Ask Eartha: Composting program is now free to residents
High Country Conservation Center
I heard that the local food scrap recycling program is now free to Summit County residents. What’s the big deal with composting my food scraps, and how can I participate?
— Jeff, Dillon
You heard correct, the Summit County Food Scrap Recycling program is now free to Summit County residents, thanks to funding from the 1A Strong Future initiative that passed in November. Keeping your food scraps out of the landfill has many benefits to the local environment and economy.
Additionally, Summit County set a goal of diverting 40% of its waste by 2035. By recycling our food scraps, we are working toward that target. The good news? This free program makes it easier than ever to divert your food waste.
Food waste is a big problem
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31% of food at the retail/consumer level is wasted every year in the U.S. That equates to 133 billion pounds of food ending up in landfills across the country every year. Why? Because people buy more food than they can eat, they scrape their unfinished food into the trash, and they don’t compost their food waste.
All this food rotting in landfills creates methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas that’s contributing to climate change. Alternatively, composting food waste does not create methane. And, it creates a vital resource in the form of soil.
To start, take a hard look at your everyday habits. Preventing food waste not only saves you money, but it also conserves delicate natural resources. Take some time each week to plan your meals so you know you’ll eat everything you buy. If you’re not into leftovers, plan for smaller meals and learn how to get creative with extra ingredients. A quick Internet search will help you uncover meal planning apps, recipes for whatever ingredients you have on hand, and tips for transforming your leftovers into a whole new meal.
It works like this
Here in Summit County, we are lucky to have a food scrap collection program that creates high-quality local compost. It begins with you collecting food waste at home in a container of your choice. Some people use a Tupperware container with a lid and keep it on the counter or under the sink. You can even empty that into a five-gallon bucket.
When your food scrap container is full, take it to the Breckenridge or Frisco Recycling Center, where you can empty it into bear-proof bins. Food scraps are then transported to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, where the food is deposited on the composting pad.
At this point, the food is mixed with wood chips and goes through a process of transformation from dinner leftovers to nourishing soil. The compost is of the highest quality and has been used on everything from local flower beds to major revegetation projects through the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Food scraps only
When it comes to recycling your food waste, it’s all about quality. The program accepts food scraps only. That means no paper products and no so-called “compostable” bags or cutlery. When unaccepted items end up in the food scrap pile, it’s called contamination. Contamination leads not only to low-quality compost, but it can also cause everyone’s food scraps to end up in the landfill.
Another tiny culprit is the infamous produce sticker. We have all peeled these off every piece of produce ever purchased, but sometimes they slip by and end up in the compost pile. Though small, these tiny culprits can wreak havoc when trying to make clean compost. Along with produce stickers, make sure to remove any twist ties or rubber bands. If you take the extra second to inspect your food waste, you won’t have to worry about sending everyone’s hard work to the landfill.
Get started today
To get started, visit HighCountryConservation.org. Once you complete and submit the form, you will receive an email with program details and information on how to access the bins. Collection bins are kept locked to prevent trash dumping and create the cleanest compost possible. Enrollment is required, and you’ll be the first to know when the lock code changes.
Sign up today and join your friends, neighbors, brewery buddies and me in recycling food scraps.
“Ask Eartha Steward” is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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