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Composting: The Latest Recycling Craze

The latest recycling craze isn’t anything astoundingly new or cutting edge. In fact, it’s something we’ve been doing for years on a smaller scale. There are, undoubtedly, some of you who are doing it right now. The latest recycling craze doesn’t focus on plastics or oil or glass. It’s all about organics and controlling decomposition to ultimately turn items that once had value into new items with renewed value. That’s right. The latest recycling craze is composting.

Composting is the contained decomposition of organic products, like egg shells, fruit peels and cores, and yard trimmings, controlled through temperature and a recipe-like combination of products to optimize bacterial activity. The end result is an incredibly nutrient-rich mixture used to enhance soil.

This recycling craze isn’t a rally for your typical backyard compost. It’s a large scale system, operating much like your weekly garbage or recycling pick up, through which compost collection companies take your curbside organic waste to a mass composting site. Once the waste has transformed into the soil compound, the companies bag it up and sell it to farmers.

The value of composting is easy to identify. Why not turn our organic waste into something we can reuse? But why compost on such a large scale? It may be a great way to encourage people to partake, but the driving force behind the project is less obvious.

U.S. farmers face dry conditions with nutrient deprived soil due to drought-like weather, over plowing, and back-to-back crop cycles without rejuvenation periods. Composting advocates liken the conditions we’re seeing to those of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Farmers are resorting to less favorable methods to get by, including alternating their normal crops with easily biodegradable and nutrient-rich crops which improves soil quality but drastically limits profitable crop production.

Composting advocates see mass community composting as a viable alternative, as well as a way to reduce waste. According to Soil Scientist Bob Schaffer of Soil Culture Consulting, more than a third of food in the U.S. is wasted in landfills (rather than composted or consumed). But recycling trends suggest mass composting may drop that number significantly.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported an increase in the recycling of household products (such as glass, plastic, etc.) from a mere 10% in 1960 to 37% in 2012. Comparatively, recycled food waste hadn’t even reached 5% in 2012 and was non-existent until the 1980s.

More than 200 American cities currently have mass composting services in place, including Seattle, Portland, New York City, and the city leading the movement, San Francisco. San Francisco has reported organic recycling rates as high as 90% in some communities and aims to see zero waste by 2020. Other cities, like Seattle, are enforcing a city-wide regulation, mandating the composting of all food waste. While places like Portland are choosing to limit garbage collection services while increasing recycling and composting collection services.

Composting advocates hope to grow the number of programs across the U.S. with the continued success of the programs currently in place. While these curbside composting services aren’t currently available in the Sioux Falls area, we encourage you to begin composting organic waste at home. If you don’t have a need for compost soil, check into local greenhouses, nurseries, and farms that do.

For information about recycling household items or additional ways to reduce your waste output, contact Novak Sanitary today or call (605) 338-7126.