below.
HOW MUCH IS WASTED IN THE U.S?
How do different cities handle compost?
Cities hold the largest percentage of the U.S. population and the largest number of people with limited at-home composting capacity. We will get to know what composting looks like at multiple scales, and in the process, we can begin to understand the complex nature of handling large waste streams.
Volunteers hand-turning windrow piles in Red Hook, New York City
Using a truck to push, loosen, and turn a larger windrow composting pile.
Large windrows turned by machine.
Windrows are only one of several methods for composting, yet most major cities use this method. Windrows are also a common method for turning animal waste into fertilizer. While windrows have the highest emissions of any composting method(1), they are the easiest and process the widest range of biodegradable materials due to the high amount of heat they produce. The shape of the windrow allows for passive aeration, which contributes to its processing ease.
Find out some other methods for composting below.
A city-wide compost offering may start out looking like this:
we'll see how a few different cities organize their compost collections:
has a city-wide municipal composting system, which was scaled by requiring that all residents and visitors use it. The city's municipal waste is handled in partnership with a worker-owned company, Recology.
Recology also handles municipal waste in other cities throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, and through its success, allows cities and worker-owners to thrive.
San Francisco | image from Recology
New York City
In addition to biogas generated from waste (a more sustainable alternative to fracked gas), NYC has a few mechanisms for composting,
NYC's curbside pickup program needs greater participation in order to expand, and until it becomes a full city-wide offering with proper use, it will remain vulnerable to closures. The program is currently suspended 5/4/20 - 6/30/21
4. Small businesses for local collection in:
New York City | image from New York's Strongest
has a municipal pilot program, as well as other composting options. The city saw reductions in its waste when it mandated a 50% reduction in 2000, soon after exceeding its goal:
Los Angeles | image from LASAN
has a city-wide municipal composting system. Through city-wide program adoption, Portland, Oregon is able to reduce its landfill trash pickup to once every two weeks, while composting is picked up weekly.
Portland promotes public participation in waste advisory and planning meetings.
Portland | image from Oregon Metro
Check back in or sign up to receive updates below