Why does it matter?
In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 63.1 million tons of food waste were generated by commercial, institutional, and residential sectors. 25.3 million tons of that food waste went to the landfill accounting for 21.6% of the municipal solid waste (MSW) in the landfill.
Food that ends up in the landfill wastes natural resources used to grow the food and produces emissions related to production, packaging, and transportation. When food ends up in the landfill it decomposes and releases methane (CH4) into the atmosphere, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with impacts 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Learn more about food waste management: Food: Material-Specific Data | US EPA
Learn more about GHGs: Overview of Greenhouse Gases | US EPA
How does compost work?
Composting is an aerobic (oxygen-required) process that converts organic material into soil or mulch through decomposition. Microorganisms eat the organic material and break it down until they can’t anymore, at which point the material can be added to the soil. The decayed material is a fertilizer that creates nutrient-rich soil which can be used in gardens, yards, and farms.
How do I compost?
There are different ways to compost food scraps and yard waste, and here in Deschutes County, we have an available service through Deschutes Recycling. When separating waste, make sure to follow the local composting rules to eliminate contamination. Our local facilities in Deschutes County only process food scraps and yard debris. Even if your waste, like to-go containers, says they are compostable, do not include them in your compost. To learn more about what composts in Deschutes County check out the Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Guide.
If local compost facilities aren’t available or you prefer to do it yourself, you can start your own compost at home. Backyard composting and worm composting can both be achieved at home, just make sure to have the proper materials to manage the waste. For more information check out the EPA’s site on home composting.