Jaclyn Hochreiter, public outreach coordinator for Addison County Solid Waste Management District, shows a worm-composting bin to workshop participants. Photo by Melissa Pasanen
By Melissa Pasanen
So, you’ve made quiche with sautéed kale stems and leftover grilled salmon; you’ve taken the last portion of tomato soup to your elderly neighbor; and you’ve trained the kids to grab the fruit out of the “Eat Me First!” box in the fridge.
But what to do with the rinds, skins, bones and other food waste beyond what is suitable to feed your neighbor’s backyard chickens? Sure, until the full rollout of the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which prohibits all food waste from landfills by 2020, you can toss them in the trash, but there is a much better option: compost and use food scraps to grow more food!
To recap: As much as 40 percent of the food produced in the world goes to waste. This is a waste not only of food and money but also of all the natural and human resources it takes to produce that food, as well as valuable and scarce landfill space. And, contrary to what many people think, food waste will not decompose in the landfill; instead, it rots very slowly and emits a significant amount of methane, a potent, destructive greenhouse gas.
Here is a summary of Vermont’s hierarchy of how to cut food waste and put it to constructive use: 1) cut waste at the source, 2) redirect food to people, 3) feed animals, and 4) use food waste in compost and anaerobic digestion. Last week, we shared ten tips to get you started on reducing food waste [http://vermontlife.com/waste-not-want-not], this week, we’ll share some composting resources.
- “I want to compost in my backyard, but I have no idea how to get started.” Many Vermont solid waste districts offer lists of tips and resources for composting and also offer discounts on composting bins. Here are two: http://www.addisoncountyrecycles.org/articles/home-composting-101/e/ and https://cswd.net/composting/.
- “I do compost, but my compost is attracting animals/is not decomposing/stinks really badly!” This was me, by the way. Composting is not hard, but I was not following the basic rules of adding enough “browns” (leaves, straw, used paper towels) to each addition of “greens” (food scraps) and giving it a pitchfork working every so often to let in air and distribute moisture. Check out these six easy steps from Chittenden Solid Waste District: https://cswd.net/composting/backyard-composting/.
- “I don’t have a backyard for composting.”
- By July 2017, in preparation for the rollout of Act 148, most trash haulers in Vermont will have to offer compost pickup, although this will likely carry a fee.
- Many of the larger solid waste districts currently offer drop-off composting – you can look up your solid waste district here: http://dec.vermont.gov/waste-management/solid/local-districts. An innovative pilot program in Brattleboro offers curbside pickup and even sells the resulting Brattlegrow, the city’s own compost, http://windhamsolidwaste.org/index.php/composting/brattleboro-curbside-compost.
- Indoor worm-composting bins can work for some people. See http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/how-to-set-up-a-simple-homemade-vermicomposting-bin-zb0z1206zsan for more details.
- Work with neighbors or others in your community to collaborate on composting. The Composting Association of Vermont [http://compostingvermont.org/] is partnering with the Vermont Community Garden Network on a pilot community composting effort based at community gardens around the state: http://vcgn.org/garden-organizer-toolkit/communitycomposting/.