Keep calm and start composting

A local column about sustainability for Mercer Island.

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

For many of you, composting in your kitchen is yesterday’s news. You realized long ago that putting food scraps into your yard waste bins saves you money, cuts your trash waste in half, and has endless environmental benefits. However, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology “50 percent of residential garbage in Washington could have been composted.” We know that we can all do better, if only we were better educated on composting. So let’s go over some of the basics of composting.

Composting is a natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material (such as leaves, grass, fruit, meat, cheese and vegetable scraps) into a rich soil amendment known as compost. For you to begin composting at home, it can be as easy as grabbing a brown paper bag, throwing all the scraps you have leftover from making dinner into it, and toss it into your yard waste bin outside instead of the trash can. Done. You just composted. If you want to take it a step further, you can buy a compost bin that sits on your countertop and toss all your food waste into it.

What are the rules of composting?

• If you eat it, it’s compostable. Fruit, veggies, yogurt, crackers, nuts, bread, tofu, meat, eggs, melon and its rind, orange peels, pizza, noodles and even coffee grounds.

• If it came from an animal (land or sea) or is part of an animal, it’s compostable. Bones, egg shells, clam shells, chicken skin, cheese and milk included.

• If it grows out of the ground, its compostable. That’s anything from your landscaping.

• Paper napkins and cardboard are made from trees, which grow out of the ground, so they too are compostable. Paper should normally be recycled but if greasy, like pizza boxes, compost them.

Why should I compost? You can save money and keep landfills for trash, not food waste.

When you throw things away, your trash collector sends you a bill for picking up your trash. Most of your bill is to pay for what is called a “tipping fee.” A tipping fee is the charge for your trash to be dumped at a waste processing facility. At a landfill, it is generally charged to offset the cost of opening, maintaining and eventually closing the site once it is full to capacity. News flash — trash isn’t cheap. Here is the exciting news: It costs a lot less money to throw your food scraps into your yard waste bin because the trash collector can turn your scraps into rich soil and sell it back to the public for a profit. Trust us, they want your scraps.

Food waste that ends up in landfills produce large amounts of methane – a more powerful and more harmful greenhouse gas than CO2. All the landfills around the world are creating excessive amounts of greenhouse gases that are absorbing infrared radiation from the sun and heating up the earth’s atmosphere. The process is contributing to climate change.

Our city is dedicated to composting.

Mercer Island soon will have a new trash hauling company, Recology. What sets them apart from past companies is the education they provide for our community, but most excitingly is that they will pick up compost every week. The hope is that this will encourage people to start composting their food on a more regular basis. Recology has a booth every weekend at the farmer’s market and will be hosting a big event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the community center, with food and drinks. Both events are being held to help answer questions.

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