Hundreds Of US Cities Decide To Compost Their Food, Giving Farmers Better Soil And Cutting Emissions


With new water restrictions being issued for millions of Southern California residents, the need for a more efficient agriculture has once again been highlighted, except this time, a new statewide composting mandate might just be the answer to the state’s ongoing issues.

With California being the leading food production nation in the United States, it means that they require tons of water for production. And now that California has become the next state in the nation to make large-scale composting a requirement by law, after Vermont, it looks like they may finally be able to make it all work out for the better.

The first week of May is actually Compost Awareness Week, and while it may not sound too serious or official, it’s actually quite important. Farmers can actually grow up to 40 percent more food during times of drought by using compost, so having residents help in their own way – like throwing banana peels and used coffee grounds into a specific bin for pick up – they are not only feeding the soil for the farmers to use, but they are also helping prevent water shortages in the state.

How these city composting programs work is that they produce thousands of truckloads of finishing compost, which eventually go onto vineyards, farms, and orchards. As a result, they create a natural sponge that helps attract and retain necessary moisture, which in turn also helps fight global warming.

Statistics show that there is a whopping 20% of food waste that fills up landfills, which does a lot of harm to the environment. In fact, when the food in landfills begins to decompose, it releases a gas known as methane, which is said to be ‘ten times more potent than carbon dioxide.’ Moreover, it is also one of the major greenhouse gasses that is continuing to fuel the climate crisis in the United States, not to mention the fact that landfills are ‘the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.’

Since San Francisco led the group and implemented curbside collection of food scraps used for composting, over 200 cities from all over the United States, as well as a number of universities, have followed San Francisco’s example. The new law, SB 1383, is requiring California cities to reduce landfilling of compostable materials by 75 percent by the year 2025. This means that districts all throughout the state are establishing curbside programs that provide bins for food scraps, leaves, and sticks, which will be turned into ‘black gold’ compost for all the many farmers.

In this light, Recology – a San Francisco-based employee-owned company has a workforce of 3,800 that operate at least 8 composting facilities around California, Washington, and Oregon that serves almost 150 communities. Just in 2020, they managed to recycle more than 810,000 tons of organic waste that included yard trimmings and food scraps.

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According to Robert Reed of Recology, “This program gives individuals, communities and entire municipalities a way to do something very useful to help slow climate change—and to help get carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the soil where it belongs.”

Considered San Francisco’s pioneering food scrap collection program, was first believed to be something that wouldn’t ever take off. However, the program gained major momentum throughout the state.

Reed also told Good News Network (GNN), “We started collecting food scraps separately from other trash in 1996. At the time, executives at the largest garbage companies were quoted in the trade press saying the San Francisco program had never been tried and would not work. They said our trucks would leak and our new program would fail.”

“In fact, our program worked and continues to work extremely well. San Franciscans have embraced curbside composting of food scraps together with sticks and leaves more than any other city in the country,” he added.

The citywide green-bin program has managed to divert 2.5 million tons of compostable material from the landfill. They saved landfill space, eliminating thousands of tons of methane emissions as well, which helped local farmers grow more healthy, and tasty, food despite using less fertilizer and less water.

Agronomist, Ed Davis, of S & E Organics based in Bakersfield, California, said, “Soil is a living, breathing biomass. So, anything we can do to enhance the improvement of soil is going to improve the water-holding capacity and the water efficiency capacity that is wicked through the plant’s roots,” “It also feeds rather than depletes the billions of microorganisms that make soil good for growing.”

Landfill Generated Methane Vs Compost Generated Methane

When it comes to landfills, food scraps end up getting buried under the dirt and decomposing in an airless environment. Although any type of composting process will make sure that microbes get air and water, which doesn’t generate methane. Except it would be far less than what would be generated in a landfill. But, Recology manages to capture the gasses that are generated at key stages of the composting process, which reroutes them through a series of biofilters, cutting their methane emissions by over a massive 80 percent.

Due to the program’s success, delegations from at least 135 counties have gone to San Francisco to take a look at the program for themselves. It was later on implemented at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, in Marin County and 11 other cities in the San Mateo County. Even the baseball stadium of the San Francisco Giants works hand in hand with Recology to reach their goal of Zero Waste.

Since then, San Jose, Palo Alto, Oakland, and Napa also followed SF’s example. Meanwhile, Sacramento – which is the state capitol – will go live by July 1 with its curbside composting.

Recology also helped Austin, Texas fix their plan for curbside food scrap collection, while advising officials in Paris, France to implement the program in two of their own districts.

Moreover, more cities are also adopting the trend such as ‘Portland, Seattle, Denver and Boulder, St Paul and Minneapolis, Baltimore, Anchorage, Eugene, Cambridge, and Ann Arbor, Michigan,’ proving that this new program is definitely an advantageous process for farmers, landfills, and the overall health of the planet.

Take a look at the video below to see more about the program.


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