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Composting as a Waste Management Solution

Leaves & Grass are Not Enough

Composting is a growing solution to solid waste management.  According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of waste that has been diverted from landfill disposal through composting has quadrupled since 1990, from 2% of total MSW to 8.4% today. In fact, 62% of all yard trimmings are composted in more than 3,500 municipal yard trimming composting programs in the US and 23 states ban at least some organics disposal in landfills, mostly leaves, grass and other yard debris.

The problem is that about 68 million tons of solid waste being sent to landfills is organic material that is not being recycled or recovered.  This includes yard debris and food scraps, 23%, and wet/soiled paper, 5%.

"Food leftovers are the single-largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States. Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food we prepare, about 96 billion pounds of food waste each year. The nation spends about 1 billion dollars a year to dispose of food waste." - US-EPA

At a national average landfill fee of $35 per ton (according to the National Solid Waste Management Association), this disposing of these 68 million tons of compostable materials costs cities and municipalities more than $2 billion each year in unnecessary and easily avoided landfill costs.

Instead of a cost to municipal budgets, good-quality compost material (free from plastic debris or other contaminants) can be an asset.  Depending on the grade and quality of the material, compost humus can be sold for $26 to $100 per ton.

Want to learn more?  Read about source-separated organic materials into municipal composting programs with this fact sheet or visit the US-EPA website on recycling organic wastes.

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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