Why Have Local Food Scrap Composting Capacity?

There are several key drivers for municipalities who add organics recycling to their existing yard waste programs.

Some of these include:

  • Legislation: organics ban (see this page for more) 
  • Policies: recycling or composting goal, target landfill diversion rate, carbon neutral goals (See REFED Policy Map)
  • Community demand
  • Creating local green jobs and a dynamic circular economy
  • Cost savings compared to incinerator or landfill options

Developing municipal organics recycling infrastructure provides a public service that will accomplish multiple goals that include reduction of waste and greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, and improving soil health.

However, each municipality will have to build their program based on why a composting or organics recycling program is right for them. Each locality will have a unique mix of factors. Different justifications will resonate with citizens of different regions. Below is a list of potential benefits to communities who choose to pursue this goal.

Climate Change
Not only does diverting food and yard waste from the landfill reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but once the compost is applied to soil, it also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, part of a drawdown solution. Organics recycling through composting is one of the solutions most important tools to fight climate change. See USCC and Compost Research and Education Foundations resources here.
Reducing Pollution
Replacing chemical fertilizers with compost can reduce eutrophication, algal blooms and fish die offs. Using compost can even reduce input costs for farmers. See more here.
Cost
Organics facilities make products that can be sold in the community that generate local revenue. As the cost of managing solid waste goes up, the cost of composting operations might not rise as fast because once the composting facility is permitted, built and operational. It will produce valuable soil amendments that can be sold, offsetting operational costs in addition to tipping fees for inbound materials.
Circular Economy and Jobs
Source-separated organics programs create sustainable local jobs. These programs turn waste products such as yard and food scraps into a valuable resource: compost. As long as trees and lawns grow, and people continue to eat, there will be organics that need to be recycled and returned to the soil. See the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Pay Dirt report here.
Landfill Diversion
Building new landfills is expensive and problematic. Removing organics from the landfill can extend the life of existing landfills. Although organics recycling facilities might need to be expanded or built because of growing population, organics facilities will not get “filled up”, closed and moved to new areas.
MSW Collection Systems
Removing organics from the MSW and recycling streams will result in drier, lighter, and less contaminated materials going to landfills and MRFs. This is important because dedicated organics collection systems improve the value of recycled commodities and reduce wear and tear on trash collection equipment, make trash and recycling routes longer and more efficient, and reduce the amount of potential leachate coming from landfills.
Public Health
In addition to addressing climate change, adding compost to soil reduces the harmful effects of erosion, drought and improves soil health, plant health, and water quality. This not only improves human health, but it also contributes to ecosystem services such as clean streams, rivers, bays, and oceans. Using finished, mature compost on land can help restore soils and help with wildfire mitigation.
Legislation, Mandates, and Regulations
In a growing number of states and municipalities, diverting organics from the landfill is the law or regulation. See USCC’s roundup of bans on organics in landfills or collection in regions and states here.
Solid Waste Diversion Goals and Solid Waste Plans
Some municipalities have clear goals related to recycling rates and landfill diversion. In building out local solid waste master plans (LSWMP) those plans could include SSO programs.
Growing Interest from Residents and Businesses
Investors and consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable practices, including organics diversion programs.

Resources/Links:
Closed Loop Foundation Report
CalRecycle Benefits of Compost

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