Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Food Scrap Composting!

While the City of Sunnyvale offers many recycling options (mixed paper, batteries, electronics, glass/metal/plastic containers, scrap metal) as well as yard trimmings composting, it does not yet offer food scrap and food soiled paper composting. My friends at Sunnyvale Waste and Recycling (http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Departments/EnvironmentalServices/Garbage,RecyclingandWasteReduction.aspx) assure me it is coming and they have completed a pilot, but it still seems to be a year or two or more away for most residents.

Several years ago I did maintain a compost pile, but it was a bit of work and I could not compost lots of things that commercial composting facilities could handle.

After all the “reduce” we’ve done to avoid disposables and diligently recycling most everything else, food scraps and food soiled paper was until recently about 90% of the trash we were throwing out.

Luckily, on my way to work and without going out of my way, starting this year I am able to drop off my food scrap composting in a compostable bag in a nearby city’s food scrap composting program. We have the smallest trash bin you can get in Sunnyvale and generally had put it out every other week before this. Now that we have a place to send compostables, we should be able to put our trash bin out every 6-7 weeks. Of course by the end of 2016 I hope we’ll never have to put it out for pickup or perhaps only do it once year.

While I could go without using a compostable bag liner for my compost waste bin, I’ve found it cleaner, easier, and less work to use one to contain food scraps and food soiled paper. Without a bag I would need to clean it once or twice a week to keep odors down which would use a lot of water as well as time. The liner allows me to to clean it only every year or two and it is easier to throw the compostables into a city bin this way. The current best bargain I’ve found so far for compostable bag liners is BioBag’s 13 gallon tall kitchen bags at http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B004V5XCSC -- about $0.43 per bag. At our current rate we are using about 2 bags per week or $44.43 per year. Previously we were using Pantry Essentials Tall Kitchen Flaptie 13 Gallon - 200 Count from Safeway that cost about $0.07 per bag. Thus our net cost increase per year for our new set up is about $36.

Because we have a 2 bin recycling/waste pullout in our kitchen, the bin and liner that was used for container recycling becomes the one for compost and the compost one gets a new liner and becomes the bin for recycling. We have a very small black plastic bin that no longer needs a liner because the remaining trash we put in it is usually clean and dry.

The extra cost of liners is a small price to pay to eliminate a lot of waste/trash and turn it into compost instead.

Waste reduction summary:
  1. Matter (material):
    1. Switched about 90% of our former waste from trash to compost - a big reduction.
    2. No more need for plastic bag liners.
  2. Energy
    1. No significant loss or gain. A bit saved by the trash truck that needs fewer stops. A bit more used by me dropping off the compost myself. I’m looking forward to Sunnyvale providing food scrap composting!
  3. Time
    1. Takes me a bit more time (about 5 minutes a week) to do compost drop off and need to pay a bit more attention to where things go.
  4. Space
    1. No significant loss or gain.
  5. Money
    1. Compostable bags cost a bit ($36/year) more than the plastic liners we used before.
  6. Environment/Health/Life
    1. Compost is much better for all of us than trash!

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