Ask Eartha: How can I compost?
Unbeknownst to many, when uneaten food, vegetable peelings or any organic material is left to rot, it releases methane a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. This gas is a leading contributor to climate change. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each year, food waste in the U.S. alone produces 170 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants. Food waste is a problem in Summit County, too: a 2019 waste study found that discarded food makes up 21% of our trash.
Food scrap recycling in Summit County
The good news is that we have a robust, free residential food scrap program in Summit County. Enrollment is easy at HighCountryConservation.org. In just three years, residents alone composted more than 600,000 pounds of food waste. And guess what? Local waste service providers, also known as haulers, make it possible for businesses to compost, too.
The process is simple: employees collect their food scraps and place them in a container provided by the haulers. Food waste is taken to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park to be processed. After 13 weeks and rigorous testing, High Country compost is ready to be used for anything from landscape redesigns to home gardening and regular yard maintenance.
Getting started may be easier than you realize. I’ve boiled it down to a few basic steps, and the staff at High Country Conservation Center can help along the way.
Assess your space: Consider whether you can add a food scrap container in your waste area. You may need to talk to a property manager to explore locations.
Contact a waste service provider: Ask your waste hauler if they offer commercial food scrap collection services. If not, several haulers in Summit County provide this service.
Design your food scrap program: Order bins for inside your business and place them in food prep areas, near sinks or in staff break areas. Create a “green team” and incentivize staff who monitor the program and train other staff members on best practices.
Educate employees and begin service: Host a program kickoff that includes staff training and share food waste tips at regular meetings. Order supplies and work with your hauler to set a start date.
Keep it clean: Regularly monitor your program and immediately address issues. Share updates and successes with employees.
Remember, you aren’t alone in the process of starting or improving a business recycling program. The staff at the conservation center provides guidance, financial incentives and ongoing composting support. There are plenty of businesses in Summit County who’ve composted their food scraps for years. Not only does it help prevent harmful methane emissions, composting is a good step to understand how much food you’re wasting and prevent food waste altogether.
Anyone can do it
Still not convinced? Let me introduce you to Rootstalk in Breckenridge, a new American restaurant that began composting in March of 2022. Sous chef Cameron Baker said that the composting program has been very impactful, as they went down to four trash cans from eight
Restaurants aren’t the only entities composting their food waste. Apartment complexes are hopping on board, too. Breckenridge Terrace Apartments created a successful food waste recycling program that’s been going strong for more than a year.
Other establishments are getting creative by implementing recycling and composting programs unique to their line of work. For example, the Summit County Detention Facility is composting food waste left over from inmate meals. Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said, “With collaborative efforts, the Sheriff’s Office, Summit County Justice Center and the Summit County Detention Facility divert a large quantity of recyclable and compostable material from our landfill.”
Interested in implementing a compost program at your workplace? Visit HighCountryConservation.org to find resources for businesses. Or, schedule a site visit with a local recycling expert by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 970-668-5703 for more information. Grant funds are available to any establishment working to keep waste out of the landfill. Whether there are five folks in your office or 500, be the one to make a change and create a lasting impact that keeps Summit County sustainable.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to email@example.com
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