Composting food and yard "waste" is a fairly simple thing to do and can benefit you and the environment. Taking a step back, many would argue that "waste" is not waste and is instead a valuable resource – it serves primarily as soil amendment.
I will not go into significant detail about food composting. There are several websites - a few good ones are listed below - that offer the details and the do's and don'ts. Remember that it is not an exact science. There is some trial and error and of course, as with most subjects, the experts will disagree.
California CompostWhile sitting on a solid waste advisory committee, I had the privilege of participating with two master composters. One was as educated and experienced as the other but they had two differing perspectives. One was very meticulous and rigid in his composting operation. There was no meat, napkins, etc. allowed in his worm or compost bin. (One primary concern with meats, oils, fats, etc. is that they may attract rodents.) The other ran a more liberal operation – including meat, napkins, paper cups, etc. Both claimed success.
As you do your research (and I encourage you do to so), you will have to decide where to draw the lines on what goes into your composting bin and what does not.
My point in this column is that we can save a lot of resources by composting food and/or yard waste on site.
Beyond the value of the soil amendment is the cost savings realized by not hauling the food or yard material to the landfill. There is a tremendous amount of weight in this waste that quickly adds up. The weight of food and yard waste contains a lot of moisture or water. To truck this material part way across the county to a landfill seems odd, especially considering that it is high, not only in water, but also nutrient content.
If you put your yard waste in the green container it will go to a compost facility. Food in the garbage can is buried in the 'big hole.' There is significant wear and tear on the trucks and on the hydraulic systems that lift the material into and out of the truck. If done by hand, there is wear and tear on the individual's back, adding the cost of disability claims.
Hauling water also creates a significant and costly impact on our roads. These trucks vary in weight - up to as much as 50,000 pounds. The truck is already making its rounds and rolling down the road, but the added weight of the water in waste causes more damage and requires more fuel, thus creating a larger carbon footprint. There is also the heavy equipment at the landfill that pushes water content material around and buries it.
As you can see, keeping this material in our yards and allowing the worms and micro-organisms to break it down saves a lot of resources. You also save money for yourself by buying fewer bags of soil amendment at your local store, which, in turn means fewer bags get trucked into your local nursery - Again, fewer trucks on the road, less fuel burned, and less damage to the roads. I mean no harm to the nurseries and, of course, encourage you to support your local nursery. But I will bet dollars to donuts that they would encourage you to compost at home. You will probably still need to purchase items like soil amendment and fertilizer at the nursery. Just less - and less is more.
Learn more about composting: How To Compost, Compost Instructions, Eartheasy