Food scraps, yard waste, wood chips, and soiled paper comprise 40% to 60% of the 250 million tons of garbage Americans throw away every year. Virtually all of it goes into landfills. With space at a premium and communities loathe to approve new landfill sites, regulators want this organic material recycled.
More than 20 states have banned yard waste from landfills. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York City have banned or are considering banning food waste. The next step may very well be prohibiting any organic.
In response, public works departments must do more than post information about the benefits of backyard composting on their websites. According to a 2013 Biocycle survey, more than 214 organics collection programs are operating today, up from 20 in 2005.
Even so, organics management is in its infancy. Smellier, messier, and heavier than the rest of the waste stream, the material poses unique challenges that inevitably increase costs. Because resources are limited, start by expanding existing recycling efforts and/or targeting the largest organic waste generators.
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