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Composting Summary



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Food scraps and soiled paper

A Report by Peter Anderson from the Center for a Competitive Waste Industry with Gary Liss & Associates and Steven Sherman (formerly with ESA).


Today’s typical recycling program recovers bottles, cans, and paper, and sometimes yard trimmings. These programs on average divert 30% from the waste stream. In order to increase waste diversion above 50% and mitigate climate change, many communities are expanding their collection programs to include food scraps and soiled paper.


Why Divert Food Scraps?

Organic waste accounts for over 60% of municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills

Food scraps account for over 20% of municipal solid waste

Organic materials in landfills decompose to create methane, a potent greenhouse gas

Food scraps in landfills contribute to leachate production


Benefits of Organic Waste Diversion & Compost

Helps achieve zero waste

Helps achieve climate change goals

Decreases need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides

Sequesters carbon by increasing stored soil carbon

Increases water retention of soil thus decreasing demand for irrigation

Improves crop yields and quality

Improves soil tilth


CASE STUDY: Alameda County,


Description: Consists of 20 municipalities in the Bay Area of California with a population of 1.45 million.

Reason for Early Adoption:

4 compost facilities within 100 miles with permits for food scraps

Measure D: provided local financing structure for sustained investment in waste reduction and recycling

Several communities within Alameda County adopted waste diversion goals that exceeded state goals

All communities already offered year round collection of yard trimmings



Includes yard trimmings, food scraps, and soiled paper

Kitchen compost containers provided to residents


Windrows Performance:

53,000 tons/year

Avg. Weekly Participation: 17-23%


Motivations, Lessons Learned, and Other Major Takeaways


As waste diversion and climate change issues increase in importance, many local governments are implementing residential collection of organics or expanding existing programs, either by volume or types of material collected. Existing yard waste collection programs are being expanded to collect food waste which accounts for over 20% of municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills.


Expanded recovery of organics can play a major role in mitigating climate change, as well as stabilizing landfills. In order to encourage and optimize future efforts, this survey was developed to understand what can be learned from the 121 early-adopters that collect organic materials from the residential sector.


OBJECTIVE: Identify motivations, lessons learned, and other major takeaways from early adopters of residential organics collection programs.

METHOD: Survey the 121 early adopters in the United States and Canada, conduct several site visits, and analyze information.




5 Most Common Reasons Listed for Commencing Residential Organics Collection Programs


To Meet local or statewide recycling, waste diversion, and/or zero waste goals


Response to landfill crisis to protect groundwater from landfill leachate, community resistance to locating landfill accepting raw organics, and/or high landfill costs


Franchisee offered as part of contract extension (several contractors added program at no cost to residents)


Citizens/customers demanded service


Funding and technical assistance provided by regional organization

Other Findings:


About 1/3 of respondents collect food scraps separately and about 1/2 collect them with yard trimmings.

Some cities, including San Francisco, have banned organic materials from trash or landfills.

The largest number of respondents noted that organics are collected separately, on a weekly basis.

The total cost of trash, recyclables, and organics ranges from $11 to $33 per household per month.

The range of tipping fees for organics processing was $15 to $90 per ton, while the range for landfilling was $16 to $115 per ton.





As a result of the surveys and site visits, the following major themes were determined to be most important for cities considering residential organics collection:

New efforts to increase diversion through residential organics collection have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental impacts of landfills.

Diverting organics is doable! The following should be considered during a program’s development:

Landfill/Trash Bans

Less-than-weekly Trash Collection

Incremental or full expansion?

Education and Outreach

Collection Infrastructure: Trucks and Carts

While the potential exists to rapidly grow organics collection, impediments remain to be addressed.

More composting facilities permitted to accept food waste are needed



Last Updated on Friday, 12 August 2011 15:38
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