Take Out the Paper and the Compostable Trash

Composting means changing habits. (Photo: Nick Saltmarsh [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

Even though Portland was recently hailed as as America's "Most Sustainable City," northern neighbor Seattle has some serious eco-cred (some would say too serious) to contend with. And when it comes to recycling, the Emerald City got garbage game. This week, Seattle Public Utilities is revamping its curbside recycling program to include weekly food scrap and yard waste pick up for all single-family homes.

According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, this new and improved "Zero Waste Strategy" means that an additional 30,000 households will need “carts” used expressly for lawn trimmings, coffee grounds, cottage cheese, apple cores, smoked salmon, and leftover pot roast. Yum-o.

Seattle Public Utilities expects the new recycling regulations to divert 15,000 tons of discarded food and yard waste from landfills; instead, last night’s tuna casserole will be taken to a local composting plant and transformed into a gardening product. San Francisco was the first large American city to include food scraps as part of a curbside recycling program.

The city’s plastic, paper, and metal recycling programs will also widen with the new composting initiative. Around 48 percent of Seattle’s waste is currently composted or recycled and officials anticipate that the number will grow...

... But grow slowly. Officials also anticipate that residents will find training themselves to not chuck discarded food to be initially cumbersome. For folks who already compost, it’s no biggie. For those who separate paper, plastic, and aluminum and throw everything else in the trash, a new habit is required.

There’s also the legitimate concern of unsavory smells and rats and other critters. I’m unsure if the food/yard waste carts are more smell-and rat-proof than the city’s standard-issue trash bins. “Normal” garbage cans are already potentially rat buffets ... add a bin filled with rotting food scraps into the picture and you’ve got a full on, four-star rodent cafeteria.

Does your city have a similar (or smaller and voluntary) food scrap composting program? If not, would you welcome one considering the dramatic, positive environmental impact? Or does the thought of vermin, stink, and having to further yourself to further separate the trash give you pause?

Via [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]