For more than 50 years, people across the globe have celebrated Earth Day on April 22. An easy way for anyone to contribute to the spirit of Earth Day any day is composting. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that the largest percentage of American trash is food waste. The EPA estimates that 35 percent of the average garbage can is filled with kitchen scraps – scraps that could be composted and diverted from the landfill altogether.
Keeping food out of landfills is important. Organic waste in landfills generates methane gas that is emitted into the atmosphere. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that is a large contributor to global climate change. Fortunately for those of us in the Bay Area and other large metro areas, most municipal garbage companies offer curbside green waste and composting services. Despite these available services, it is estimated that about 95 percent of food scraps nationwide are still thrown away.
Composting is a popular method of diverting organic waste away from landfills and contributing to the circular economy. Instead of tossing out food scraps and green waste, turn them into “black gold” by composting them and benefitting the environment. You can compost at home to create a healthy soil amendment for your garden and grow healthy food. Or you can take advantage of the composting services offered by your garbage company.
What to compost:
- Yard trimmings: Including grass clippings, leaves, garden trimmings, palm fronds, small branches, small quantities of unpainted/untreated wood
- Food scraps: Including fruits, vegetables, and coffee grounds for all compost containers
- Some curbside compost services allow dairy, meat, seafood, bones, and shells (always check with your garbage company before adding these items to your green bin)
- Food-soiled compostable paper – Including paper towels, napkins, coffee filters, pizza boxes, greasy paper bags, waxed paper/cardboard, and unlined or BPI-certified paper containers
What NOT to compost:
- Plastic (including biodegradable and "compostable" plastics which go in the garbage)
- Pet waste
- Liquids or oils/grease (small quantities of oil/grease on a paper towel are ok in the compost)
- Aseptic containers (e.g. foil-lined, shelf-stable soup or soymilk cartons)
- Poly-lined paper (i.e. any paper lined with plastic, including most tea bags and wrappers, oatmeal packets, and some paper plates, cups and milk cartons).
Just remember – food shouldn’t go in your garbage can. Composting is a great way to reduce your household impact and make some great soil in the process for a greener future.