(reposted from my other website, tylertalkstrash.com)
Recently I was asked to provide a statement to the City of Philadelphia on why composting needs to be made more widely available for its residents.
While there will be some difficult logistical challenges to evaluate, there is absolutely no reason why this can’t make positive progress.
I was in quite a rush, but at the last minute I was able to type something out. Luckily, I think about this very issue quite often so I was able to write a cranky blurb just in time. Here it is:
I’ve lived in Philadelphia for nine years, and while the city has plenty of green initiatives going on for it, there’s also plenty of room for improvement.
The most obvious is the lack of curbside compost collection.
Composting is my hobby- it’s what I do. On a weekly basis, my curbside blue bin is overflowing, while my trash can rarely makes the trip to the curb at all. Everyone’s blue bin is overflowing, so why do we still have the waste issues we have?
There’s two important things to consider here- first of all, is that “recycling” is not enough. Most plastics that are put to the curb never see another life. They don’t have the value to be resold unless they are in pristine condition and someone actually wants to buy the material. Some plastics are cheaper to extract and produce again than they are to recycle.
The recycling rates for plastic are abysmal. #1 and #2 plastics are 25% or less, with #3 through #7 at 6% or less (I found this statistic in the Bag It! documentary. Watch it, it’s awesome). Even glass is running out of options these days, which is criminal because it doesn’t leach undisclosed toxins into your food and water like plastic does.
It’s unfortunate because people think they’re actually recycling everything from their house when in reality they’re being deceived of their efforts. Just because something is recycle–able, doesn’t mean it’s actually recycled.
Worst of all, this material is often burned to create a trivial amount of energy that would never cover the energy wasted on even starting up an incinerator. Waste-to (of)-Energy is a massive lie and needs to be uncovered more thoroughly for what it is.
Anyway…organic material is organic material. There’s no room for failure here. I compost all my food scraps at home, my soiled paper products, and essentially any item that is organic. I also have a compost toilet to avoid fouling up our water supply.
The point is that this massive amount of organic material that we all generate, which comprises over 50% of landfills (food, paper products and yard waste combined, according to EPA in 2012) is now creating methane. Think of it this way- Our landfills could be 50% smaller than they are currently!
Landfills are devoid of oxygen. Worse yet, landfills often flare off these gases which are mixed with other toxic, cancerous compounds. Methane is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. There’s nothing good about a landfill, especially when most materials we dispose can be handled in another manner.
If all this organic material hits the compost pile instead, it utilizes oxygen to break down naturally, with carbon dioxide as the natural byproduct. After a few months, you’re also rewarded with fertile soil to be used again. It’s the world’s oldest process.
Mayor Nutter stated that he aspired to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country. This will absolutely never happen without composting being provided. This can be done by not only teaching people how to do it at home, but also creating smaller centralized sites throughout the city plus curbside pickup. While this will be a tricky process, it’s one we need to evaluate in order to get the City to where it needs to be.
We’re long overdue with making composting a common activity, both at home and the workplace. If more people composted at home, it would reduce the burden on our landfills.
If more people composted at home, they’d start asking why they can’t do it where they work.
They might realize that if they skipped one TV show to build their compost pile, they could cut their landfill burden in half. Upkeep is one commercial per week. Seriously!
If you haven’t started composting yet, give it a shot. Significantly less trash to the landfill, reduced greenhouse emissions, and fertile soil. Although most people aren’t losing sleep about becoming attentive to one of humanity’s biggest problems, it must become standard behavior in order to sustain our future.