Composting in Seattle is Easy. And Required.

composting so life goes onMoving to Seattle was like a dream come true, in terms of composting. Curbside pick-up of kitchen scraps and yard waste every week?! Wow! I was more than happy to go to the hardware store for a free bin for my countertop along with some BioBags and to take it out to our big, green Yard Waste bin every Thursday. Was hubby happy to share this chore? Not really. The bag does drip sometimes, and occasionally smells bad. (This is rare, so we don’t usually bother keeping the scraps in the freezer).

“It’s your hobby, not mine,” he’d argue.

“It’s not my hobby, it’s the law!” I’d retort. Then we’d kiss and make up – don’t worry.

Recently though, I’ve gotten more vegetable gardening underway, and I’ve realized that it’s a real waste to give those kitchen scraps to the city’s contractor for composting, only to buy the organic mulch back from them in spring.

green cone backyard compostingSo we installed a green cone composter for fruit & veggie scraps this year and dug a pit for yard waste. (More details to come!) And I swear I will shortly get around to getting a much smaller municipal yard waste bin so I can stop paying for the big one.Organic Material (OM) is really the key to good soil and easy gardening, so I’m aiming to maximize it. Still, the municipal program is pretty cool, because it means I can compost at work and at restaurants as well as home, I can compost animal products that I wouldn’t want in my home bin, and all the people who don’t see it as a hobby have to do it, too!

But composting at the office?

Yes, the offices I’ve worked at in Seattle collect food waste, too. We have one tall, covered trash can that opens with the push of a pedal on our floor, near the kitchenette. A volunteer for our floor (from the Green Team!) takes the compost down to a central collection point in the office building. Signs near the other waste receptacles on the floor urge you not to put food waste in them. UW also collects compost in receptacles near its cafeterias, but not in classrooms. Compost is a little trickier than other waste in terms of collecting it in multiple points. It is wetter, needs to be emptied more regularly, and requires special compostable bags, unless you are willing to wash the containers. So the key to a successful office composting program is awareness, buy-in, and team spirit. Having volunteers instead of the maintenance crew work on it increases everyone’s commitment. As does colorful signage.

compost bins in public

waste bins at UW’s Odegaard Library

And composting in public?

This picture from University of Washington’s Sustainability Site shows how sorting is managed all over campus. Restaurants and businesses in Seattle are also required to have 3 bins (compostables, mixed recyclables, and“landfill”/garbage), and the compost containers are usually full of paper wrappers, clamshell containers, disposable forks made of corn, etc. It’s a wonder the facility is able to get enough actual wet garbage to make all that stuff break down. Those “compostable” disposables are a real pet peeve of mine. Please let me know your favorite restaurant or café that avoids them, so I can make a List of Honor.

I’ve already written about new compost collection efforts in New York City, and I’d like to cover other cities as well. Are you aware of municipal composting options in your city or town? Let me know what you do with your organic waste by using hashtags #ZeroWaste and #composting in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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