I have had many conversations this past week about the City’s new compost requirements. Friends and strangers alike are asking, ” Why are we doing this?”
The answer simply is that we are on the vanguard of recycling, and over two decades ago we set a goal for ourselves of recycling over 60% by 2015 and up to 70% by 2022. We are currently recycling over 56% of our trash, a notable achievement but short of our objective.
As part of its strategic plan development, Seattle Public Utilities considered many alternatives to reach the 60% goal. The public offered suggestions, other cities were visited, and Seattleites surveyed. The new requirement to recycle our food waste is an expansion of what we are already doing – we’re recycling yard waste, glass, plastic, aluminum, metals, paper and now, food waste too.
In addition to all the good karma benefits of recycling, SPU saves approximately $30 per ton when we recycle rather than putting stuff in the garbage. Recycling our food waste will allow us to reduce up to 100,000 TONS of food-related garbage now going to Eastern Oregon by train. By avoiding those costs, we keep our solid waste rates as low as possible.
SPU offers free kitchen compost kits at its south transfer station. You can purchase a small kitchen compost container in any number of stores; including Amazon and your local grocery store. The countertop containers start at around $10. Compostable bags are also available in the grocery store.
In multi-family buildings, SPU is offering the Friend of Recycling and Composting (FORC) program. It’s a one-time $100 rebate, and a training of an onsite recycling/compost leader which qualifies your property for free kitchen food waste containers for every unit and a one-time free stock of 3-gallon compostable bags and dispenser.
Food waste collection bins will be made available for single family homes, multi family homes, and commercial areas. We will continue to sort and separate our food waste, just have we have been doing our recyclables for nearly a decade now. (Please note: If for a good reason you simply cannot recycle your food waste, SPU’s Director may issue an administrative waiver to you).
Here’s something else to try:
If you have a yard at home or a deck, basement or other space in your apartment, I seriously recommend a worm bin. I had one for years when I lived in Lake Forest Park. My worms consumed nearly all the kitchen waste a family with growing boys and their friends produced, and my dahlias and roses were the beneficiaries of the worms’ efforts.
Worm bins are cheap and easy to build, and your plants or the local p-patch will thank you.
Here are a few links to simple-to-create worm bins:
- From Whatcom County: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm
- From those who love the simple life: http://makezine.com/projects/make-your-own-worm-bin/
- From Cornell University: http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/steps.html
If you and your children want to try your hand at a basic wood construction project, here’s the Whatcom County plan I used to build my back yard worm bin. I built this worm bin when my sons were in middle school. It lasted until they had graduated from college:
USE EYE AND EAR PROTECTION
Measure and cut plywood as indicated in drawing. To make the base, cut the 14′ 2 x 4 into five pieces: two 48″ and three 20″ long. The remaining 12″ piece will be used to make the sides. Nail the 2 x 4s together on edge with 16d nails at each joing as illustrated in the base frame diagram. Nail the plywood base piece onto the 2 x 4 frame using the 4d nails.
To build the box, cut three 12″ pieces from the 8′ 2 x 4. Place a one-foot 2 x 4 under the end of each side panel so that the 2 x 4 is flush with the top and side edges of the plywood and nail the boards in place. Nail the side pieces onto the base frame.
To complete the box, nail the ends onto the base and sides. To reinforce the box, place a nail at least every 3 inches wherever plywood and 2 x 4s meet. Drill twelve 1/2″ holes throught the bottom of the box for drainage.
To build the lid, cut the remainder of the 16′ 2 x 4 into two 51″ lengths and two 27″ pieces. Cut lap joints in the corners, then glue and nail the frame together. Center the plywood onto the 2 x 4 frame and nail with 4d nails. Lay the top on the ground with the plywood side touching ground. Attach hinges to the top and back using short screws on the top and the long screw on the back. Position hinges so the screws go through plywood to 2 x 4s.
You can coat your bin with clear polyurethane, varnish, or paint to protect it from weathering. I’ll be interested to hear your success stories.
Learn more about composting food waste in Seattle here.