Food Waste Composting Gaining Popularity /

   Lettuce collected at the Cleveland Clinic

We’ve all heard that it’s bad to waste food. So, with good intentions we put leftovers in the fridge.  Yet inevitably there comes a time when those leftovers really, really need to be tossed out. It happens all the time to me, and I’m not alone. The EPA estimates that nearly 12 percent of U.S. landfills are made up of food waste.

Beau Daane, business recycling specialist at the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, calls food waste the elephant in the room. He says people are increasingly conscious about recycling everything from papers to plastics to glass. Everything, except food.

Daane says, “we sort of typically say, you know if we get all that if we get people to do that we’ve done a great job and it’s true, we have. But there’s a lot more that we can do and that we need to do and that’s around food waste and packaging.”

Food waste, that is, garbage…produces methane, a potent green house gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. One of the best ways to keep food from filling up landfills and generating methane is to compost it.

But compost piles face a big hurdle among at least part of the public, a prejudice in fact. They can smell pretty bad.

“Not if you do it right!” Geri Unger says.

She’s education director at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens which has been using compost in their gardens for years with no complaints about the smell.

Unger says, that “if you do it right it smells very fresh and very verdant. I mean it’s the stuff of life.”  You could say Unger is a compost connoisseur, but she says virtually anybody could…and should…do it.

Unger says “it could really pick up and really reduce our dependence on landfills and the amount of money that our communities are paying to put waste in landfills but you have to take the personal responsibility to sort it and make sure that you’re separating your waste.”

Recycling leftovers into compost is hardly a new idea, but maybe the time is ripe for it to grow…in this new era when talk of going green and sustainability have become quite mainstream. Note to self: compost happens…if you make it happen. 

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