What if you could put your compostable household waste in sidewalk bins for curbside pickup, just like you do with your recycling? It would be amazing how little waste your family would produce every day. You'd start to barely make a dent at your local landfill.
Composting is one of the greenest things we can do: Methane produced in landfills by decomposing organic material is a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the EPA says landfills are the single largest source of methane. Despite the benefits of composting, though, it's still a difficult process for many people. Some don't have space for it in their backyards (if they have backyards at all), and others find the process of maintaining a compost bin too onerous.
That's why it's so exciting that curbside compost pick-up programs are starting to gather steam around the country. These services work just like municipal trash or recycling pick-up programs, except they collect organic waste, such as fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds, from people's sidewalks.
Curbside composting began more than a decade and a half ago in San Francisco, which now actually has a Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance, which "requires residents to separate their recyclables, compostables, and landfill trash," according to sfenvironment.org. Now, such programs have spread across the country (and the world) to dozens of municipalities, including Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Two new pilot programs are rolling out in Austin, Texas, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and there are lots more in smaller towns and cities nationwide.
Some programs even go beyond the residential markets. For example, the New Hampshire-based EcoMovement Consulting and Hauling, picks up compostable waste at businesses, schools, and residences. Their pickup radius is getting wider all the time, stretching from the New Hampshire Seacoast into Southern Maine. The company also provides education to schools and businesses.
Although curbside composting programs are far from mainstream, it's heartening that they exist at all. And who knows? Maybe in 10 or 20 years, curbside composting will become as common as curbside recycling.
And speaking of leaving things on the side of the road, let's take a moment to give a shout-out to curbside donations, that hallmark of dorm-room and urban living where anyone who wants to dispose of anything can leave it on their sidewalk for a few minutes to get picked up by a happy, coffee-table- or bookcase-hungry passerby.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco even has a jump on the rest of us for this one, too. The city is home to The Arc San Francisco, a non-profit service and advocacy organization for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which will pick up household donations from curbsides if they’re marked with a piece of paper that says "The Arc San Francisco."
Does your community offer curbside composting and recycling?
Photo: Amy Myou