A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Making St Paul a Leader in Curbside Composting

How do we divert the consequences of waste while improving soil quality? The answer may be in your trash can.

Every day I see my peers throw away banana peels, apple cores, and tea bags, knowing that those organic materials will end up rotting in a landfill. Food scraps make up a significant portion of general waste in the U.S.; almost 14%. Those scraps not only add to the size of dumps, but when they rot they become a source of methane gas, an even more powerful pollutant than carbon dioxide. There is, however, a beneficial solution: composting.

Composting takes those food scraps, lets them decompose, and produces healthy, rich soil. Using compost improves backyard gardens, soil quality, food quality, and recycles food products naturally. So why do I still see people throwing away reusable food? Lack of education about organic decomposition and trash contributes, but the biggest barrier is lack of accessibility. This is where curbside composting comes in.

San Francisco started it, now Boulder, Seattle, and most recently the city of Portland have it, and so should St Paul. St Paul has a goal of becoming a zero waste city by 2020, as does San Francisco, but we can’t achieve that without implementing a citywide curbside composting program. San Francisco realized that when they mandated curbside composting in 1996, and in the sixteen years since, they have reduced their waste production by 30% per month, and composted more than one million tons of organic waste. St Paul could lead the Midwest by introducing a system to collect compost from homes and businesses on a citywide level.

The same policy that introduced St Paul’s recycling program also indicated the city would introduce a composting program at some point. Trial programs in the Macalester Groveland and Linden Hills neighborhoods have already received positive responses; all we need now is support from groups like MPIRG to achieve this goal and blaze a trail for other cities in Minnesota and across the U.S. to follow suit.

Written by Sarah Olander, Macalester College

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