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Boston -- Composting all organic waste -- including food scraps and yard trimmings -- could eliminate nearly one-third of all materials sent to landfills and trash incinerators across the United States. That’s according to Composting in America, a new report released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group. The report outlines best practices for composting programs, which are critical for mitigating the negative impact of waste on the climate and public health.
Each year, America landfills and incinerates enough organic material to fill a line of 18-wheelers stretching from New York to Los Angeles 10 times over, the report explains. All of that trashed material could instead be turned into valuable compost, which helps pull carbon out of the atmosphere, return nutrients to our soil and replace toxic chemical fertilizers.
“We all know the mantra: reduce, reuse,recycle,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG Education Fund. “Reduce is first because it’s the most important, and by diverting food waste and yard waste, we accomplish that in a huge way--reducing what we dispose of and all the negatives we get from burying and burning organic waste. It’s time for Massachusetts to embrace composting programs.”
Currently, five municipalities in Massachusetts -Manchester-by-the-Sea, Cambridge, Ipswich, Hamilton, and Wenham- offer curbside food waste collection programs. These programs have been extremely effective in reducing the amount of organic waste being sent to landfills. In addition, a number of cities and towns partner with private composting companies in order to promote waste reduction measures. Nevertheless, residents still discard an unnecessary amount of organic waste and the vast majority of municipalities do not offer curbside composting programs. That said, towns and cities with curbside composting programs, such as Manchester-by-the-Sea, show that composting in Massachusetts is possible and beneficial.
"Composting programs can work in every community -- from small towns to big cities," said Abigail Bradford, policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "What communities may lack is know-how. This report shares experience and tips from communities that have taken simple steps to create successful composting programs."
To make composting programs successful, the Commonwealth should help its cities and towns
● Make them convenient. Offer curbside organic waste pickup along with trash and recycling.
● Make them affordable. Make composting programs less expensive than trash disposal through programs such as Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART), which charge residents and businesses less if they throw out less trash.
● Institute a commercial composting requirement. Require large commercial organic waste producers, such as grocery stores, to divert waste from landfills and incinerators to composting facilities.
● Support local markets. Local municipalities should buy back locally produced compost for use in public projects or distribute it to residents, community gardens or other local projects to create a steady market for composting facilities.
The report also covers composting’s wide-ranging benefits. These programs help eliminate landfills and trash incinerators; replenish soil and prevent erosion; reduce the need for chemical fertilizers; and offer a powerful weapon in the fight against global warming.
“Imagine if our organic waste -- food scraps, paper towels, yard trimmings -- could help us instead of hurt us,” said Alex Truelove, zero waste director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “With composting, we can make that a reality.”
MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund (https://masspirgedfund.org/), is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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