Sunday, March 15, 2020

Best Magazine Reads: Trash is new, and so are ways of composting it


I don't know if composting will ever take off in the U.S. But at home in Takoma Park, the city picks it up weekly and it's a service I've really come to appreciate.

The days of throwing food in with the rest of the trash are long gone. No more stinky kitchens. Plus, we have a big bucket of food waste each week that is going back into the earth rather than joining the landfills and oceans like most of the world's trash.

While composting sounds like such a new and novel thing, it's actually what has been done with our discarded stuff through almost all of history. As an article in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker notes, "trash is new."

In the 1800s, there was almost no disposable packaging in existence and food waste was reused by people, turned into products such as soap, or shipped to farms for animals and agriculture.

While my home town in way ahead of the compositing curve in the U.S., according to the article:

  • We've got nothing on South Korea, which recycles 95 percent of its food waste.
  • South Korea's 13,000 tons of food waste each day becomes compost, animal feed, and biofuel.
  • New York City hopes to reduce landfill dumping by 90 percent by 2030.
  • Most people in the U.S. have no idea what composting is. When the author asked a middle-aged New York man what a nearby bucket was for, he guessed "bones."
  • One idea New York could enact would be to charge people by weight for their trash, offering incentive for
  • people to separate out food. In San Francisco, a similar idea has resulted in an 80 percent capture
  • rate for food waste, and in Seattle, a 60 percent rate.

Maybe there is hope for us.

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