Curbside Composting: A Valuable Community Service

compostThis past spring, my family and I were able to get all the compost we needed for our vegetable garden from a local community’s compost pile at their department of public works. The compost was created from all of the leaves and yard clippings that had been collected curbside. Many communities collect leaves, clippings and other outside organic matter to turn into compost, but some communities are taking it a step further.

Cities such as San Francisco, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Boulder all have programs in place that allow residents to place food scraps curbside to be turned into compost.

Food that is mixed in with regular trash is estimated to make up about 40% of the trash in landfills. It also is the biggest offender in creating landfill methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas – 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Reducing landfill methane is just one of the benefits of keeping this type of waste out of landfills.

According to San Francisco’s environmental site

Curbside composting’s many benefits include:

  • saving money by reducing trash to landfill service and thereby lowering garbage bills;
  • conserving valuable organic resources by returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil;
  • reducing climate warming gases from landfills and reducing the risk of potential groundwater pollution
  • extending the life of our landfill by saving space

Since it is not possible for everyone to compost in their home, curbside composting programs like these are valuable community services. I’m going to bringing up the idea at my town’s next Green Team meeting. Right now, my community does pick up vegetative waste but it is limited to things like “grass clippings, sticker balls, acorns, pine cones and viney type materials such as ivy, honey-suckle, poison ivy, laurel and plant clippings.” I wonder what would need to be changed to include food waste in the can that is provided to collect these other things.

If this sounds like an idea that would work in your community, contact your department of public works to see how you can help implement a curbside composting program.

Image courtesy of normanack on flickr

  1. Ben

    Does this actually reduce methane emissions? It seems, based on the lack of detail in the article, that the same amount of methane would be produced whether the organic waste was sitting in a compost pile or a landfill. Why wouldn’t that be true?

  2. Dean Rodgedrs

    Great post. I’ve got a client (StalkMarket) that makes compostable single use tableware and food packaging. We address composting and other related issues frequently at http://blog.stalkmarketproducts.com.

    I also found Ben’s question very interesting. I’ve forwarded a link to this post to someone who can definately answer. If he doesn’t, I’ll find out and respond myself.

  3. Robin


    Really good question. Yes, it does reduce methane emissions and in very simple terms it has to do with the amount of air that compost receives vs the amount of air that landfill receives. I plan on answering your question in more detail in my next post on the blog because I think it deserves a longer explanation that that. Look for it next Tuesday.

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