By Mark Peterson

“Information is like compost; it does no good if you don’t spread it around.” Eliot Coleman

There is no shortage in the news and in environmental articles around the world that the recycling systems are facing significant challenges. Our recyclers have been working hard to find solutions to the ever-growing amount of feedstock and declining market prices. As result, much of the potentially recyclable material being collected is now sent to landfill because there is no viable market. It is clear we need more investment, innovation and commitment to reducing waste upstream. As an individual so much of what happens in the world markets and day to day business decisions of waste haulers and recyclers is beyond our control. Most all of us want to make a positive difference and reduce our waste but wonder what really is going to be effective.

Thankfully, reducing your organic waste first and then composting what you do have left over is an extremely effective strategy for reducing your overall waste footprint.  I have shared in this blog previously that one of the best ways to mitigate climate change is to reduce your food waste. Next on the checklist is to make sure you compost whatever food waste you do have. In Whatcom County we are fortunate to have the local commercial composting facility Green Earth Technologies which handles all of our municipal and commercial composting waste. Through the commercial and municipal composting programs, like Sanitary Services Company’s Food Plus! service, Whatcom County residents can easily compost a whole host of items including food prep waste, food scraps, spoiled foods, pizza boxes, compostable serving ware and landscape debris and yard trimmings.

Unlike recycling or landfill wastes, which we send out of area to another state or country, all of our compostable materials are composted right here in Whatcom County. All this material is safely and effectively processed and transformed into a rich compost that we can use in our home gardens, construction mitigation efforts and large landscape projects. In a very real sense composting is our only closed loop waste system and an important one we can influence with our own individual behavior. A foreign commodities market, federal policy or even state policy doesn’t determine the success of this local program we do!

I know I’m not the only waste reduction professional who is troubled by the lack of viable recycling options and what seems to be a lack of innovation. I’m no expert but I can’t help but wonder how our local Alcoa/Intalco facility could be reimagined as an aluminum recycling facility, bringing back jobs and helping to handle a regional waste stream. But that is a topic for another day…In the meantime with so many things up in the air and out of our control it gives me at least some comfort and some reassurance that individual actions can lead to better outcomes. Compost – because a rind is a terrible thing to waste!

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