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Municipal Composting Programs

Community composting is a big success story. According to the US EPA, as much as 65% of grass and yard trimmings (leaves, brush) are being composted.  While this is a significant achievement, more than 60 million tons of solid waste -- food scraps and soiled/wet paper -- are still being sent to landfills.

Several innovative communities are doing something about it.  The following case studies from BioCycle magazine focus on community-based composting programs that successfully target compostable mixed organics to substantially increase overall recycling rates.

San Francisco, California

The City and County of San Francisco rolled out its residential three-stream (compostables, commingled recyclables and trash) curbside program citywide to 2004 to 130,000 single-family and 20,000 buildings with five or more units.  Materials collected in green carts are all food residuals, including fish and meat, food-soiled paper (including waxed cardboard) and yard trimmings.

Waste going to the landfill has been reduced 24%, from about 2,100 tons/day to 1,600 tons/day.

Seattle, Washington

Out of Seattle's 150,000 households, 103,000 subscribe for yard waste and food waste collection. Two studies conducted in 2007 indicate that 40 to 50 percent of the carts contained food waste.

The City of Seattle plans to provide mandatory food waste service to its remaining 50,000 households in 2009 (although the service would be mandatory, participation would remain optional since food waste has not been banned from garbage). A pilot program is being conducted for apartment buildings, with the intention of making the service widely available in 2009.

Swift County, Minnesota

Started in 1990, the source separated composting program
in Swift County still receives about 2,000 tons/year of source
separated compostable MSW, according to the Minnesota Pol-
lution Control Agency. Organics are composted in windrows.
In 2006, Swift. County produced about. 1,500 tons of compost; residuals accounted for 146 tons.

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, Minnesota

Based in Duluth, the Western Lake Superior Sanitary Dis-
trict (WLSSD) encompasses a 530 square mile area in north-
eastern Minnesota. WLSSD provides curbside collection of
yard waste, but not for food scraps, which may be dropped off
at five residential drop sites. For 2007, 24 tons of food waste
was collected at the five drop-off sites; 297 tons of curbside yard waste was collected. In addition, WLSSD received 1,000 tons of organic feed-stock from businesses and institutions (including hospitals, colleges, restaurants, etc.).

King County, Washington

King County, with a population of 1.8 million in 37 cities, produces almost one million tons of solid waste per year. Cedar Grove Composting, a privately owned and operated facility that uses GORE cover system, handles all of King County's compostables. King County launched its first residential food scrap collection pilot in 2002; the first full-scale program was rolled out in 2004. Food and soiled paper account for nearly 30 percent of the single-family
waste stream.

BPI is a science-driven organization that supports a shift to the circular economy by promoting the production, use, and appropriate end of lives for materials and products that are designed to fully biodegrade in specific biologically active environments.

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